Upgrade to VMware vSphere 5.5

by [Published on 20 Nov. 2013 / Last Updated on 20 Nov. 2013]

In this article we're going to go through a step-by-step guide of the upgrade process from vSphere 5.1 to 5.5.


VMware released their latest version of vSphere in September. Although only a minor release, there are some great changes. One of the changes makes it significantly easier to install, which is a complete rewrite of SSO. This is pretty exciting because if you have any experience installing vSphere 5.1 you know installing SSO could be a bit difficult. Not to worry, though, if you’re upgrading the SSO, install will detect that you have a previous version and “upgrade” it. From what I can tell, it basically gets rid of your own install and then you install it. It gives you a new SSO username and password, so you’re no longer using the Admin@System-Domain username. It’s now administrator@vsphere.local.

vSphere 5.1 to vSphere 5.5

In this article I’m going to go through a step-by-step guide of the upgrade process from vSphere 5.1 to 5.5. The new installation screen looks a little different than the last few versions.

Figure 1

As you can see the Simple Install will install everything on one machine. Generally, the best practice is to put the full version of SQL on a separate SQL server. If you’re a small shop though, you can leave it all on the same machine. In this example I’ll be doing the custom install. I’ll start with the vCenter Single Sign-On, then the Inventory Service and finally the vCenter Server. After I see that all is installed successfully I’ll install the vSphere Web Client. Before I do anything I usually take a snapshot of the VM. That way if anything goes wrong I can always revert back to the snapshot instead of having vCenter down while I’m troubleshooting or waiting for support to get back to me.

Upgrade Single Sign-On

Follow these steps to upgrade the SSO component:

  1. Start the wizard by highlighting vCenter Single Sign-On and click Install.
  2. You’ll get a message saying an earlier version is installed and will be upgraded. You can click Next on this screen.
  3. Accept the EULA.
  4. It will go through some pre-checks to make sure you can install. One of these checks will make sure you’re installing on a machine that is part of a domain. It’s highly recommended if this is going to be part of a domain that you join it to the domain before the install.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Again, we see a warning that SSO will be upgraded. Go ahead and click Next.
  7. On the next screen we get to choose whether this is the only SSO server in the domain or if there are others. If you’re working on a single site, you’ll most likely choose the First existing SSO server. Click Next.

Figure 2

  1. The next screen lets you put in your password for the new SSO username: Administrator@vSphere.local. This needs to be a strong password. Click Next.
  2. Enter a name for the Site. Click Next.
  3. Then you can click Next through the informational screens (if you’d like to change the install path you may do that here). Finally click install.
  4. When the install has finished click Finish and we can move on to upgrading the Inventory Service.

Upgrading the Inventory Service is really easy. You just need to start the installation wizard and follow along. You’ll need to enter the SSO password that you created during the SSO installation. You’ll also need to decide whether you want to keep your existing database or create a new one. You may as well keep your existing one since this is an upgrade. Once this installation is complete we can move on to the vCenter Server upgrade.

Upgrade vCenter Server:

  1. Highlight the vCenter Server and click Install.
  2. Once again we’ll accept the EULA and go through the initial steps of the wizard. If you have a license key you can enter it here.
  3. If you’re using a local database you can generally click Next through the database site. If you have an external database you’d put your DSN information in here.
  4. On the next screen you have the option to update your database server. You can leave it, but I usually go ahead and do the upgrade so I don’t fall too far behind. It’s highly recommended that you take a backup of the database first which is always a good idea. If you took a snapshot of your VM to begin with you should be all right.
  5. On the vCenter Upgrade Agent screen you can choose whether to manually or automatically upgrade the vCenter host agents. This will not upgrade your ESXi servers. This simply upgrades the vCenter agent on each host. I’ve personally never had trouble doing an in-place upgrade automatically and it should be non-disruptive to your VMs. If you’re being extra pre-cautious you may choose to do it manually while your hosts are in maintenance mode. Click Next.
  6. When you get to the vCenter Service screen you can choose whether to run the vCenter service as a service account or as a local system account. This is really up to you and the policies of your IT department. Click Next.
  7. Click Next to leave the default ports for all the services. I wouldn’t recommend changing the defaults unless you have a really great reason, but vCenter should really be on a dedicated server so you shouldn’t have anything else using those ports.
  8. Choose your JVM memory. The numbers are given to you so you just need to pick the best option for your environment.
  9. Enter the SSO information you assigned during the SSO installation.
  10. The Inventory Service information should automatically populate. If you have trouble here there are several KB articles on the proper Inventory Service URLs.
  11. You can pretty much accept the defaults for the rest of the wizard unless you’d like to change the installation path.
  12. Click Install to start the upgrade. You’ll see various messages about the installation. Some showing that it’s unregistering with SSO, which makes sense because it will unregister with the 5.1 version of SSO and then later register with the new version of vSphere 5.5.
  13. Click Finish to complete the upgrade.

At this point we have upgraded vCenter but we still need to upgrade the vSphere Web Client and put in the proper permissions for SSO. The SSO administration in the vSphere Web Client looks a little different, as shown in the picture below. I’ve also had to assign the proper permissions to the vCenter object in order to get the vCenter login to work without using the “Domain\Username” schema.

Figure 3

Figure 4

The upgrade is pretty much done now. We should be able to log in to the vCenter client using a simple username and password combination and have access to all our vCenter objects. I haven’t run into too many caveats during these installs. The biggest issue I’ve seen is while actually upgrading the ESXi servers using Update Manager. I’ve had to actually apply patches using to the 5.1 version, do a restart of the host and then apply the upgrade ESXi 5.5.


So far I’ve had really good luck with vSphere 5.5. The web client works better and SSO is easier which were two major issues I encountered when installing or upgrading solutions. The traditional vSphere client is still around contrary to popular rumors that came out when vSphere 5.1 was released. Though there are more and more tasks that must be done from the web client, including editing the settings of VMs. All in all it’s been a pretty good release thus far. I might even recommend skipping 5.1 to those of you still running 5.0.

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