I recently converted an old custom built workstation into a server running VMware ESXi 6.5 so that I could run pfSense, FreeNAS and BOINC on the same physical hardware.
At first VMware would not install, but after some trial and error, I managed to get it working and in this post I will show you how.
I wanted to replace my home router with pfSense and a DrayTek Vigor 130 VDSL/ADSL modem but I didn’t want to purchase new hardware just for a firewall.
Installing pfSense on an Intel i7-4790K would be a huge waste of resources so I decided to install VMware ESXi and test to see if it would work with an ASUS Z97-K motherboard.
Running VMware ESXi 6.5 on an ASUS z97-K Motherboard
The first thing I did was install VMware ESXi 6.5 on a SanDisk USB Flash drive and then attempted to boot VMware from a USB port on the ASUS motherboard.
The boot failed with a message about not having any network adapters.
To solve the problem, I purchased an Intel Dual Port Network Adapter (see hardware list below) for cheap on eBay. With the network card installed, VMware booted up and I was surprised to find it could see the hard disks.
The only issue I found was that the System sensors on the Hardware screen would not load because the motherboard has no IPMI capabilities.
Since it’s an old system and it’s not running in a data centre I’m happy to run the hypervisor without the hardware sensors and alerts.
Here is a full list of components.
Installing VMware ESXi 6.5
Since my system does not have a CD/DVD ROM drive I needed to install vSphere from a USB flash drive.
There are two options here.
- Install VMware ESXi on a USB flash drive and use it as the boot device (This can be done using VirtualBox or VMware Workstation).
- Create a bootable USB flash drive containing the VMware ISO and then install VMware on the Samsung SSD.
I decided to go for the second option.
Read: How to Create a Bootable VMware ESXi 6.5 USB Flash Drive.
With the bootable USB flash drive created, installing VMware was pretty straight forward. I followed the basic prompts and then configured the management network IP address to a free IP on my local network.
Now that VMware is running I can run a high quality firewall router and the remaining resources can be used to run BOINC on a separate VM. If you’ve got similar hardware VMware should work as long as you have a Network adapter that is on the HCL.