Upgrade your Cisco WLC to AireOS 8.1

In the lab, we currently have a little Cisco WLC 2504 with 2 APs Aironet 1702 running on AireOS v8.0. We wanted to try out the new Cisco wireless mobile application released by Cisco (more details here). In order to be able to use this application, you need to be running the new version of AireOS on your controller.
Here is the message I got when I tried to use the Android application:

The latest version of AireOS is v8.1 and, this article guide you through the process of upgrading the OS version of you Cisco WLC using the graphical user interface.

The screenshot below shows that our current version is v8.0.115.0. This is our starting point:
We now need to download the new version of the AireOS on the cisco.com website. In our case, we chose the v8.1.110.0 for the Cisco 2504 WLC.

Once your have downloaded the .aes file, you are ready to download it onto your controller. To do so, you will need a TFTP server. In our case, we are using this free TFTP server for Mac OS X.
Launch the TFTP Server and place the .aes file in your TFTP directory:

Let’s now login into the controller GUI and download the file from the TFTP server. Once logged in, browse to the “Command” tab and configure the following informations:

  • Choose “Code” as the type of file you want to download
  • Choose “TFTP” as your transfer mode
  • Set the IP address of your TFTP server ( in our case)
  • Set the file path (./ in our case since we placed the .aes file in the TFTP root directory)
  • Set the name of the file your want to download to the controller (AIR-CT2500-K9-8-1-111-0.aes in our case)

Once everything is in place, your can click on the “Download” button. The system will ask you to confirm that you want to go ahead with the downloading process. Click “OK” to start the download.

Note: You cannot download a file onto the controller if you are connected to the WLAN. You will need to connect your TFTP server with a wire somewhere in your LAN network.

A series of messages are going to appear on the screen once the file as been downloaded to the WLC. At this point, the controller is processing the new .aes file:
At the end of the processing, the controller will ask you to reboot in order to apply the new version:
You can go ahead and click on the link. This will redirect you to this page:

The final step is to click on “Save and Reboot”. At this point, the controller will reboot loading the new version of AireOS. Then, your APs will also reboot loading the new version from the controller. This process took about 5 minutes in our case.

Once everything is back up and running, go ahead and login into your controller GUI. You will notice right away that the new version has been installed since it now looks like this:
In order to double check that the new version has been installed, click on “Advanced” on the top right corner of the screen. This will redirect you to the “old” dashboard where the version number is displayed:
It’s now time to go back to the Cisco Wireless Mobile Application. As shown below, the application now works and we were able to login into the controller:

Thank you for reading this post and, hopefully, it has been useful to you!

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