You can upgrade VMware Tools manually, or you can configure virtual machines to check for and install newer versions of VMware Tools.

The guest operating system checks the version of VMware Tools when you power on a virtual machine. The status bar of the virtual machine displays a message when a new version is available.

In Windows virtual machines, you can set VMware Tools to notify you when an upgrade is available. If this notification option is enabled, the VMware Tools icon in the Windows taskbar includes a yellow caution icon when a VMware Tools upgrade is available.

To install a VMware Tools upgrade, you can use the same procedure that you used for installing VMware Tools the first time. Upgrading VMware Tools means installing a new version.

For Windows and Linux guest operating systems, you can configure the virtual machine to automatically upgrade VMware Tools. Although the version check is performed when you power on the virtual machine, on Windows guest operating systems, the automatic upgrade occurs when you power off or restart the virtual machine. The status bar displays the message Installing VMware Tools ... when an upgrade is in progress.

Important: When you upgrade VMware Tools on Linux guest operating systems, new network modules are available but are not used until you either reboot the guest operating system or stop networking, unload and re-load the VMware networking kernel modules, and then restart networking. This behavior means that even if VMware Tools is set to automatically upgrade, you must reboot or re-load network modules to make new features available.

This strategy avoids network interruptions and allows you to work with VMware Tools over SSH.

For vSphere virtual machines, you have options for upgrading many virtual machines at the same time.

  • Log in to vCenter Server, select a host or cluster, and use the Virtual Machines tab to specify the virtual machines on which to perform a VMware Tools upgrade.
  • Use Update Manager to perform an orchestrated upgrade of virtual machines at the folder or datacenter level.

Some new features in a particular release of a VMware product might depend on installing or upgrading to the new version of VMware Tools included in that release. Other compatibility options are also available.

Table 1. Virtual Machine Compatibility Options
Compatibility Description
ESXi 5.1 and later This virtual machine (hardware version 9) is compatible with ESXi 5.1 and later.
ESXi 5.0 and later This virtual machine (hardware version 8) is compatible with ESXi 5.0 and 5.1.
ESX/ESXi 4.x and later This virtual machine (hardware version 7) is compatible with ESX/ ESXi 4.x, ESXi 5.0, and ESXi 5.1.
ESX/ESXi 3.5 and later This virtual machine (hardware version 4) is compatible with ESX/ESX 3.5. ESX/ESX 4.x, and ESXi 5.1. It is also compatible with VMware Server 1.0 and later. You cannot create a virtual machine with ESX/ESXi 3.5 compatibility on ESXi 5.0.
ESX Server 2.x and later This virtual machine (hardware version 3) is compatible with ESX Server 2.x, ESX/ESXi 3.5, ESX/ESXi 4.x, and ESXi 5.0. You cannot create or edit virtual machines with ESX Server 2.x compatibility. You can only start or upgrade them.

For more information, see the documentation for your specific VMware product.