Enable SSH and Command Line Access on ESXi 4.1

by admin

I had a question today regarding how to enable console access on ESXi 4.1, following an upgrade from an ESX 3.5 environment. Until ESXi 4.1 the only official way to work from the command line were vSphereCLI and vMA.

As of 4.1, ESXi now supports access to a command line interface, either locally or remotely via SSH, and they are called, respectively, Local Tech Support and Remote Tech Support. There are two ways of enabling access to both modes.

  1. Locally from the console DCUI ESXi
  2. Through the vSphere Client

SSH and Command Line Activation via the DCUI

Login  to the DCUI by pressing F2, then entering your user credentials. The bit we are interested in is the Troubleshooting options:

enable troubleshooting mode


The options you have here are Enable Local Tech Support which will give you access to the local command line interface and Enable Remote Tech Support (SSH) which will enable remote access to the busybox command line console through SSH.

The third option here is the Modify Tech Support timeout –  which is the timeout in minutes in which you can have the access automatically disabled. This option kicks in only if there are no open sessions (local and / or remote). If you want to disable this option you can set the timeout value to zero.

SSH and Command Line Activation via the vSphere Client

Browse to the section Configuration -> Security Profile:

esxi security profile

Then in the properties for the service profile we can enable the two modes:

security profile properties

If you want to specify the timeout options using the vSphere client, you can do this by going to Configuration -> Advanced Settings -> UserVars and specify a value for the  UserVars.TSMTimeOut variable.


The time variable here is measured in seconds rather than minutes. Like in the DCUI, to disable the timeout, just set the value to zero.

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