VMware ESXi 5 on an Apple Mac Mini 2010 – It Works!

Great news – Pedro Costa has got a working solution!  Apple Mac Mini 2010, 2011, and 2012 models all boot a patched version of VMware ESX 5.0:

VMware ESXi 5 Running on an Apple Mac Mini

I’d always wanted a small VMware vSphere 5 (ESXi) lab farm up and running, and I wanted to use Apple Mac Minis just for compactness and the silence.  It has to be vSphere ESX or ESXi, not VMware Fusion or Parallels, because my clients all use ESXi and I wanted to be able to do things like VMotion and Storage VMotion.

These ISOs work for my Apple Mac Mini 2011 (5.1):

Download the ISO, burn it to CD, and boot from it.  The install goes flawlessly.  The USB keyboard works, video out (via HDMI!) works, and the onboard Ethernet wired network card works.  WiFi doesn’t, but that’s okay – I wouldn’t even run a lab off that.

Presto – my Ikea datacenter comes to life!

My Ikea Datacenter

That’s two Mac Minis running VMware ESXi 5, a cheap $250 Netgear NAS handling the storage duties for shared storage, and a few other pieces of unrelated tech gear.

Thanks, Pedro!

Previous Post
My rudimentary approach to software testing
Next Post
Signed my lease at the Caroline Collective

78 Comments. Leave new

  • Did you ever get this to work?

    Reply
  • I’m curious as well. I’m thinking of buying a mini and setting it up with a few virtual machines. Anyone knows if ESX runs on Mac mini hardware?

    Reply
  • I haven’t bought a Mac Mini yet, but if somebody wants to donate me one, I can find out real fast. 😉

    Reply
  • 😉
    The following excerpt from the VMWare datasheet doesn’t give me good hopes:
    VMware ESX has been certified with industry-leading rack, tower and blade servers from Dell, Fujitsu Siemens, HP, IBM, NEC, Sun Microsystems and Unisys.

    Reply
  • Certification on hardware is an expensive process that the hardware vendor typically pays for. Apple wouldn’t bother paying to get the Mini certified on ESX due to the low number of users.

    Reply
  • i was trying to find out of boreness if someone did it yet and found your blog.
    I haven´t tried it myself yet, but have a bit expirience in running esx on uncertified hardware – if you make sure to use common hardware which is typicly also used in the (low end) servers listed on vmwares compatibilty list, it works pretty charming. but you probably won´t get any support from vmware in case of troubles.

    i havent compared the minis hardware with the compatibilty list (which is very annoying, since you have to find out seperatly which hardware runs on the servers listed)
    but i seriously doubt that it is compatible. already the wacky LAN card was not supported in nearly any common linux distribution until a few months ago.

    my mac mini runs a common linux distribution with xen enabled kernel – but that is far away from vmware´s useability.

    @ work i run the very very cheap but uncertified Dell T105 tower server (sometimes available @ 150€) & boot from a 1gb usb stick and the guests reside on centralized NFS storage connected via multiple gigabit ethernet links – cheap, great performance and imho best for setting up a vmware lab or non mission critical servers

    Reply
  • I have tried both ESX and ESXi 3.5 update 2 on Mac Minis with the same result, kernel panic.

    We bought 4 at work to use for demos using VMs and have to either use VMware Server on a stripped out Linux, or Fusion in Mac OS.

    Reply
  • Burke – thanks for commenting, I really appreciate that. I’ve been dying to know – but not dying enough to spend the $600 and then have yet another computer in the house that I don’t need.

    Reply
  • Any updates to this? It’s been a few months, ESX(i) 3.5u4 just got released today, and has drastically better ICH9 and ICH10 support (I think the last Intel chipset mini used ICH9?) — can someone (please!) retest with ESXi 3.5u4?

    Reply
  • I tried it yesterday with the newest release on a Mac Mini – early 2009 model. It boots from the CD and then gets stuck in the screen that has the yellow part in it. I really want to use this machine for VMware. Guess I’ll go for the Ubuntu 8 setup with VMware Server. Actually I’m don’t know what to decide. Installing Fusion running Leopard is also an option, I’m wondering what the best choice is.

    Reply
  • I’ve tried it with ESXi 4.0 on my Mac Mini but the ESX build doesn’t have the proper NIC drivers for the Mini (nVidia NForce). Does anyone know how to inject the proper drivers into the boot disc? The lack of NIC drivers causes the install to halt. Other than that, ESX didn’t encounter any other issues.

    Reply
  • Same here, Ryan. This is an improvement, unfortunately it makes the mini still unuseable for ESXi. I know (read) how to inject other drivers, but then again, we still need the drivers, don’t we…:-)

    Reply
  • Hey Peter. Here is the link to the drivers:
    http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux_nforce_1.23.html
    Where’d you see the article on how to inject the drivers? I’d love to get this working. Currently, I have XenServer running on my Mac Mini and I hate it!

