How to Update ESXi without vCenter Server [2 Methods]

As VMware released the new vSphere 8, you may want to try out the new features as well. But how to update ESXi without vCenter if you use the free ESXi and don’t have the license? This article will show you 2 available methods to do this.


By Crystal / Updated on March 8, 2023

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Upgrade to the new vSphere 8

Timely updates to new stable versions or patches of software help repair security holes, fix bugs, and enjoy new features. VMware vSphere is no different.

As you may know, VMware has released the stable new version of vSphere 8.0 on October 11, 2022, allowing you to run more and more powerful virtual machines, and perform tasks faster. If you can’t wait to try the new vSphere 8 features, now is the time to update your virtualization environment!

vSphere 8 features

To upgrade to vSphere 8, you need to update vCenter 8 and upgrade to ESXi 8 respectively. The correct order is:

vSphere 8 upgrade sequence

As for VMware ESXi, commonly, there are 3 ways to upgrade a ESXi host:

  • Using the ISO image
  • Using ESXCLI command
  • Using vCenter Lifecycle Manager

For some of you, you may don’t have vCenter but are running several ESXi hosts and virtual machines. In this case, you may need to update ESXi without vCenter Server. That leaves you 2 methods to do that. Next, this article will show you the detailed steps on how to update ESXi host without vCenter Server. Before you start, please make sure your environment is well prepared.

Preparations before update ESXi host

Before you start, there are several preparations you need to complete in advance.

✓ Compatibility check: Before you start, the first thing you need to do is to check the compatibility of your hardware with ESXi patches and the version you want to upgrade to. The official VMware Product Interoperability Matrix may be able to help you better.

✓ Space check: Make sure that sufficient disk space is available on the host for the upgrade, otherwise you may receive the no free space error and be forced to stop the upgrade.

✓ Shut down all virtual machines: Make sure you have shut down all running virtual machines before upgrading following the normal process, otherwise some software such as databases may continue to generate data which may be lost during the upgrade process.

✓ Backup your environment: It is critical to back up your vSphere environment before upgrading, including ESXi VMs, ESXi and vCenter configurations, Platform Services Controller, distributed virtual switches, etc.

Free Efficient Backup Software for VMware ESXi

As you may know, neither free ESXi host nor vCenter Server provides the feature of virtual machine backup. if you use the free VMware ESXi, you will need additional support since it does not support vStorage APIs.

You can try the free agentless VMware backup software - AOMEI Cyber Backup to cover multiple VMs in one backup task. It supports both paid and free versions of ESXi 6.7 and 8.0, so you can continue to use it after the upgrade to 8.0.

Download FreewareVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Easy-to-use VM Backup Software

How to update ESXi host without vCenter Server

As mentioned before, if you use the free ESXi host or vSphere Essential Kit without a vMotion License, you may not be able to use the vSphere Lifecycle Manager on vCenter to update the ESXi host. You will need to use update ESXi without vCenter manually via ISO image or ESXCLI commands.

Make sure you have backed up the ESXi host configurations and VMs, and then you can start upgrading to ESXi 8. Here are some steps you can refer to.

Method 1. Using ISO image to manually update ESXi without vCenter

First, you should download ESXi 8.0 ISO image before upgrading ESXi 7 to 8.

1. Access to your VMware ESXi web client (ESXi 7.0), right-click Manage from the left inventory and select Enter maintenance mode.

2. You could mount the ISO in your remote console, configure the boot to boot from ISO and reboot your server.

The ESXi 8.0 boot begins, booting into the installer/upgrader. Then follow the menu and select the disk where ESXI is installed.

boot into installer

3. After the upgrading process completes successfully, the installer will ask you to remove the installation media and then reboot.


Method 2. Using ESXCLI command to update ESXi without vCenter

By using ESXCLI, you can upgrade an ESXi 6.7 host or ESXi 7.0 host to version 8.0 and update or patch ESXi 6.7, ESXi 7.0, and ESXi 8.0 hosts. To use ESXCLI commands, you must install Standalone ESXCLI.

Then you can upgrade your existing ESXi host using the ESXI upgrade command line. This is easily accomplished with only a couple of commands, including the following:

esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
esxcli software profile update -d -p ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-standard

use command line to upgrade to esxi 8

When you see "The update completed successfully”, you need to reboot ESXi host.


If you use the free ESXi host or vSphere Essential Kit without a vMotion License, you may not be able to use the vSphere Lifecycle Manager on vCenter to update the ESXi host. Luckily, there are still ways to update ESXi without vCenter.

This article showed 2 available methods to update ESXi host without vCenter, including using ISO image and ESXi upgrade command line. Hope it could help you. Before you start, please remember to back up VMware ESXi VMs and ESXi host configurations to further protect your data from accidental errors.

Crystal · Editor
Crystal is an editor from AOMEI Technology. She mainly writes articles about virtual machine. She is a positive young lady likes to share articles with peolpe. Off work she loves travelling and cooking which is wonderful for life.