Continuing the idea of building your own home lab I have recently installed VMWare ESXi on a dedicated workstation to serve as another lab machine so I decided to document the process and share. It is pretty straight forward with very little custom configuration needed. Before you begin make sure you have everything backed up from the system you will be installing ESXi on as the install will wipe the drive, deleting everything on it. Furthermore make sure the machine you will be installing ESXi has compatible hardware. With that said let’s begin:

  • Go to the VMWare ESXi page and register for the software. You will need to have an account with VMWare and the link will be sent to your email along with the registration.
  • Download the iso and burn it with ImgBurn or your favorite ISO burning software. Windows 7 has built in ISO burning finally!
  • Boot ESXi server from CD.
  • Press enter on the ESXi Installer option.
  • Welcome to the VMWare ESXi 4.0.0 Installation screen – Press Enter
  • F11 to Accept Agreement
  • Select Disk to install. You want to install ESXi on the fastest hard drive in the machine. Note everything on that drive will be overwritten.
  • Wait for ESXi to install and ask for a reboot, remove the CD, and reboot.

The first boot up always takes a while for me on certain systems; be patient and wait for the screen to be gray and yellow with the IP to manage the host. Before going to the IP let’s finish setting up the ESXi server so you can unplug the monitor and keyboard and administer the machine from your workstation. Here is how:

  • Press F2 to customize the system
  • Press Enter to configure Password. Set your password, this will be the password for the user “root”
  • Next go to Configure Management Network. In this part you can configure the network you will use to manage the ESXi server.
  • If you go to IP Configuration you will be able to set a static IP so you can connect to the ESXi server without having to check its DHCP IP.
  • Once done changing settings in the Configure Management Network option you will need to restart the Management Network.
  • Take a look at the other options you can modify and press Esc to Log out.
  • Note the Configure Lockdown Mode option where you will be able to block access to remote users logging in with “root” This is a security measure you will want to set later.

You should now be on the first screen where it says the ESXi’s IP. From here you can unplug the keyboard and monitor as the rest of the configuration you will do from another workstation on the network. Once on another machine on the same network as the ESXi server open a web browser and navigate to the IP you set for the host. You will probably get a certification error, ignore this and continue to the site. The site allows you to download the vSphere client. Download and install this on a Window machine, can even be a VM if you are running another host OS. Note: I have not been able to get VSphere Client to work on Windows 7 RTM yet.

  • Open vSphere Client and put the IP of the ESXi host, username: root and password you set.
  • Accept the certificate and wait for the system to login.
  • Once in you can double click inventory and then your host.
  • Go to the Configuration tab and click License Features under Software
  • Click Edit on the top right and input the license key VMWare gave you when you registered.

And there you have it. You now have an ESXi server to start loading virtual machines on. You can even create your own virtual network as an isolated network to test things you wouldn’t normally on a live network. Finally here is a link for further ESXi documentation. I hope you found this educational and interesting and it gives you the kick start to get your own lab running.

Till Next Time,

Jorge Orchilles