Migrating a DVS and Host from one vCenter to another.

There are mixed feelings about exporting a DVS from one vCenter Server to another. Some will tell you that it absolutely cannot be done, while others will tell you that it works great, and even go so far as to mention it saving their environment. Personally, I’m on the fence about this. There are not many statements on the supportability of this one way or another by VMware, so I interpret it as sitting in the realm of “Document what you DO support, not what you don’t.”
With that said, this guide should be used with great caution and only if circumstances do not allow other options.

The Setup

In this scenario, I decided to go all out and not only attempt an export/import across differing versions, but also different underlying OS platforms.

  • Source vCenter – vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 Update 2
  • Destination vCenter – vCenter Server Windows 6.0

Step 1. First off, I made a DVS in the 5.5 vCenter with 3 portgroups.

  • PG-everything_enabled: This one basically had everything I could enable in it turned on
  • PG-VLAN10-Dynamic_binding: A mostly default portgroup with a VLAN tag of 10 and dynamic port binding enabled (which is deprecated)
  • PG-vmk-pingable: A portgroup with the Management interface (vmk0) and a VM for continuous ping testing


Moving the Host

Step 2. Next, I disconnected the host from the 5.5 vCenter and switched to the client of my 6.0 vCenter
Adding the host in to the new vCenter worked fine. I kept an eye on my pings to the puppy-ping VM as well, which continued flawlessly
Once added, I noticed that the networking tab for the host has an error on it about the DVS. I ignored this for now as we will import the DVS to the new vCenter next.

Migrating the DVS

Step 3. In the Web client, export the DVS from the 5.5 vCenter by right clicking it and mousing over All vCenter Actions, then selecting Export Configuration . Choose to export Distributed switch and all port groups, and save the zip file to your machine.
Step 4. Back to the 6.0 Web Client. From the Networking tab, right click the datacenter, mouse over Distributed Switch and select Import Distributed Switch.
Step 5. Find the zip file you exported earlier and check the box to Preserve original distributed switch and port group identifiers.

Sync the Host to the DVS

So far we have both the ESXi host and the DVS in the vCenter 6 Inventory. But we still need to re-establish the correlation between them. The next step requires previous knowledge of which dvPortgroups the Virtual Machines were on.
Step 6. Right Click the imported DVS and go to Add and Manage Host
Step 7. Choose to Add host and manage host networking (advanced)
Step 8. Use the Attached Hosts button to select the host(s) you wish to re-establish the networking on.
Step 9. Select Manage physical adapters, Manager VMkernel adapters, and Migrate virtual machine networking
Step 10. Uplinks should already be populated as we added the host prior to the DVS. Confirm that they have the Uplink portgroup set and click next.
Step 11. Under Manage VMkernel network adapters, Assign portgroups to the vmk interfaces. The Source Port Group and Destination Port Group should match. Do not worry about the vmk interfaces under “On other switches”
Step 12. Review and make note of the impact this might have on your network dependent services.
Step 13. In Migrate VM networking, we need to assign the Virtual machines their dvPortgroups again. Use the drop down to correlate the Source Port Group to each vnic.
Step 14. Review the changes and hit finish.
At this point everything was done. I never lost connectivity with the management network of the host and also never lost pings to the puppy-ping VM I had set up for testing. I double checked the 3 portgroups that I had created and it looks like all of the settings persisted across the migration. Once again I want to stress that this is not supported by VMware. But if you are in a situation that doesn’t offer many options, this will work in a pinch.

Posted by:

Chris Morrow


  1. ryan -  September 14, 2015 - 10:58 am 254

    What would be the best way to do the above situation? All out hosts are on VDS and we are migrating from 5.5 appliance to 6.0 appliance.

    • Sean Whitney -  September 19, 2015 - 10:17 am 255

      Hi Ryan,

      Are you just upgrading? If so, you can backup the VDS before the upgrade as a precautionary measure, then just run through the upgrade. If you are building out a separate vCenter Server and moving hosts, then follow the above, just make sure to take snapshots of the vCenter VMs and backups of the VCDB in case anything happens.


      • Jay B -  January 29, 2016 - 1:42 pm 382

        Not true, the upgrade to 6.0 from 5.5 using all vDS needs a standard switch.

