WELCOME BACK!

This is the next step in our adventure into the world of Virtualization with VMware ESXi on our budget Virtual Server.

In the next few posts we’ll learn how to install and configure ESXi on ASRock Intel Q1900-ITX board. If you have a different motherboard, you can still follow along and create a customized ESXi image with drivers matching your hardware.

Here’s what we need to do first:

  • Sign up for My VMware account in order to get a license key - no image download required
  • Download and install VMware Player - Virtual Machine
  • Download and install vSphere PowerCLI - command line tool
  • Download ESXi Customizer script - obviously to customize ESXi image
  • Download Plop Boot Manager - to allow booting from our newly created flash drive in virtual environment
Before we start though, it's a good idea to look at each item above in more details.


MY VMWARE ACCOUNT

We need a license or product key to activate our ESXi system after installation similar to Microsoft online activation. The major difference is that, ESXi license is free of charge for private use, and VMware simply requires you to create an account to access the license key. We’ll also download PowerCLI and VMware Player in the same manner.

VMWARE WORKSTATION PLAYER + PLOP

VMware Workstation Player is a (free) Type-2 Hypervisor similar to Hyper-V Client, VirtualBox and QEMU. We’ll use VMware Player to install our custom ESXi image on a flash drive first and then boot from that flash drive inside VMware Player and configure our Hypervisor before running it on the actual server.

We need to configure the Hypervisor inside VMware Player due to ESXi’s incompatibility with the graphics chip on ASRock Q1900-ITX board. While ESXi will boot fine and finish its initialization on our server hardware, the display output will stop working, leaving us with an inaccessible ESXi server that is not yet configured. VMware Player unfortunately doesn’t allow booting from USB drives, but Plop Boot Manager comes to the rescue and we’ll trick the system to do what we want. Isn’t that great?! You can find more information about Plop HERE.

POWERCLI AND ESXI CUSTOMIZER

ESXi Customizer script allows us to download the latest ESXi image from VMware, and integrate drivers for hardware not officially supported (hint: consumer hardware). Please visit V-Front and review ESXi-Customizer-PS section as well as V-Front Online Depot for more details.

ESXi Customizer script needs PowerCLI to work and we will not need to interact with PowerCLI directly. PowerShell should already be installed on Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 and you can easily use the Windows search feature to find it.

SUMMARY

We’ll first download and customize VMware ESXi installation image using ESXi Customizer script and PowerCLI. We then use VMware Player to install the customized image on our USB flash drive. And finally with the help of Plop, boot from flash drive inside VMware Player and configure our ESXi Hypervisor. Next - Install & Configure