vSphere 4.x Planning For VM Tools & Hardware Upgrade

In most environments the upgrade of VMware Tools and Hardware causes issues, not in terms of actually performing the upgrade, but the time taken to co-ordinate the activity.

In no particular order:

  • Change control for VM downtime
  • Ensuring you have a known good working backup (snapshots aren’t always accepted)
  • Align application team to test services after reboot
  • Knowing the VM dependencies on and the effect it will have on another VMs
  • Potential issues after upgrade E1000 and vSphere 5.x PSOD for example VMware KB 2059053

We are currently in vSphere 4.x upgrade season as it goes end of support life on 21st May 2014, which leads me onto the purpose of this post.

Problem Statement

vSphere 4.1 environment which had been upgraded from ESX 3.5.  VM Tools still running at ESX 3.5 level.

Customer needs to know how many reboots are required to bring them up to the highest vSphere 5.x version, to enable the internal co-ordination of application teams to test services after reboots.

Step 1

Oldest servers are HP BL480c G1 (yes that’s right G1) nothing like sweating an asset!

VMware Compatibility Guide shows that ESXi 5.1 U2 is supported, however this didn’t ring true as I remembered a support statement from HP about DL380 G5.  A quick check on the HP VMware Support Matrix shows that 5.0 U3 is the highest supported.

Step 2

VMware Tools and Hardware Upgrade, was causing concern as I could only find information on upgrading the VM Hardware version from 4 or 7 to 8, see VMware KB1010675

The interoperability  matrix shows that VMware Tools is not supported, but that didn’t answer my question.  Did I need to reboot once or twice to get VMware Tools to the newest version?



I created a VM using ‘custom’ so I could choose Hardware version 4 and installed Windows Server 2008 R2 from an ISO.

HW 4

VMware have all the old versions of VMware Tools located at over here package.vmware.com/tools a manual download and installation ESX 3.5p27 for Windows, this correlated to version 7304.

Note: VMware tools to ESXi version can be found here

After the usual reboot, I can confirm the following

  1. You can go straight from VMware Tools at version 3.5 to version 8 with a single reboot.
  2. An upgrade of hardware is possible straight from 4 to 8 (but we already knew that from the VMware KB).

Only thing left to do is inform the customer about the potential issue with E1000 vNIC’s and PSOD!

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