        • Dean -  January 25, 2018 - 3:41 am 628

          I have done the upgrade from vCenter Server 5.5 to VCSA 6 and the vDS all come over at the same time without hitch. Easy!!

          • Kosta -  May 2, 2018 - 11:59 am 643

            Did you perform an in place upgrade? or use the migration tool to a new 6.5 VCSA?
            I need to move from 5.5 to 6.5 and the vDS’ is one concern, and the other is not wanting to use PSC at all in 6.5.

            Thank you in advance.

  2. Steffan Røstvig -  September 30, 2015 - 2:22 am 269

    Good write-up! Thanks 🙂

    • Sean Whitney -  October 12, 2015 - 9:11 pm 275

      You’re welcome!

  3. ganesh -  November 30, 2015 - 8:13 pm 343

    So on step 11 , how can we do if we have large number of VMs and it is very difficult to select source and destination for each VMs?

    • Chris Morrow -  December 1, 2015 - 12:22 pm 345

      Hi Ganesh,

      If you mean step 13, there isn’t a better way to do this other than possibly scripting it with powercli that I know of.

  4. Mostafa Zare -  February 8, 2016 - 1:47 am 392

    Hi Sean,
    This guide is perfect. Thank you for writing…

    • Sean Whitney -  February 9, 2016 - 4:20 pm 400

      You’re welcome, Mostafa. Happy to help!

  5. Leo -  February 23, 2016 - 3:39 am 422

    Good Write-Up Sean…Thanks

    • Chris Morrow -  February 23, 2016 - 9:04 am 423

      You’re Welcome Leo, Hope it helps.

  6. Anwesh -  March 28, 2016 - 6:04 pm 445

    Thank you Sean… for the sharing the article and it help me for successful migration from one vcenter server to another vcenter.

  7. Mitra -  May 14, 2016 - 5:51 am 468

    Hello All,

    I am having one uestions,

    If there is situation where we are unable to take dvswitch backup because old vCenter server was down & we want to connect esxi host (which are in vDistributed switch with old vCener) to NEW vCenter server with there old configuration , is it possible??

    • Chris Morrow -  May 17, 2016 - 5:01 pm 478

      Unfortunately I dont think so Mitra. You need the backup from the original VC to do it correctly.

  8. Mitra -  May 14, 2016 - 5:52 am 469

    Hello All,

    I am having one questions,

    If there is situation where we are unable to take dvswitch backup because old vCenter server was down & we want to connect esxi host (which are in vDistributed switch with old vCener) to NEW vCenter server with there old configuration , is it possible??

  9. Caz Sand -  May 17, 2016 - 10:14 am 474


    Is the method viable and supported? I was told the VMware doesn´t support this exporting/importing DVs configuration method yet, although I may and I hope to be wrong, since I have a DVs environment with over 2000 VMs

    • Chris Morrow -  May 17, 2016 - 5:04 pm 479

      VMware does not support this method. I mention that in Step 14, so i wouldnt use this unless its a lab or you have to!

  10. Andre -  June 2, 2016 - 1:10 pm 489


    I could migrate vdswitches directly 5.1 to 6 vmware version?

    Thank you!

    André Vieira

  11. mojtaba -  October 4, 2016 - 8:56 am 529

    Thanks for your Instructions , very efficient.

  12. RR -  January 5, 2017 - 9:08 pm 550

    Hi Sean

    Great Post works perfectly. I have tested the same process with the old vsphere client and it skips a large amount of steps and does not require any migration of port groups or kernels or vm’s, provided the switch was imported preserving all settings.

  13. iahmed -  February 8, 2017 - 8:55 am 557

    Hi Sean and Team,
    1. We are running single instance of vCenter 6.0 with PostgreSQL DB and and there is a limitation of 20 hosts and 200 VM on PostgreSQL
    2. If suppose we go with vCenter 6.0 windows server( VM) with embedded PSC , what is the best design, like to have two vCenter instance OR SQL 2014 Cluster with single vCenter instance which will be part of HA/DRS cluster and migrate from PostgreSQL. Is there a different steps to achieve this?


