Upgrading Cisco IOS-XE Software (Install Mode)

Recommended Releases for Cat9k

I got my hands on a Cisco Catalyst 3650-48PD-L switch which is the first access level switch that I’ve dealt with that is running IOS-XE. IOS-XE isn’t new, I prefer it over IOS because of its Linux base and the processing advantages it has. So today we will be going through the software upgrade process for a 3650 running in install mode.

You can view my other post on how to convert IOS XE from Bundled running mode to Install running mode.

Converting Cisco IOS-XE Software from Bundle Mode to Install Mode

You can also review upgrade procedure for specific hardware.
Catalyst 9200 upgrade procedure

As a quick introduction, here are some differences between IOS and IOS-XE.


  • Monolithic – The OS and its processes run in the same address space on the same hardware.
  • A single process could crash the entire system


  • Runs a Linux OS
  • Modular System
  • Multiprocessing allows for workloads to be shared across multiple CPUs.
  • Individual sub packages create IOS-XE that can be upgraded individually

Now that you have some understanding of the differences between IOS and IOS-XE you need to understand that there is two modes of operation.

The Cisco Catalyst 3650, 3850, and 9K series switches have two modes of operation, Install Mode and Bundle Mode.

Install Mode

Install mode uses a package-provisioning file named packages.conf, which is in charge of booting the switch. There are several .pkg files found in the flash drive that provide a specific function to the OS. Cisco recommends not altering any of the files.

Bundle Mode

Bundle mode uses monolithic Cisco IOS images to boot the switch. It consumes more memory than Install mode because packages are extracted from the bundle and copied to RAM.

I would suggest operating in Install mode as this is the default, and provides you with a modular system, you can switch them if you choose.

Lets continue into our upgrade..

You can see from the output of the 3650 that the current software version is 03.06.05b.e and it is running in Install Mode.


Download your image from Cisco. The new software version here will be 03.06.06E. I have chosen to use a USB drive to place my source image on, but you can still use a transfer protocol like TFTP or SCP.


After confirming that you have your source image in its proper location, execute the following command on the switch with your source image accurately defined.

Switch#software install file usbflash0:cat3k_caa-universalk9.SPA.03.06.06.E.152-2.E6.bin

The switch prepares the image for installation; below you see the switch performing pre-installation tasks. It will ask you to confirm a reload. Confirm a reload by typing Yes.


It will take several minutes to reload, during the reload processes the switch does several post-installation tasks such as updating the Front-end Microcode.


Once the switch has successfully finished reloading, you can log back in and confirm that the new version was successfully applied. Below we have successfully loaded 03.06.06E onto the switch.


As a post clean up task you should execute the command software clean switch 1. This will remove the packages.conf and .pkg files associated to the old image.

Switch#software clean switch 1


Here is what the flash looks like post upgrade..


That wraps up the upgrade process. I hope that this has been helpful for you.