Installing a 3rd-Party Driver or Plug-in on an ESXi Host

D’oh! You just created a custom-based ESXi Install image with all the drivers and plug-ins then found out you missed a driver. Or, a new and very cool plug-in was just released by a vendor & you want to try it out. What is the best way to get this installed?

Well, if you don’t want to update your custom ESXi Install Image, there are a couple ways you can tackle the task. You can use VMware Update Manager or the command line. I will cover both methods below.

Command Line Option

This is probably the simplest, most direct way to install a driver or plug-in.
1. If you haven’t already done so, attain the driver or plug-in from the vendor website and save it to a directory on your workstation. Make sure it is an “” file.

2. Log into vCenter with the vSphere Client, or, if the driver or plug-in is only for a standalone Host, log into the Host directly.

3. Select a Datastore to place the file on, rt-click on the Datastore and select Browse Datastore to open the Datastore Browser window. Click the Upload File icon (see below) and browse to the location of the offline bundle zip attained in Step 1.

4. Place the Host in Maintenance Mode.

5.  Open a SSH tool (Putty, vCLI, vMA) to the Host and simply run the following command:
esxcli software vib install -d /vmfs/volumes/DatastoreName/

6. Once installed, reboot the Host and exit Maintenance Mode. Repeat for any remaining Hosts.

Update Manager Option

1. As in Step 1 above, attain the driver or plug-in wanting to install.

2. Login to vCenter with the vSphere Client and go to Home > Solutions and Applications > Update Manager

3. Recommendation – once in Update Manager, click the Configuration tab then ESX Host/Cluster Settings link to configure Update Manager on how to interact with Hosts/Clusters upon Remediation. For example, you can configure if Hosts should go into Maintenance Mode and the power-state of the VMs during such transition, as well as the ability to temporarily disable Cluster settings like HA & DPM. If any changes are made, make sure to click the Apply button at the bottom of the page.

4. Once the Host/Cluster settings are configured, you can now upload the file. From the Configuration tab in Update Manager, select Download Settings, then in the middle of the page click the Import Patches link.

5. Browse to the offline-bundle zip file and finish the Import wizard.

6. Next, click on the Baselines and Groups tab. Select the Hosts button next to View Baselines For: then click the Create link next to the Baselines box (left side).

7. Name the Baseline, select Host Extension as the Baseline Type, then click Next.

8. From the list, select the driver or plug-in files wanting to add to the Baseline (may need to CTRL+CLICK a group of items), then click the down arrow button to actually add the files to the Baseline.

9. Almost there! 🙂 So now, all we need to do is apply the driver or plug-in (the Baseline) to the Hosts. To do so, it’s simply a matter of first Attaching the Baseline to a Host or the Cluster where the Hosts are located, then Remediating the Host or Cluster.

10. Go into the Hosts & Clusters view, select the Cluster or Host wanting to install the driver or plug-in on, then the Update Manager tab. From here click the Attach link to attach the Baseline just created. Select the Baseline then click the Attach button.

11. Once attached to the Host or Cluster, click the Scan link to scan the vSphere object the Baseline is attached to for Compliance. Your Host or Cluster should be out of Compliance since the driver or plug-in is not yet installed. After the scan, you have 1 of 2 options – push the driver or plug-in to all Hosts in the Cluster (or Host if standalone) by performing a Stage operation before Remediation to minimize update time. Staging is especially useful for updates that contain large sized files. Or, just simply do a Remediation. NOTE: as with the command line option, the Host(s) must be in Maintenance Mode. If you configured the ESX Host/Cluster Update Manager settings, this should be done automatically for you. If not, place the Host(s) in Maintenance Mode now.

12. After you Remediate your Host or Cluster, a reboot may be necessary. Reboot your Host(s), then exit from Maintenance Mode. You now have the driver or plug-in installed.

For more information regarding the above steps, you can reference VMware KB:

Please share any thoughts or comments you have below.