Install VMware ESXi 6.5 on Intel NUC (Part 1/2)
With VMware vSphere 6.5 released recently, I decided to rebuild my Intel NUC based homelab. My preferred method is to create a bootable USB drive with the ESXi install media on it. Then install from the ESXi USB to the dedicated NUC’s boot USB. This method avoids non-unique ESXi installs, which is a common issue with the VMware Workstation pre-install method.
In order to create our Intel NUC specific ESXi install media, we need to gather the necessary files. Make sure to grab the newest versions of the following:
- vSphere ESXi 6.5 Offline Bundle
- This is a collection of all the components and packages that make up ESXi. You need the Offline Bundle, not the ISO, for this exercise.
- SATA AHCI driver
- This driver is for the Intel NUC SATA controller. Even if your NUC doesn’t have a SATA disk or even the controller, it doesn’t hurt to add this driver.
- USB 3.0 Ethernet driver from William Lam
- Add more NICs to your NUC via USB 3.0. Like the storage driver, if you don’t have a USB 3 ethernet adapter, it doesn’t hurt to add this driver.
- ESXi-Customizer-PS PowerShell script from Andreas Peets
- This script will do all the heavy lifting, combining the offline bundle and driver VIBs into an ISO for us.
First, let’s create a project directory for our files. Let’s call it C:\esxi-nuc .
Copy the ESXi 6.5 offline bundle ZIP file (ex. VMware-ESXi-6.5.0-4564106-depot.zip ) and the ESXi-Customizer-PS script (ex. ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.4.ps1 ) to this directory.
Create a sub-directory under our project directory to hold our VIBs. Let’s get creative and call it C:\esxi-nuc\vibs .
Copy the SATA AHCI driver VIB (ex. sata-xahci-1.38-1.x86_64.vib ) and the USB 3.0 Ethernet driver VIB (ex. vghetto-ax88179-esxi65.vib ) to this sub-directory.
If you’ve copied all the files to their respective folders properly, it should look something like this:
Now we have to run the ESXi-Customizer-PS script to pull everything together and generate an ISO file. So fire up PowerShell, navigate to our project directory which is “C:\esxi-nuc” in our example, and run the following command:
.\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.4.ps1 -izip VMware-ESXi-6.5.0-4564106-depot.zip -pkgDir vibs -nsc
Make sure to use the version numbers that match your downloaded files. Also, don’t forget the “-nsc” flag, as that will let us ignore the unsigned driver VIBs and continue.
If everything went as planned, you should now have a new ISO file in the project directory that is an ESXi 6.5 and VIBs combination.
Now that we have our customized ISO, we need to turn it into a bootable USB and then install it on our NUCs. We’ll do just that in part two.
Featured image photo by JeepersMedia