  14. Patrick -  February 15, 2017 - 10:31 am 558

    Something weird happened to me after I migrated (side-by-side) to a new vCenter 6.x from vCenter 5.1.x. I disconnect the hosts from the old vCenter, reconnected them to the new vCenter, restored de dvSwitch and added the hosts to it. All seemed to be working until I noticed that under the dvSwitch, on each portgroups I had, the hosts were not there. I have to create new portgroups and migrate the VMs from the old portgroups to the new ones because when trying to do a vMotion on the web-client, the destination network didn’t appear.

  15. Manoj -  January 29, 2018 - 1:49 am 629

    Hi , I am going to upgrade my vcenter 5.5 (window) to vcenter 6.0 / 6.5 (Window) , Can you let me know if will loose VDS configuration , DO I need to backup vds configuration

    • Sean Whitney -  March 23, 2018 - 2:04 pm 638

      Hi Manoj, you do not need to backup the VDS if you backup vCenter.

  16. James Mellita -  May 19, 2018 - 8:36 am 646

    Nice article. Some assumptions made in the article though like hosts have been added to destination vCenter already which is fine for most. This is my summary for those moving hosts – from 5.5 to 6.5 – focus mainly on the VM port group if on a vDS as in my case.We had Management and vMotion port groups on the vStandard so was not a concern.

    Make sure the vDS and port groups match the source vcenter on your destination before any host moves. VMware have an article on this and an export from vCenter 5.5 does not work to 6.5. You need to export config to vCenter 6 first. Speaking to an SRM engineer at VMware he actually advised I create manually if using SRM as we could run into issues later so this is what I did.

    DRS and HA should be disabled before you remove a host from a switch as well.
    Bear in mind resource pools require DNS. Set DRS to manual is better if you use resource pools.

    Source vCenter

    Disable DRS and HA (temporary thing)
    Make sure vDS switch and port group exists on destination (very important!)
    If you are moving management port groups etc, you might have two active ports but check they are in use (a good way is esxtop (N option) if you want to work out one that is not in use for example if you need to steal
    • Steal a VM port group physical NIC from the vDS configured for specific VLANs for our virtual machines. VDS VM port group example I steal NIC #4 leaving NIC#5 for the vDS
    • Create a new vStandard switch. Make sur VLAns specified if you have any!
    • Assign the physical NIC#4 to our new vStandard port group, leaving NIC#5 intact in the VDS (See later what I do with this later)
    • Migrate our virtual machines to our new vStandard port group
    • We are now ready to MOVE the host
    • Disconnect the ESXi hosts(s) from the source vCenter server
    • Remove the host from vCenter (optional). VMs will appear as disconnected which is to b expected

    Add host
    Go to Add and Manage hosts and click add hosts
    Migrate your NIC#5 from the VDS you left behind to the destination vDS (this is the safest option) using ADD and Manage host option
    Go through the steps again and migrate the remaining physical NIC#4 to the destination vCenter as well as your VMs at same time. Make sure you choose uplinks for the VMs when you do and check impact
    Repeat for remaining hosts

  17. Terry Renner -  September 5, 2018 - 9:18 am 657

    I tried this method going from windows 5.5 U3h to 6.5 appliance and it says the import configuration was completed. However the VDS doesn’t show up in the client?? Any suggestions or is this just not supported?

  18. Jignesh -  November 4, 2018 - 4:49 pm 660

    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for the post. I am moving from windows VC 6.0 to VCSA 6.7 (new install). Everything is on VDS with LACP, am I right to say that I first need to reconfigure the physical switch port to take it out from LAG than move the ESXi pnic to VSS and migrate all VM from VDS to VSS, disconnect ESXi host and connect to new VC, move networking from VSS to VDS and recreate LACP?

  19. Harry -  December 23, 2018 - 7:03 pm 665

    Hi Sean ,

    If i export the configuration of VDS , delete the VDS (move vmk and uplinks to vSS) and then import the configuration back , i can see only the uplinks assigned and vmk adapters are still lying on vSS . Shouldn’t they moved and must be on vSS. Kindly clarify

  20. noor -  November 20, 2019 - 1:17 am 688

    In your old VC, you have VDS even for vmkernel interfaces.
    when you disconnect the host in old VC
    how you can add these hosts in new VC as management nics are still in VDS.

    are these on VSS on old vcenter?


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