Cisco UCS Firmware Update vs Activate

One of the questions that a lot of our UCS customers ask us is “What is the difference between Update Firmware and Active Firmware?”

Update vs Activate – On the firmware management tab in UCS Manager there are 2 operations; Activate Firmware and Update Firmware. It is easy to get these 2 operations confused. Hopefully the information below will help clear up any confusion about these operations.


    1. Update Firmware  – This is a staging operation where the new firmware version is copied to the backup slot of the component. Think of this in terms of vCenter Update Manager where you have a Staging operation and a Remediation operation. The staging operation copies the new updates to an ESXi host in preparation for performing the remediation.The update operation is a non-disruptive operation that can be performed at anytime. When I do firmware updates I perform the staging of all the new firmware before hand so that when I am performing the activations I don’t have to wait for the firmware to be copied to the backup slot. If you have a lot of chassis/blades this can save an hour or 2 of time.

      Not all UCS components have backup slots, only the ones that do not reside on the Fabric Interconnects have backup slots. These components have backup slots:

      1. CIMC (Cisco Integrated Management Controller)
      2. Adapters
      3. I/O Modules (FEX)

    2. Activate Firmware – This operation is when the firmware in the backup slot is swapped with the startup slot. Depending on the component and configuration of your environment this can be a non-disruptive operation. Hopefully you have everything multi-pathed with failover and the user-acknowledge maintenance policy in place so that there is minimal disruption during activation.For more information refer to the Cisco UCS Install Guides –

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