vSphere 5.5 – How to install and configure VMware ESXi 5.5

Realtek network cards and VMware ESXi 5.5

Yesterday I decided to upgrade my two ESXi servers from ESXi 5.1 to ESXi 5.5 since the update came out some time ago.
The upgrade from ESXi 5.0 to ESXi 5.1 went great, without any problems. But this time, that is not the case.

My two ESXi servers are white boxes made of the following hardware:

The problem was the motherboard that ships with an onboard Realtek 8111E network adapter.
This problem has been verified to be the same with Realtek 8168 and Realtek 8169.
The reason for this, is that VMware removed the drivers from the new ESXi 5.5 iso.

In this post I will show you how to get ESXi 5.5 working with the Realtek network adapters.

Some people don’t like to use “not supported” hardware this way, and others had connection problems on the VM’s after doing this. I did not have any problems, and have been running with this solution since I wrote this post (21 days ago now). So i think it is pretty stable.
If you don’t want to use the method below, you can always buy a Intel Pro 1000 network card and put it in a PCI-e slot.
I highly recommend the Intel pro 1000 series, they are fast, reliable and works on any OS out of the box (including ESXi), but they are a little pricy. You can get them here, with free shipping:
Intel Pro 1000 Dual port
Intel Pro 1000 single port

There are two ways to make the upgrade work on your motherboard:

  1. Using a supported network adapter in a PCI-E slot (See above, regarding the Intel Pro 1000 network adapters)
  2. Creating a custom ESXi 5.5 iso with the drivers from ESXi 5.1

Putting in a extra network adapter was not an option for me, so I went for option two, and here is how I did it:

Creating a custom ESXi 5.5 iso including the Realtek network drivers

What you need

You just need a Windows XP or higher computer, and the software below.

Getting the needed software

First you need to get the needed software.
The following is what you need to download:

Injecting the drivers and create a new iso file

There is not a lot of steps to this, actually just a couple and it will not take long.

Open the “Esxi-customizer”

First run the .exe for ESXi-customizer to extract it.
When extracted, run the program so you get the following window:

Fill out fields

Simply fill out all 3 fields.
First one: Choose the original VMware ESXi 5.5 iso you downloaded from VMware
Second one: Choose the .VIB file for you Realtek network adapter that you downloaded earlier.
Third one: Choose what folder to use for working folder. A log and the finished new .iso file will be saved here. just create a new folder on your C:\ drive and use it.

If your motherboard support UEFI boot, you can tick the “Create UEFI bootable ISO” if not, then untick this. If you are unsure about this, then untick it!
Tick the auto update check to make sure you always have the latest version of this software.

Do it!

Let’s do it! Press “Run!”
The program will run some commands in the command promt behind it, and that’s it.
It does not take long. Once done, you can close the program.

Upgrade your VMware ESXi server

Now, burn your newly created ISO image of VMware ESXi 5.5 with your Realtek network adapter drivers injected that was created in the folder you choose to be the working folder for the program.
You can also “Burn” it to a usb stick, if your server does not have a optical drive installed. I do not have a guide for this yet.

Boot up your server on the cd/usb and choose to upgrade the system like you would with the original iso.

Note that the custom .iso does not work trough VMware Update Manager.

Feel free to leave a comment below, and rate the post at the top if this helped you!

Difference between vSphere, ESXi and vCenter

VMware Inc. is a software company that develops many suite of software products specially for providing various virtualization solutions. There are many cloud products, datacenter products,  desktop products and so on.

vSphere is a software suite that comes under data center product. vSphere is like Microsoft Office suite which has many software like MS Office, MS Excel, MS Access and so on. Like Microsoft Office, vSphere is also a software suite that has many software components like vCenter, ESXi, vSphere client and so on. So, the combination of all these software components is vSphere. vSphere is not a particular software that you can install and use, “it is just a package name which has other sub components”.

ESXi, vSphere client and vCenter are components of vSphere. ESXi server is the most important part of vSphere. ESXi is the virtualization server. It is type 1 hypervisor. All the virtual machines or Guest OS are installed on ESXi server. To install, manage and access those virtual servers which sit above of ESXi server, you will need other part of vSphere suit called vSphere client or vCenter. Now, vSphere client allows administrators to connect to ESXi servers and access or manage virtual machines. vSphere client is installed on the client machine (e.g. Administrator’s laptop). The vSphere client is used from client machine to connect to ESXi server and do management tasks. So now what is vCenter? Why we need it? Try cloning existing virtual machine using just a vSphere client without vCenter server.

vCenter server is similar to vSphere client but it’s a server with more power. vCenter server is installed on Windows Server or Linux Server. VMware vCenter server is a centralized management application that lets you manage virtual machines and ESXi hosts centrally. vSphere client is used to access vCenter Server and ultimately manage ESXi servers. vCenter server is compulsory for enterprises to have enterprise features like vMotion, VMware High Availability, VMware Update Manager and VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS). For example, you can easily clone existing virtual machine in vCenter server. So vCenter is another important part of vSphere package. You have to buy vCenter license separately.

Difference between vSphere, ESXi and vCenter

The diagram above shows vSphere suite in a more descriptive way. vSphere is a product suite, ESXi is a hypervisor installed on a physical machine. vSphere Client is installed on laptop or desktop PC and is used to access ESXi Server to install and manage virtual machines on ESXi server. vCenter server is installed as virtual machine on top of ESXi server. vCenter server is a vSphere component which is mostly used in large environment where there are many ESXi server and dozens of virtual machines. The vCenter server is also accessed by vSphere client for management purpose. So, vSphere client is used to access ESXi server directly in small environment. In larger environment, vSphere client is used again to access vCenter server which ultimately manages ESXi server.


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