Windows vCenter 6.5 Upgrade

VMware vSphere 6.0 reached end of general support 12 March 2020, with vSphere 6.5 scheduled for 15 October 2022, both referenced in the VMware Lifecycle Matrix. See also How to Install vSphere 7.0. Upgrade to vSphere 7 can be achieved directly from vSphere 6.5.0 and above, whereas vSphere 6.0 requires an intermediate upgrade to 6.5 or 6.7 first. For more information see the VMware Upgrade Matrix. Finally, the Windows vCenter Server and external PSC deployment models are now depreciated and not available with vSphere 7.0.

VMware vCenter Server pools ESXi host resources to provide a rich feature set delivering high availability and fault tolerance to virtual machines. The vCenter Server is a centralised management application and can be deployed as a virtual appliance or Windows machine. This post gives a walk through of upgrading a Windows based vCenter Server from v6.0 to v6.5, you may also want to consider Migrating Windows vCenter Server to VCSA 6.5.

Software Considerations

  • The vCenter must be running v5.5 or v6.0 to upgrade to v6.5.
  • All ESXi hosts connected must also be running version v5.5 or v6.0, vCenter 6.5 cannot mange ESXi v5.1 hosts or earlier. For other VMware products see the Update Sequence Table.
  • The operating system should be 64 bit and Windows Server 2008 SP2 or above.
  • An external database should be Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 or above, or Oracle 11g or 12c. You can review a full list of compatible versions at the Database Interoperability Matrix.
  • You must check compatibility of any third party products and plugins that might be used for backups, anti-virus, monitoring, etc. as these may need upgrading for vSphere 6.5 compatibility.
  • To check version compatibility with other VMware products see the Product Interoperability Matrix.

Architectural Considerations

  • From vSphere 6 onwards the Platform Services Controller (PSC) was introduced to the vSphere architecture. The PSC contains infrastructure services such as Single Sign On, Certificate Authority, licensing, etc. The PSC is deployed internally with vCenter Server or as an external component. Read more about the PSC in this kb.
  • When implementing a new vSphere 6.5 environment you should plan your topology in accordance with the VMware vCenter Server and PSC Deployment Types. Larger environments may require an external PSC.
  • The upgrade supports different deployment topologies but does not, and can not, make changes to the topology and SSO domain configuration.
  • When upgrading vCenter 6.0 the deployment model already in place will be migrated. When upgrading vCenter 5.5 the following will apply:
    • If SSO was installed on a different machine from vCenter Server then the machines running SSO will become external Platform Services Controllers.
    • If SSO was installed on the same machine as vCenter Server then this becomes vCenter Server with embedded Platform Services Controller.
  • In this post we will be upgrading a Windows vCenter 6.0 using the embedded deployment model. If you are using an external deployment model the PSC must be upgraded before the vCenter.

Hardware Considerations

  • Windows vCenter Server with embedded PSC requires the following hardware resources:
    • Tiny (up to 10 hosts, 100 VMs) – 2 CPUs, 10 GB RAM.
    • Small (up to 100 hosts, 1000 VMs) – 4 CPUs, 16 GB RAM.
    • Medium (up to 400 hosts, 4000 VMs) – 8 CPUs, 24 GB RAM.
    • Large (up to 1000 hosts, 10,000 VMs) – 16 CPUs, 32 GB RAM.
    • X-Large (up to 2000 hosts, 35,000 VMs) – 24 CPUs, 48 GB RAM – new to v6.5.
  • Where the PSC is deployed on a separate machine this requires 2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM.
  • Environments with ESXi host(s) with more than 512 LUNs and 2048 paths should be sized large or x-large.
  • The Windows vCenter Server requires the following free disk space for installation: (the first 2 may not necessarily be the system drive depending on installation location) Program Files 6 GB, Program Data 8 GB, System folder 3 GB. The PSC machine requires; Program Files 1 GB, Program Data 2 GB, System folder 1 GB.

Other Considerations


Download the VMware vCenter Server and Modules for Windows ISO from VMware downloads: v6.5.0 | v6.5.0 U1.

Mount the ISO and right click autorun.exe, select Run as administrator. The VMware vCenter Installer will open. Ensure vCenter Server for Windows is selected and click Install.


The vCenter Server 6.5 Installer will open in a separate window, the existing installation is auto-detected, click Next.


Accept the end user license agreement and click Next.


Enter the SSO administrator password, if you removed this account from the vCenter administrators enter the credentials of a vCenter administrator. Click Next.


The installer will now run pre-upgrade checks.


Accept the default port configuration and click Next.


Select the type of data to migrate during the upgrade, click Next.


Select the installation directories. Note the data export location, you will need to remove this folder after verifying the upgrade is successful. Click Next.


Tick or untick the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program as appropriate and click Next.


Check the configuration on the review page, check the box to confirm you have backed up the vCenter Server, click Upgrade to begin the installation process.


A progress bar will be displayed.


Once complete click Finish.



Connect to the vCenter post install using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. Access vSphere by clicking either the vSphere Web Client (Flash) or the vSphere Client (HTML5). Connect to the vSphere Web Client to manage your system, the thick client (Windows) is no longer supported.


Log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login. Verify the installed version is correct under the Summary tab when selecting the vCenter, you can also go to Help > About.


You must apply a new vCenter license key within 60 days. From the Hosts and Clusters view select the vCenter Server. Click Actions and Assign License. Select a license or use the green plus button to add a new license and click Ok.

You can obtain a 60 day trial license for vCenter Server here. If you have purchased vCenter Server then log into your licensing portal here. If the license key does not appear then check with your VMware account manager.


When you are satisfied the vCenter is working as it should be and backups have completed; remove the temporary data – the default location was C:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer\export.

Consider upgrading any other products you may use, such as Update Manager.

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