ESXi on Asrock Z97 Extreme6

Those looking to install ESXi 5.5u2 on Asrock’s Z97 Extreme6 motherboard, fear not. Although Vmware has a very strict hardware compatibility list, the amount of community drivers almost exceeds the default shipped ones.

Preparation

Before the installation process, I only slipstreamed three drivers (packaged as .vib files) into my ESXi ISO, two for the different 10/100/1000 network controllers (an Intel I218v and a Realtek RTL811GR) and one for the SATA drivers. Onboard are ten SATA ports, six of which are provided by the Intel Z97 chipset and four by a seperate Asmedia ASM1061 controller.

To combine these into one ESXi ISO, I used the following steps (thanks to here):

  1. Download ESXi 5 Community Tools Pack
  2. Put all the aforementioned drivers in a separate folder
  3. Run vib2zip.cmd from the community tools pack to create a zip file of all the drivers in the folder.
  4. Download ESXi Customizer 
  5. Select your ESXi ISO
  6. Select the zip file created in step 3
  7. Select an output directory
  8. Run

This should create a new ISO (esxi-whitebox) that includes your drivers. This ISO can be written to a USB stick, for example through the excellent RUFUS tool.

Installation

Since I’d like to install ESXi on a USB stick (it loads itself into RAM anyway), we need one more empty stick (minimum 8GB, recommended 16GB) to act as a boot device.

Insert the two sticks into your new homelab server and boot from USB (well, the ESXi one). Since an UEFI bios often does not like the GPT partition layout that ESXi creates, we’ll format with MBR. For this, when the installation is starting, press shift-O when prompted. After runweasel, type formatwithmbr and press enter. The installation will proceed as normal.

Choose an install location (the other USB stick in this case) and proceed as normal. After the installation, ESXi will boot and give you a management  IP address on which you can connect on your Vsphere Client, but more on that later.

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