Updating Dell Firmware/BIOS en mass

We recently ran into an issue where we had to update the Firmware & Bios on a bunch of Dell servers.  As these are VMware hosts, we couldn’t just run the Dell System Update Utility, as I would on a normal Windows host.  My coworker, @bspagna, and I decided to look at doing this via the iDRAC.

Prerequisites:  Dell Repository Manager, a TFTP Server (like Solarwinds Free TFTP Server)

First, we used Dell Repository Manager (Data Center Version) to build a package for the model we were working with.  Once we created the repository for that specific model ONLY, we then created a deployment package for that model.

  1. Open Dell Repository Manager (Data Center Version)
  2. If “New Dell Online” is flashing in the corner, click on it to update the online catalog.
  3. Once updated, click the MY REPOSITORIES tab.
  4. Then click the NEW drop down and select MANUALLY CREATE NEW REPOSITORY.
  5. Enter the name of your new Repository.  I usually go with the model I’m updating.  Then click NEXT.
  6. Choose a Base Repository.  I usually go with the Dell Online Catalog.  You can use a different one if you have a locally stored catalog, but I prefer to get the latest one directly from Dell. Click NEXT.
  7. Deselect the Brand/Types you’re not using.  This will speed up the process and limit the list of all the models to choose from.  In this case, I’m using a Dell R series server, so I’m only choosing RACK.  Click NEXT.
  8. Select Windows 32 bit as that’s what the iDRAC takes as input.  Click NEXT.
  9. Select only the specific model you’ll be updating.  In my case, I went with the R830. Click NEXT.
  10. Don’t select any optional components, it’s typically just OMSA, and that won’t install via this method and is the subject of a future blog post. 🙂  Click NEXT.
  11. A summary of everything you chose is displayed.  Click FINISH to create your new repository.
  12. It’ll display a dialog box once the repository is created. Click CLOSE.
  13. You’ll see a new tab for your new repository.  Click on it.
  14. Check the checkbox for the new system bundle that was created.  Click CREATE DEPLOYMENT TOOLS.
  16. Choose a location to save the catalog to.  Click NEXT.
  17. A Summary page is displayed.  Click FINISH.
  18. A dialog box is displayed stating your export is queued. Click OK.
  19. Click on JOB QUEUE at the bottom to display the current queue.
  20. It’ll take some time for the export to be complete.  Monitor it’s progress.
  21. Next, you’ll need to copy the contents of the repository folder to your TFTP server’s Root folder, or point your TFTP server at the Repo location.
  22. We’re using Solarwinds TFTP server.  It’s not a complicated setup.  We pointed it to c:\TFTP-Root and copied each repo to that location.
  23. Start up your TFTP server.
  24. Login to your iDRAC.
  26. Select TFTP as the FILE LOCATION.  Enter the TFTP Address (Name or IP), and click CHECK FOR UPDATES.
  27. The iDRAC will check for updates.
  28. When finished, it will display a list of Firmware & BIOS updates that are required. Click INSTALL AND REBOOT.

    1. You can also do INSTALL NEXT REBOOT if you want to schedule the reboot later.
    2. You may want to double check this as we found it it decided to roll back certain Firmware updates and had to deselect those.  FYI.
  29. Under OVERVIEW, click on SERVER and then the JOB QUEUE tab.  There you can see the progress of the updates installing.  It takes some time for it to go from NEW to SCHEDULED.
  30. Once it changes to scheduled, it’ll start installing the updates.
  31. Eventually, you’ll see it list out each update as well as the status.
  32. When finished, it’ll automatically reboot and finish any updates.
  33. You can also go to the LOGS section and check the LIFECYCLE LOG to verify the updates installed successfully.
    1. you can also see the previous version and current version (this is how we noticed it downgraded the NIC Firmware on us.)

I couldn’t find anything online detailing how to do this, so I figured it was time to blog about it!

Hope it helps someone as Brian and I had quite a time trying different ways to get this done before settling on this method.

Ben Liebowitz, VCP, vExpert
NJ VMUG Leader



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