Ever wondered how to patch an ESXi host without vCenter? Well wonder no more!

This article will guide you through how to patch ESXi without a vCenter server, this is useful if you have the free version of ESXi, or for some reason your vCenter is on the host you wish to patch and you’re unable to move it somewhere else so update manager is offline.

This process will work with ESXi version 5.0, 5.1 and 5.5. (and most likely future versions, as well as some older versions like 4.1)

First step is to get the build number from the ESXi host you wish to update. You can find the build number in the vSphere client just above the Summary tab. In my case the build number is 1331820. This will come into play shortly.
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Next we need to get the updates from the VMware site. Go to http://www.vmware.com/patchmgr/download.portal and login (You can create an account to get the patches for free, so just sign up). Once logged in, select your product (in this case ESXi Embedded and Installable) and your version (I’m using version 5.5).
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From here you can enter a data range or patch number if you’re after only certain patches. I’m after all patches so I left these blank and hit search.

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I am presented with a list of patches for my version of ESXi.
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This is where your build number comes in. Release builds of ESXi will not be listed, this makes sense as you can’t patch to something you install out of the box. There are two new builds, 1474528 and 1623387. Select the builds you wish to download and click the Download Selected button.
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There are a couple of things to note here:

  • If, for example, you were running build 1474528 then you would only download updates released after your build number. (Items above 1474528)
  • Keep this list handy, you need to install the updates in order from bottom to top. (Oldest to newest)

Once all updates have been downloaded you will need to extract them. Important! When you extract the patches, you need to make sure they extract to a folder that is labelled the same as the .zip file. eg: ESXi550-201312001.zip -> ESXi550-201312001 (This is what mine looks like with both the folder and zip files so you can compare).
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Next, connect to your host with the vSphere client, go to configuration -> storage. Right click on your database and go browser datastore (Make note of your datastore name, as you use need this to install the patches. In my case it’s labelled “datastore1”)
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Upload all the patches to your datastore.
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Once complete you should see the folders you just uploaded. Remember this location as it will be useful to refer to when typing the commands into the host to install the patches.
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Put the ESXi host into maintenance mode by right clicking on it and selecting Enter Maintenance Mode.

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For this to complete you will need to shutdown any VM’s running on this host. Once complete it should display that it’s running in maintenance mode.
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Next step is to connect to the host with VMware PowerCLI. (If you don’t have this you can download and install it for free from here)
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Connect to your ESXi host by typing: Connect-VIServer “Your hosts IP or DNS Name”. E.g: Connect-VIServer 192.168.77.99
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You should be prompted for a username and password. Enter the credentials of your ESXi host.
fig13_id109 Run the update command: Install-VMHostPatch -VMHost “Your host IP or DNS Name” -HostPath “/vmfs/volumes/”your datastore”/”patch folder”/metadata.zip” E.g: Install-VMHostPatch -VMHost 192.168.77.99 -HostPath “/vmfs/volumes/datastore1/ESXi550-201312001/metadata.zip”
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The host should begin to install the first set of patches.

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If successful it should prompt you for a reboot if required (Not all patches require a reboot). If you have additional patches to install you may install them prior to rebooting so that you only have to reboot once.
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To install the next patch, run the same Install-VMHostPatch command but with the new patch folder. Eg: Install-VMHostPatch -VMHost 192.168.77.99 -HostPath “/vmfs/volumes/datastore1/update-from-esxi5.5-5.5_update01/metadata.zip”.

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Reboot the host once all patches have been installed. Once the reboot is complete review the build number to confirm the updates have worked. (The build number should be the highest build patch you installed. In my case 1623387)
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And last but not least, exit maintenance mode and power on your VM’s.
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Don’t forget to clean up your datastore by deleting the patch files!

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