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Advice in upgrading ESXi 4.0 free to ESXi 5 free

I've done some searching on EE and haven't found my answer to this. Apologies in advance if this has been answered.

I work for a cash conscious SME. I am running a Dell PER 900 using VMware ESXi 4.0 free. This was originally purchased and setup using Hyper-V but, on a recommendation from a colleague I tested VMware ESXi 4.0 and really took to it. The PER900 has an MD1000 Direct Attached Storage unit with the 15 drives partitioned into a number of RAID 5 arrays to support the individual server groups.

We have three production virtual servers running on the host, one of them being SBS 2003 and two servers running Windows 2003 R2 and Windows 2008. There is also a server test environment for a migration to SBS 2011 and a DR network with server copies.

There are also some virtual workstations for RWW users running on the box.

Obviously there are no backup APIs in the free version so I use Backup Exec to backup from within the server structure. This has all worked perfectly ok.

With the release of Windows 8 I discovered that my trusty VMware box would not support the installation.

I would like to upgrade my VMware from ESXi4 to the latest version of ESXi5 but reading the upgrade paperwork just gives me the jitters!

I can find information to upgrade from ESXi 4.1 to 5 but it appears that ESXi 4.0 to 5 is much more of a pain.

Is the upgrade path from 4 to 5 possible to do without ending up chewing your fingers off?

I suppose my big concern is the physical host setup with all the LAN card settings etc. and not being able to back this up at the VMware level.

Can anyone offer any "how to's" on this please?
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BarryMaybury
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BarryMaybury
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IanThCommented:
yes you should back it up first just in case but yes put the v5 cd in and it will find the vmfs and offer you to not change it I have done it and never backed it up first no problem

for windows 8 and server 2012 you actually need v5.1
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IanThCommented:
I have found v5 to be far better than v4 for hardware devices ie v5 is far more compatible if the host is working with v4 it will work with v5 i mean I put v5 on some hardware that was really old that had v4 on previously I was stunned  when it actually worked. Also I put it on a host with built in nic that wasn't supported in v4 and in v5 it was !
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
The FREE version of ESXi 5.1 is limited to 32GB per server.

ESXi 5.1 will install and run only on servers with 64-bit x86 CPUs.
ESXi 5.1 requires a host machine with at least two cores.
ESXi 5.1 supports only LAHF and SAHF CPU instructions.
ESXi 5.1 requires the NX/XD bit to be enabled for the CPU in the BIOS.

A full list of the ESXi 5.1 Hardware Requirements can be found in the VMware ESXi 5.1 Install Guide

Check the VMware Hardware Compatability Lists (HCL), to discover if your computer is certified for use with ESXi 5.1.

If your computer is not listed on the VMware HCL, it may still be possible to install and run VMware ESXi 5.1 on your laptop, desktop, or server. The HCL exists because the server vendor and VMware have certified and tested ESXi 5.1 will function correctly, on the servers listed on the HCL.

To upgrade is simple, insert the CDROM, BOOT the CDROM, if it can upgrade your current version it will preserving your VMFS datastore and VMs.
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BarryMayburyAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the replies.

I've checked and the Dell PER R900 is on the list for ESXi 5.1.

Hanckocka, I think my real concern is epitomised by your last statement "if it can upgrade your current version it will preserving your VMFS datastore and VMs."

I'm concerned about the "if it can't" to be honest; being left with a server that I have to perform some sort of recovery on.
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IanThCommented:
so follow my advice do a backup first or take out the drives and use new one that will preserve you v4 server absolutely
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
it will advise if it cannot upgrade, and it will then perform a full install.

BUT the installation ASKS to overwrite a VMFS partition with VMs.

but you should always have a valid backup of ALL VMs, before installation on a production server.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Here is my newly published EE Article on installing ESXi 5.1, tutorial walkthrough with pictures

HOW TO: Install and Configure VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1)
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