Anyone that has upgraded a Cisco switch in the last few years knows that they are usually distributed as a tar archive now. To install the upgrade you do the following:
#archive download-sw tftp://tftpserver/upgradefile.tarWhen you execute the command IOS downloads the file and extracts it onto the flash file system. All you have to do after that is reboot.
Thanks to Cisco's latest grab for more money, if you don't have SmartNet on a piece of equipment, you can't download IOS code for it. While this has long been their policy, it is now being enforced. This isn't too much of a problem unless you have a device that dies and you want to replace it with a replacement that is also not under SmartNet. The likelihood of the replacement switch coming in with the exact same IOS load is close to nil. Most admins like to maintain certain revision levels on a certain model which poses the problem of how to get the IOS you want on the replacement. Well the easiest way that I have found is to use Cisco's archive command again. Keep in mind that it's best to do this BEFORE you have a switch crash.
#archive upload-sw tftp://tftpserver/firmwarefile.tarWhen you execute this command, IOS will combine all of the files on the flash file system related to the IOS code into an tar archive and upload it to your TFTP server. The resulting tar file can then be used like the stock Cisco firmware tar file.