Upgrading ESXi with ESXCLI requires an understanding of vSphere Installation Bundles, image profiles, and software depots.

ESXi consists of an image profile, which describes a set of vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs) that contain the actual software. A VIB is a signed ramdisk representing a component of the system, roughly analogous to an RPM or DEB on a Linux system. An image profile is a collection of VIBs. A software depot is a collection of VIBs and image profiles. ESXi patches and depots contain updated image profiles composed from a common set of VIBs.

You can install ESXi updates on a standalone host using the esxcli software commands. For more information, see the VMware ESXi Upgrade documentation.

Note: Normally, in a vSphere 7.0 and later environment, you use VMware vSphere ® vSphere Lifecycle Manager for lifecycle management of ESXi hosts.

To list all installed VIBs and their current version, or the current image profile, you can use the following ESXCLI commands.

  • esxcli software vib list
  • esxcli software profile get

In general, the high-level steps to upgrade ESXi securely are:

  • Putting the ESXi host in maintenance mode
  • Running an esxcli software profile update command, which points to a URL or a ZIP file transferred to the host through SSH
  • Restarting the ESXi host

Because VMware cryptographically signs VIBs, secure transfer of VIBs or the entire depot is not necessary, and the update process verifies these signatures.