Kyle Gleed, Sr. Technical Marketing Manager, VMware
I often get asked for advice on upgrading VMware Tools and Virtual Hardware following an ESXi host upgrade. While the actual task of upgrading a VM is straight forward, the challenge comes because upgrading the tools/virtual hardware requires rebooting the VM, and with many VMs hosting production workloads there’s a lot of sensitivity around VM downtime.
In the past VMware has recommended upgrading the VM tools/virtual hardware anytime you upgrade your ESXi host. This meant following an ESXi host upgrade with a lot of VM upgrades and reboots. However, starting with vSphere 5.0 this is no longer the case. In 5.0 VMware has extended the tools/virtual hardware support matrix to allow VMs with older versions of tools/virtual hardware to run on newer ESXi host. This allows customers to evaluate the added features and capabilities provided with the newer tools/virtual hardware versions and make an informed decision on whether or not to upgrade their VMs, and to avoid unnecessary upgrades.
The table below shows the virtual hardware support matrix for vSphere 5.0. As you can see vSphere 5.0 supports VMs running virtual hardware versions 4, 7, and 8. Additional information about virtual hardware support in 5.0 and how to upgrade a VMs virtual hardware is available in the vSphere Virtual Machine Administration Guide (page 85).
In addition, the VMware Tools support matrix for each ESXi version is available from the VMware Product Interoperability Matrix. Note that vSphere 5.0 supports VMs runnig VMware Tools version 4.0 and above. In addition, VMware Tools 5.0 is also supported on older ESX/ESXi hosts (4.0 and above).