How to upgrade VMware Tools and Linux kernel

VMware Tools is a set of drivers and utilities to make a virtual computer perform better and faster inside a virtual hosted environment. It makes a virtual computer aware of its host at least to some degree.

However, the VMware Tools must always be in sync with the running kernel on a Linux based virtual computer and keeping them up to date can be tricky business. Once I managed to do it properly, I have decided to write it down for good.

Installing the VMware Tools for the first time is simpler and is described here.

Before making any steps described below, please create a snapshot of your virtual computer in case the following procedure fails in your case.

Requirements

  • VMware Tools installation files, usually distributed as a gziped TAR archive found on the CD-ROM that is “inserted” into virtual computer when one selects “Install/Upgrade VMware Tools” feature on the ESXi host.
  • kernel-devel, gcc, mkinitrd and make RPM packages including dependencies or internet access if using yum.
  • The following procedure was developed and tested on virtual computer running Fedora Core 12 inside a VMware ESXi 4 host. With some minor modifications, it should work on other Linux distributions too.

The procedure

  1. Remove the VMware Tools:
    vmware-uninstall-tools.pl
  2. Upgrade the kernel and kernel-devel packages using either rpm or yum utility. If you added the kernel package to yum’s update ignore list, remove it from the ignore list first. Run:
    yum update kernel kernel-devel
  3. Shutdown the virtual computer.
  4. Change the type of SCSI controller from Paravirtual to LSI Logic Parallel, otherwise your virtual computer will not boot. It has no VMware Tools installed temporarily.
  5. Start the virtual computer.
  6. Remove the old kernel.
  7. Install a new version of VMware Tools:
    ./vmware-install.pl
    After the installation, add a “.conf” extension to the /etc/modprobe/vmware-tools file, to avoid Fedora’s warnings about omitting any files in the /etc/modprobe directory not ending with “.conf” in the future.
  8. Shutdown the virtual computer.
  9. Change back the type of SCSI controller from LSI Logic Parallel to Paravirtual for maximum performance.
  10. Start the virtual computer.
  11. Add the kernel package to yum’s update ignore list to prevent accidental installation of newer kernel. Add the following line to the /etc/yum.conf file:
    exclude=kernel*

Additional notes

  1. If you experience poor performance of the virtual network adapter (slow SCP, stalled SMB file transfers, etc.), try disabling the protocol offloading by running:
    /sbin/ethtool -K eth0 tso off rx off tx off gso off
    If this helps in your case too, add the above command to your /etc/rc.d/rc.local file.

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