How To: Enable SSH Remote Access on a VMware vSphere

The Shell (formerly known as Tech Support Mode) provides essential maintenance commands. It can be used in exceptional cases that cannot be handled through standard remote management or tools. The ESXi Shell is primarily intended for use in break-fix scenarios.

Enabling ESXi Shell access using the Client

Use the vSphere Client to enable local and remote access to the ESXi Shell:

  1. Log in to a system using the vSphere Client.
  2. Select the host in the Inventory panel.
  3. Click the Configuration tab and click  Profile.
  4. In the Services section, click Properties.
  5. Select ESXi Shell from this list:

    ESXi Shell

    Direct Console UI

  6. Click Options and select Start and stop manually.

    Note: When you select Start and stop manually, the service does not start when you reboot the host. If you want the service to start when you reboot the host, select Start and stop with host.

  7. Click Start to enable the service.
  8. Click OK.

Enabling ESXi Shell access using the Host Client in vSphere 6.5

Use the Host Client to enable local and remote access to the ESXi Shell:

  1. Log in to a Host Client using address of the host in a browser
  2. Click on Manage under Navigator section
  3. Click the Services tab
  4. In the Services section, select TSM from the list:
  5. Click Actions and select Start to enable the ESXi shell.

Enabling ESXi Shell access using the Direct Console User Interface

Use the direct console user interface to enable the ESXi Shell:

  1. From the Direct Console User Interface, press F2 to access the System Customization menu.
  2. Select  Options and press Enter.
  3. From the Troubleshooting Mode Options menu, select Enable ESXi Shell.

    Enable ESXi Shell
    Enable SSH

  4. Press Enter to enable the service.

Configuring the timeout for the ESXi Shell

By default, the timeout setting for the ESXi Shell is 0 (disabled). The timeout setting is the number of minutes that can elapse before you must log in after the ESXi Shell is enabled. After the timeout period, if you have not logged in, the shell is disabled.

Note: If you are logged in when the timeout period elapses, your session persists. However, the ESXi Shell is disabled and it prevents other users from logging in.

  • To set the ESXi Shell timeout from the Direct Console User Interface:
    1. From the Direct Console User Interface, press F2 to access the System Customization menu.
    2. Click Troubleshooting Mode Options.
    3. Modify ESXi Shell and SSH timeouts and press Enter.
    4. Enter the timeout in minutes.
    5. Press Enter.
    6. Press Esc until you return to the main menu of the Direct Console User Interface.
  • To set the ESXi Shell timeout from vSphere Client:
    1. Log in to a vCenter Server system using the vSphere Client.
    2. Select the host in the Inventory panel and click Configuration tab.
    3. Under Software, click Advanced Settings.
    4. In the left panel, click UserVars.
    5. In the UserVars.ESXiShellTimeOut field, enter the timeout setting in seconds.
    6. Click OK.

Note: If ESXi Shell and SSH are enabled, the option to modify the timeout value is grayed out. To change the timeout value, ensure both ESXi Shell and SSH are disabled. This is by design and is intended to indicate when the timeout values would take effect.

Accessing the local ESXi Shell

  1. If you have direct access to the host, press Alt+F1 to open the log in page on the machine’s physical console.
  2. Provide credentials when prompted.

    Note: To return to the Direct Console User Interface press Alt-F2.

Accessing the remote ESXi Shell

  1. Open an SSH client.
  2. Specify the IP address or domain name of the ESXi host.

    Notes:

    • Steps may vary depending on the SSH client you are using. For more information, consult the client documentation and support.
    • By default, SSH works on port 22.
  3. Provide credentials when prompted.
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