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Checking your firmware and BIOS levels to ensure compatibility with ESX/ESXi (1037257)

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Symptoms

  • You cannot install or upgrade ESXi/ESX.
  • Installing or upgrading the ESXi/ESX host fails.
  • Installation or upgrade may fail randomly at various times during the process.
  • The ESXi/ESX host installation or upgrade completes, but some hardware does not function after booting the host.
  • There is slow or erratic performance when accessing storage or network.
  • The deployment of virtual machines from templates using vCenter Server is slow. 
  • Performance charts do not match what is visible inside a virtual machine.

Purpose

This article provides steps to verify that your hardware is certified and is at certain firmware levels to ensure a smooth installation or upgrade of ESXi/ESX. If these requirements are not met, your installation or upgrade may be at risk. Validating your firmware and BIOS levels is crucial to a successful implementation.

Resolution

Understanding the process 


When a new version of ESXi/ESX is released by VMware, it is essential to ensure that the hardware has been validated to function with the version of ESXi/ESX you are installing or upgrading to. It is up to each vendor to certify that their hardware is compatible with ESXi/ESX and has appropriate drivers to support peripherals, such as a network, fibre channel, or I/O cards. Even if ESXi/ESX worked with a previous version of your hardware, it may not be compatible with the new version. For example, ESX 3.5.x can run on a 32-bit processor, but ESX 4.0 requires a 64bit processor.
 
In addition, hardware components may have to be at certain firmware or BIOS levels to function. This can often be the case with the firmware version of a Host Bus Adapter (HBA) or SCSI controller or the BIOS level of the server's motherboard. It is essential to verify these requirements because the driver that comes pre-bundled with the version of ESX/ESXi you are installing may not know how to communicate with a peripheral that is at an older or newer firmware level. Also, when a firmware is released by a vendor, it is important to check if it is validated by VMware.   
 

Validating the Hardware


VMware provides many utilities and resources to help you validate your hardware. The following list helps you to verify if your hardware is compatible and if it is certified by VMware: 
  • If you are buying a new hardware and/or are upgrading to a newer version of ESXi/ESX, ensure that your hardware is listed in the VMware Compatibility Guides. This list is updated on a need basis when a vendor notifies VMware of different driver requirements or firmware levels for a component or server.

  • Ensure that you meet the minimum system requirements, such as the amount of memory and processor type, before beginning your ESX/ESXi installation. For more information, see Minimum system requirements for installing ESX/ESXi (1003661).

  • Run the esxcfg-info command through SSH to find the host information. You can also use the dmidecode command on an ESX classic host and the smbiosDump command on an ESXi host to find the BIOS information.

  • If you are not sure of the firmware levels of your hardware or its model, engage your hardware vendor to see if there are any steps required to validate your hardware or if there are any utilities that can be run to identify this information. You can also use the CPU Identification Utility provided by VMware to know the capabilities of your server. In addition, you can also refer the following Websites of the most common hardware vendors for ESX/ESXi:

  • Validate that the components that you want to install along with ESXi/ESX are also certified. This is essential, especially for Storage Arrays and I/O devices. Failing to check these before the implementation can be costly and it may be impossible to resolve this after the hardware is purchased and installed. For a  list of compatible devices, see the VMware Compatibility Guide.  

Updating the BIOS of the ESX/ESXi host


The steps required to update firmware or a system BIOS varies depending on the hardware vendor and the component to be updated. Typically, the vendor will supply some type of utility that will update the component automatically.
 
For example, to update a motherboard's BIOS:
 
Notes:
  • Before performing this procedure, ensure to migrate the virtual machines and appliances in the ESXi/ESX host. 
  • This a only an example. The results may vary from each manufacturer. 
  1. Download the update utility from the vendor.
  2. Create a bootable floppy disk or CD/DVD-ROM that contains the utility.
  3. Physically be in front of the server that hosts ESX/ESXi.
  4. Reboot the host. 
  5. Access the BIOS of the server.

    Note: You may access the BIOS by pressing F2 or DEL. However, this varies depending on the vendor and is usually displayed on your screen.

  6. Find the System Information section of the BIOS. The location varies depending on vendor.
  7. Note the BIOS version and any other relevant information before upgrading.
  8. Ensure that your BIOS is capable of booting from a floppy or CD/DVD-ROM.
  9. Place the floppy or CD/DVD-ROM in the server and reboot the system.  
  10. Boot from the device and follow the on-screen instructions to update the hardware.
  11. Verify if the firmware/BIOS has been updated.
  12. Proceed with the ESXi/ESX installation or upgrade.

Additional Information

Understanding Peripherals

When installing a peripheral component, such as a network card, host bust adapter, or a RAID controller, the firmware is updated once ESXi/ESX is installed. The vendor usually supplies a utility that is executed via SSH.
 
 
In addition, vendors may supply driver updates that are included in the Async Driver CD from VMware. VMware recommends that you install the latest Async Driver provided by your hardware vendor. For more information, see How to install async drivers on ESX/ESXi 4.x (1032936). Some vendors will also have bootable media, such as a floppy disk or CD/DVD-ROM, to accomplish the update.
 
Note: The process for updating peripherals vary for each component and is beyond the scope of this article. For more information on this, consult your hardware vendor.  In addition, sometimes it maybe necessary to update a driver or firmware for a peripheral to solve an issue you may be experiencing.
 
For more information, see: 

Tags

determine-bios-information check-firmware-levels hardware-failure hardware-incompatibility

See Also

Update History

06/13/2012 - Updated tags.

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