If command lines are your bread and butter, you probably already know about esxcli commands and how they are used to perform management and configuration tasks on ESXi. If on the other hand, this is all new to you, this post will hopefully give you a head start. For the time being, you just need to know that esxcli commands are run from the ESXi shell. If the command line is something you want to delve into, consider having a look at the PowerCLI Primer series. With that out the way, let’s get on with the show.


ESXi Shell and ESXCLI

If it is not already, the first thing you need to do is enable shell on ESXi, something that is generally disabled for security reasons. To enable Shell, follow the steps provided in KB 2004746. Once you enable it, you can use a tool like putty to access Shell via an SSH session. Alternatively, pressing ALT-F1 while in DCUI is one other way of accessing Shell. To run commands in shell, log in as root or with an account having similar privileges.

ESXCLI commands

Accessing ESXi shell using an SSH client or directly from console


The esxcli command exposes a number of namespaces against which you can run queries to retrieve information about ESXi as well as configure it. The following table lists the available namespaces on ESXi 6.5 along with a description for each (source: VMware). For earlier ESXi releases, consult the relevant online documentation or run esxcli with no parameters to see which namespaces are available.

esxcli deviceLists descriptions of device commands.
esxcli elxnetLists descriptions for commands that manage Emulex elxnet drivers.
esxcli esxcliLists descriptions of esxcli commands.
esxcli fcoeFCOE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) commands
esxcli graphicsGraphics commands
esxcli hardwareHardware namespace. Used primarily for extracting information about the current system setup.
esxcli iscsiiSCSI namespace for monitoring and managing hardware and software iSCSI.
esxcli networkNetwork namespace for managing virtual networking including virtual switches and VMkernel network interfaces.
esxcli nvmeCommands for managing NVMe devices.
esxcli rdmaCommands for monitoring RDMA devices.
esxcli schedManage the shared system-wide swap space.
esxcli softwareSoftware namespace. Includes commands for managing and installing image profiles and VIBs.
esxcli storageIncludes core storage commands and other storage management commands.
esxcli systemSystem monitoring and management command.
esxcli vmNamespace for listing virtual machines and shutting them down forcefully.
esxcli vsanNamespace for Virtual SAN management commands. See the vSphere Storage publication for details.


The Top 20 ESXCLI Commands

The following is a compilation of esxcli commands, sorted by namespace, I tend to use on a regular basis. It is by no means exhaustive as there are too many examples to mention. If you want the whole shebang, have a look at VMware’s documentation site.


System related commands

#1esxcli system version get

Description: Returns the ESXi build and version numbers.


#2esxcli system hostname get

Description: Returns the hostname, domain and FQDN for the host.


#3esxcli system stats installtime get

Description: Returns the date and time of when ESXi was installed.


#4esxcli system account list

Description: Lists the local users created on the ESXi host.


#5esxcli system account add -d=”Altaro Guest” -i=”altaro” -p=”dsfewfewf*3!4404″ -c=”dsfewfewf*3!4404″

Description: This command allows you to create local ESXi users. All the parameters used in the example are mandatory.


#6esxcli system maintenanceMode set –enable true

Description: Use this command to put ESXi in maintenance mode or take it out.


#7esxcli system shutdown reboot -d 10 -r “Patch Updates”

Description: Use this command to reboot or shutdown ESXi. The -d parameter is a countdown timer; minimum 10 seconds. ESXi must be in maintenance mode before you can use the command.


Network related commands

#8esxcli network firewall get

Description: Returns the status of the ESXi firewall. The default action is to drop traffic unless allowed through by a specific firewall rule. The Enabled field indicates whether the firewall is enabled. The Loaded field shows whether the firewall module is active or not (see esxcli firewall load | unload commands).


#9esxcli network firewall set –enabled true | false

Description: Use this command to disable the ESXi firewall for troubleshooting purposes. Note that disabling the firewall on ESXi is highly discouraged.


#10esxcli network firewall ruleset list | awk ‘$2 ==”true”‘

Description: Generates a list of all enabled firewall rules on ESXi. The command is piped to awk which will matches the value from the second column to “true” so only enabled rules are displayed.


#11esxcli network ip interface ipv4 get

Description: Displays the IPv4 configuration for all the interfaces present on ESXi.


Software related commands

#12esxcli software vib list

Description: Lists all the currently installed VIBs on ESXi. A VIB is a file packaging format used to distribute software on ESXi.


#13esxcli software vib update -d “/tmp/”

Description: Use this command to update an installed VIB on ESXi. Note that the command does not install any new software. Instead it only updates what’s currently installed. Use esxcli software vib install instead when installing new software. The -d parameter specifies the full path to the package being used for the update. As per the next screenshot, I specified a non-existing patch hence the error message.


Virtual Machine related commands

#14esxcli vm process list

Description: Lists all the running VMs on the hosts. The World ID can be used with other commands to carry out various tasks related to VMs.


#15esxcli vm process kill -w 69237 -t soft

Description: Use this command to kill a running VM such as one that fails to respond to commands. You must first retrieve the VM’s World ID (see command #14) and pass it on using the -w parameter. The -t <soft | hard | force> mandatory parameter sets the type of kill operation. Start with soft so you allow the VM to shut down cleanly. If this does not work, try the hard option which will kill the VM processes immediately as in kill -9. The Force type should only be used as a last resort. If none work, your only option is to reboot ESXi.


Storage related commands

#16esxcli storage vmfs extent list

Description: The command generates a list of extents for each volume as well as the corresponding device name to UUID mapping.


#17esxcli storage filesystem list

Description: The command lists of all the volumes or datastores accessible by the ESXi host. The output includes the file system type, disk info along with the volume name, path and UUID.


iSCSI related commands

#18esxcli iscsi software set –enabled true && esxcli iscsi software get

Description: The above command actually consists of two concatenated commands, which is what && does. The first command enables the iSCSI software adapter and the second verifies that the iSCSI adapter is enabled.


#19esxcli iscsi adapter param get -A vmhba65

Description: The command returns metrics for the specified iSCSI adapter. These include the current, minimum and maximum values and whether the listed parameters may be configured or not. The name of the iSCSI adapter you want to be queried is specified via the -A parameter. The adapter name is retrieved using esxcli iscsi adapter list or from the vSphere Web client.


Available ESXCLI commands

#20esxcli esxcli command list

Description: Lists all the available namespaces and corresponding commands.


Wrap Up