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For ESXi 3.5 use vihostupdate.pl from the vCLI (or vihostupodate35.pl, depending on the vCLI version). See vihostupdate35 | VMware Blogs, and/or http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vi3_35/esx_3i_e/r35/vi3_35_25_3i_server_config.pdf for details. Also make sure you meet the prerequisies for installing the patches, see VMware KB: VMware Security Patching Guidelines for ESXi and ESX
Your post led me to the answer here:
I missed an update and for that reason I have to do a clean install as stated at the link above.
My version cannot do any upgrade or update anymore!
*** What you need to know about the Secure Key Update ***
ESXi Server 3.5 June 2011 Rollup CD image (2000593)
This Installable CD contains ESX Secure Key Update ESXe350-201012401-I-BG.
For more information on this patch, see Critical Impact: VMware ESXi 3.5, Patch ESXe350-201012401-I-BG: Apply this patch to continue applying patches on ESXi 3.5 hosts after June 2011 (1030002).
NOTE: If you have not applied this patch by June 1, 2011, you will not be able to apply any patches from then on. To get your hosts updated with ESX Server 3i version 3.5 is to apply this Installable CD as fresh install. Alternatively, upgrade to ESXi 4.0 Update 1 Installable.
Thanks for your suggestions ... at least it led me to the answer.
One clean install coming up!