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Interactive ESXi Installation | VMware Administration Essentials

Interactive ESXi Installation basics. The underlying building block for the vSphere infrastructure is ESXi itself. ESXi is the bare metal hypervisor that makes virtualization of the physical hardware possible in the vSphere ecosystem.

ESXi - bare metal hypervisor

In this first of the VMware Administration Essentials series, we will take a look at how ESXi 6.0 is installed interactively, including considerations for installing on physical hardware, hardware compatibility, and media creation.

Interactive ESXi 6.0 installation

ESXI Hypervisor

Installation Options

As far as the installation of ESXi is concerned, there are four methods that can be used to install the ESXi hypervisor:

  • Interactive installation
  • Scripted ESXi installation
  • Auto Deploy ESXi installation
  • Custom installation with the ESXi Image Builder CLI

There are various use cases for all of the above means of installation, however, we will cover the interactive installation of ESXi since it’s going to be the favorite option for most deployments. As you would imagine, the interactive method of installation uses mountable media on physical hardware, and then provides the prompts to make decisions along the way to install the hypervisor.

Let’s get into this.

1. Check Hardware Compatibility

When thinking about ESXi installation, it is imperative that the hardware is listed on VMware’s Hardware Compatibility List or HCL. VMware has provided a very nice web-based search tool that allows you to search for compatibility at both the system and component level if you want to determine whether or not certain hardware is supported with a release of ESXi. If you have any doubts about your system compatibility, check VMware’s HCL.

VMware compatibility guide

2. Get the Correct Media

To successfully install ESXi with minimal issues along the way you need to get the correct installation media. Most big box vendors, such as Dell or HP, offer customized ISO images. These images contain all the hardware-specific drivers for the particular hardware server to function correctly with ESXi. If you don’t have one of those at hand, there are a couple of ways to obtain the customized images. You can visit the hardware vendor’s website directly and download their customized ISO for ESXi if available, or you can download many of these from VMware: Under Downloads > Product Downloads click vSphere. Then under Download VMware vSphere select the version and Custom ISOs. Here you will see the listing of OEM Customized Installer CDs.

VMware vSphere download

After downloading the ISO, you can then use this image to either burn to a CD/DVD or create a bootable USB stick.

3. Create a bootable USB installation disk

One of the easiest and quickest ways to install ESXi is from a USB disk. To quickly create a bootable USB disk, you can use a utility called Rufus. It allows pointing to an ISO image and creating the USB disk from it. Once you run the executable:

  • Select a USB drive from the Device menu.
  • Select the Create a bootable disk using option, and select ISO Image.
  • Click the button next to ISO Image to choose the actual ISO file on your computer. Create a bootable disk using ISO Image
  • Click the Start button to begin the process. Rufus will write the ISO to the USB drive.

Once finished, you can browse to the ISO file:

Browse to the ISO file

4. Interactive ESXi Installation

Now that you have created a boot media, let’s move forward with the interactive installation. After booting from the installation media (ISO, USB key, CD/DVD), you will be presented with the installer boot menu. Simply choose the ESXi standard installer or let the timeout select this for you:

ESXi standard installer

ESXi boot install environment will load up and you can proceed:

ESXi boot install environment

When presented with the Welcome screen, choose to continue:

VMware ESXi installation

Accept the Eula Agreement by pressing F11:

VMware ESXi End User License Agreement

The ESXi installation setup will scan available targets to install ESXi:

Scanning available targets to install ESXi

You can choose from the available Disks that are considered available by the installer:

VMware virtual disks

Next, choose the installation language:

ESXi installation language

Type a root password for the ESXi host:

Root password for ESXi host

The installer will have you confirm the installation – the drive the installation will use, as well as the warning about the drive being repartitioned. After confirming hit F11.

Confirmation of ESXi installation

The installation of ESXi will begin.

Installing ESXi 6.0.0

Installation of ESXi doesn’t take long at all as it is a minimal installation to get the hypervisor on the hardware. After installation has completed, you will see the confirmation screen asking you to remove the installation media and reboot.

ESXi installation complete

The server will reboot after Enter is pressed.

Harware server reboot

After the server is rebooted, this will complete the installation process of installing ESXi onto your physical hardware. In the next part of the series, we will take a look at the initial configuration from the Direct Console User Interface (DCUI).