With the home lab hardware ready and assembled, I chose VMware ESXi as the hypervisor. Mainly because it’s popular, has a big community around it and is widely used in enterprise IT.

Unfortunately neither ASRock Q1900-ITX nor the celeron CPU is on VMWare HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) which means, not always though, some customization or driver import is required so I documented the process and split it into two blog posts.

Required license and software:

  • My VMware account in order to get the free license key
  • VMware Player
  • vSphere PowerCLI
  • ESXi Customizer
  • Plop Boot Manager

VMware Player & Plop boot manager

Because ESXi does not support the graphics chip on Q1900-ITX (and there’s no community drivers for it), the native video driver will crash or stop after boot and there will be no console display or access. To avoid that, I use VMWare Workstation to create a virtual machine to load the installed ESXi and configure settings.

Plop manager can help with booting from USB devices, since VMware Player doesn’t (natively) support it. You can find more information about Plop here.

PowerCLI and ESXi Customizer

ESXi Customizer creates a customized ESXi installation image with the option to include extra drivers. PowerCLI and obviously PowerShell are required for ESXi Customizer to work.

You can visit V-Front and V-Front Online Depot for more details on ESXi customizer and community drivers available for ESXi.

Download and install the required software:

It was a bit trickey to find some installation packages on VMware portal so I created a slideshow to help. Once all the bits are downloaded, installation is just a double click away!


I also made sure that PowerShell is available on the system. If it’s not, PowerCLI installation will fail.


I ran into a bit of trouble with VMware Player, because I had previously enabled Hyper-V feature on the system. You can either remove Hyper-V feature or create a Windows boot option without hypervisor services.

hyperv-workstation-conflict

And to configure a second boot option with no hypervisor services:

  • Open CMD (command prompt) as Administrator and use BCD tool to create a second boot entry (make a copy of the default entry). Note that you can replace “Windows 10 or 8 No Hyper-V” with any other name you prefer.

    bootedit

           bcdedit.exe /copy {default} /d "Windows 10 No Hyper-V"
    

    bootedit

  • Edit the new boot entry and disable hypervisor launch. You will have to use the ID that was generated above, the one inside the curly brackets.

      bcdedit.exe /set {Boot Entry ID} hypervisorlaunchtype off
    

    bootedit

  • Reboot and select the boot option without hypervisor services.

    bootedit

To enable copy & Paste for command prompt:

Right click on the title bar and select “Properties”. Under “Edit Option” make sure “Quick Edit Mode” is enabled.

NEXT: Custom ESXi Install - Part 2