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The upgrade path to vSphere 5 is well described in the specific guide (vSphere Upgrade Guide) and in the vSphere Upgrade Best Practices white paper..

In some cases an in-place upgrade can be applied with the advantage to require less time and to keep all (or most) of the settings and configurations. For example, a vCenter Server 4.1 can be updated to the 5.0 version (the requirements of the two versions are quite the same) or an old ESXi can be updated to ESXi 5.

But in most cases, also when the in-place upgrade is possible, could be interesting considering a full reinstallation, that give the advantage of the new clean situation. Also it can require more time (and more effort), but can give less downtime, because for example you can build a new vCenter Server, configure it and then simple re-connect the hosts to this new one.

Anyway, some points are quite common for each major vSphere upgrade:

  • HCL: the Hardware Compatibility List must be checked before each upgrade (each vSphere major release as a specific HCL that could be different). Also the software part must be checked (on the VMware Product Interoperability Matrix) to verify the compatibility of some specific part (like for example the DBMS).
  • Firmware: this aspect is related to the previous point… each major release can require a minimum firmware level (especially for servers and storage)… usually a good approach could be update to latest stable firmware (but check with vendor recommendation).
  • ESX: in can be upgrade (with an in-line process) to ESXi 5… but only in some cases (for example not when ESX was upgraded from version 3.x)… and is not possible change the destination of the installation (that goes in the boot partition). Usually a rebuild could be a better option.
  • Drivers and modules: some 3rd part modules or drivers can prevent an upgrade of ESXi /ESX. Check their compatibily with ESXi 5 and, if needed, remove them before the upgrade.
  • Plugin: the vCenter plugins must be verified before the upgrade of vCenter Server… both on the server-side and the client-side. In most cases, could be better remove them before the upgrade.
  • Converter Enterprise e Guided Consolidation: those plugin does no more exist in vSphere 5. Remove them before upgrade the vCenter Server.
  • VDR: there can be some issue during the upgrade of the destinations… If the integrity check fail, consider to build a new VDR with new and clean destination.
  • View: View 4.x is not compatible with vSphere 5. See specif upgrade guide.
  • SRM: SRM 4.x is not compatible with vSphere 5. See the specif upgrade guide.

In the next posts I will describe the upgrade steps for a simple infrastructure composed by the following parts:

  • host ESX 4.1 with Dell PowerEdge 2950 III
  • vCenter Server 4.1 (in a VM)
  • VMware View 4.6
  • iSCSI Storage with Dell Equallogic PS5000XV

Update phases:


Virtualization, Cloud and Storage Architect. Tech Field delegate. VMUG IT Co-Founder and board member. VMware VMTN Moderator and vExpert 2010-24. Dell TechCenter Rockstar 2014-15. Microsoft MVP 2014-16. Veeam Vanguard 2015-23. Nutanix NTC 2014-20. Several certifications including: VCDX-DCV, VCP-DCV/DT/Cloud, VCAP-DCA/DCD/CIA/CID/DTA/DTD, MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, CCA, NPP.