[ESXi] Install VMWare vSphere Hypervisor 7.0 onto Intel NUC

After successfully installing EndeavorOS on my Macbook Pro 2015 Retina, and using it smoothly, I have a spare 7th generation Intel NUC (i3-7100u CPU). What to do with it now?

I decided to install ESXi to study this virtualization platform. This is the only virtualization platform I have never played with. Previously, I have studied about Hyper-V, Xen (XCP-ng), KVM (Proxmox) and am currently using Proxmox for homelab at home.

See also this article to better understand hardware virtualization technologies

Learn about virtualization technology – [Phần 1] Hardware Virtualization: Hyper-V vs KVM vs VMware vSphere vs Xen

According to this paragraph, all versions of Intel NUC from generation 5 and later can install and use ESXi 7.0 U3 without installing additional external drivers. Only the 8th and 11th generation NUCs require additional installation Fling Driver to support the built-in Intel I219-V network card.

My Intel NUC is in the 7th generation, so I can safely install the latest ESXi 7 U3 for research. In this article, I will share how to install ESXi 7.0 Update 3 on Intel NUC7i3BNB.

I. Download the ESXi ISO to your device

Download ESXi 7.0u3D directly from VMWare by following this link: Download ESXi.

VMWare will ask you to log in (if you already have an account) or register for an account (if you don’t have an account), and then register to use ESXi to download.

After successful registration, you will be provided with a license key. At the same time, you can download the ISO file of ESXi 7 to your device.

VMWare allows you to use ESXi 7.0 completely for free with the License Key provided in the above step. However, you will be limited to the features available only in the paid version

  • Unsupported
  • Free ESXi cannot be added to vCenter Server
  • Unable to use API
  • Maximum vCPU for 1 virtual machine: 8
  • Number of CPUs per host: 480

For the purpose of homelab use, the free ESXi 7.0 version has satisfactorily met the needs of use.

II. Create Boot USB to install ESXi

The ISO file of ESXi weighs less than 400MB, so you only need to use a USB drive with at least 1GB capacity to create an installation from USB.

If you use Windows, you can use the Rufus tool to create a quick USB Boot. See the instructions here.

I’m using EndeavorOS, so I’ll show you how to create a USB Boot for ESXi on Linux

1. Install syslinux on the machine

To create a USB Boot for ESXi, it is necessary to use the syslinux bootloader. So I had to install it on my computer.

yay -S syslinux

If you use Ubuntu/Debian then install using the command

apt -S syslinux

2. Set partition for USB drive

Check the USB drive you need to use with the fdisk command to determine the name



sda      8:0    0 233,8G  0 disk
├─sda1   8:1    0   200M  0 part /boot/efi
├─sda2   8:2    0 139,7G  0 part
└─sda4   8:4    0  93,9G  0 part /
sdb      8:16   1  28,7G  0 disk
└─sdb1   8:17   1  28,7G  0 part
sdc      8:32   1     0B  0 disk 

Note down the name of the corresponding USB drive. For example /dev/sdb

Using tools fdisk to set up the right partition for the USB drive

sudo fdisk /dev/sdb
  • Import d to delete all existing partitions
  • Import n to create a new partition. Select Primary, then Enter 3 times
  • Import tthen enter c to set up FAT32 file system
  • Import a to enable partition 1
  • Import w to save and exit

3. FAT32 format for partition

sudo mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n ESXi /dev/sdb1

4. Install syslinux bootload on USB drive

sudo syslinux /dev/sdb1

If you see an error message Hidden (2048) does not match sectors (62) then ignore it.

sudo dd if=/usr/lib/syslinux/bios/mbr.bin of=/dev/sdd

5. Copy ISO file contents to USB

Mount the USB drive to the machine

sudo mkdir /usbdisk
mount /dev/sdb1 /usbdisk

Mount ISO file

sudo mkdir /esxi_cdrom
mount -o loop VMware-VMvisor-Installer-7.0U3d-19482537.x86_64.iso /esxi_cdrom

Copy the entire file from the ISO file to the USB drive

cp -r /esxi_cdrom/* /usbdisk

Change name

Change name isolinux.cfg wall syslinux.cfg

mv /usbdisk/isolinux.cfg /usbdisk/syslinux.cfg

Edit files /usbdisk/syslinux.cfgedit line APPEND -c boot.cfg wall APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1

It is done. USB drive is ready for you to install ESXi 7.0

Original instructions: VMWare

III. Install ESXi 7.0

Restart the computer, select Boot from the newly created USB.

Because I installed it directly on Intel NUC, it is not convenient to take screenshots. However, the installation steps are the same as when I installed ESXi 6.0 on Hyper-V, so I will use the old image.

Wait a few minutes for ESXi to load the necessary modules

Press Enter to confirm the installation

Press F11 to agree to the user terms.

Select the hard drive you want to use for ESXi and press Enter.

Select the US Default keyboard layout and press Enter.

Enter the password and confirm, then press Enter. Password needs to meet the requirements: uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters ([email protected]#%^&*)

Press F11 to start the ESXi installation.

Unplug the USB drive from the machine and press Enter to reboot.

After restarting the machine, ESXi will display the IP address of the machine for you to access with a browser to manage the system.

IV. Access ESXi 7.0

Open a browser, access the IP address of ESXi

Login with username root and the password you set up when you installed ESXi.

After logging in, you will see the main management interface of ESXi. You will have a 60-day trial, after which you need to enter the License Key issued in step I to continue using it.

V. Activate ESXi

Access Click here to review the License Key your.

Access the Licensing section, click Assign license to enter the key.

Enter the License key and click Check license

License Key is valid. Click Assign license.

ESXi 7.0 License Key has been activated successfully.

Instructions to install ESXi 7.0 on Intel NUC come here. Now I’m trying to figure out how to use ESXi, when I’m done, I’ll write a post to share.

If you found my article informative and helpful, feel free to share your appreciation with a kind comment or a virtual thumbs up. Your support will fuel my motivation to continue creating and sharing valuable knowledge. Thank you for reading!

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