    Reply
  • Hi Ryan,
    The mini does not boot from the USB stick solution, so we need to modify the CD iso. It was hard finding the right way to do that, using standard stuff like Disk Utility simply doesn’t work.

    I don’t know much about those drivers and how to compile the right version for the mini, but here’s how to put them on the CD:
    – go to http://www.helios.de/news/news07/mkisofs.phtml#download and follow instructions there to get mkisofs for intel mac, and install it.
    – mount the 4.0 installer CD image and copy all files to directory “CD” on your desktop
    – copy an oem.tgz file containing the driver to the CD folder root
    – modify isolinux.cfg to have oem.tgz included
    (append vmkboot.gz — vmkernel.gz — sys.vgz — cim.vgz — ienviron.tgz — image.tgz — oem.tgz — install.tgz )
    – in a terminal shell, change to the “CD” directory and :

    mkisofs -o ../CD.iso -b isolinux.bin -c boot.catalog -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -J -R /Users/peter/Desktop/CD

    (of course replace “peter” with your own home folder name )

    You now have a bootable iso image with the patched driver.
    I tried using the http://www.vm-help.com/forum/download/file.php?id=20&sid=cade0d5f1a45c6b7f2d5b20c286e7c96 oem.tgz file found at http://communities.vmware.com/thread/208224
    but that crashed my Mac Mini when booting the installer.

    So the only thing needed right now is the correct oem.tgz file for the nforce NIC in the Mini.
    After the installation, we simply have to boot from an external disk and modify the oem.tgz archive in the Hypervisor1 partition, because the patch only modifies the installer. I found most of the instructions here: http://www.vm-help.com/esx40i/customize_oem_tgz.php
    There’s an explanation there on how to do the rest.

    I would be really great to get the mini running, wouldn’t it?

    Reply
  • Thanks for the info Peter!

    I found this site with some compiled drivers for ESXi
    http://www.vm-help.com/esx/esx3i/customize_oem_tgz.php which
    Wonder if this would work? I’ll have to give it a shot!

    Ryan

    Reply
  • That’s the same pond i’ve been fishing in – with no luck so far.
    Maybe you’re doing better then I did. Let me know how it went.

    Reply
  • I’m interested too. I love Macs and Vmware. Wanting to throw some vms on a low-power network. Any progress?

    Reply
  • ESX/i doesn’t work, but XenServer sure does, right out the box too and it’s FREE. I’m sure you have a specific reason to run VMware, but if you’re looking for one of the most ultra compact solution to run VM’s…check Citrix XenServer.

    Reply
  • I wonder if the new mac mini server would run ESXi. If I can get my company to buy me one, I’ll let you know.

    Reply
  • Definitely hoping someone cracks this nut some time soon…

    Reply
  • I guess I’m another person in dying need of getting ESXi on a Mac Mini 🙁

    Reply
  • Same here all … I have got a MAC Mini “Server” latest
    model with 2x 500GB and would love to run
    ESXi or VSphere 4.0 on it.

    Setup starts but does not find any storage.

    Did anyone find a solution?

    Help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks

    Reply
  • To VITEX:

    What about usb-flash? Do you see it in installer?

    Reply
  • Any update yet? Would also like to run ESXi on a MacMini…
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Sorry, but if you don’t see a note here, it’s because there’s no update. If you’d like to go pick up one of the new unibody ones to see if it’ll run ESXi, I’m sure we’d all love to see the results! 😀

      Reply
  • Have just tried ESXi 4.0 Update 1 on the latest Mac Mini (mid 2010 model) and it fails due to an unsupported nic. But if anyone knows how to make ESXi run with a Broadcom BCM57765 nic…. 🙂 Not sure how storage would go, as I’m having trouble getting ubuntu live cd’s to boot as well.

    Reply
  • Ubuntu runs well on the mini.

    Reply
  • I have managed to inject the nic drivers into the install cd and can get past that part of the process but I can’t get past the next point as it doesn’t recognise the usb keyboard!

    http://www.vm-help.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2232

    Reply
    • Hi zebedy,

      I didn’t have any trouble with the usb keyboard on esxi 4.0 update 1. I was going to try something similar to what you did and update the nic drivers with the oem file, however I never quite got around to it. With the release of esxi 4.1, the nic APPEARS to be supported, however this is where i’m having trouble with the usb keyboard. I believe it is an issue with the usbarbitrator process, as the cd boot gets to the screen asking to install/repair, but you can’t do anything with it. I’m having a similar problem when attempting to build an esxi 4.1 vm under workstation 6.5, however what i’ve managed to be able to do is upgrade an existing esxi 4.0u1 vm to esxi 4.1, and by looking at the logs, the usbarbitrator seems to be removing the usb devices from the host at startup. Am working on it at the moment and will let you know how I go. (I hope to come back with some good news!)

      Gavin

      Reply
      • Does this work ?

        As far as I know, the usbarbitrator process takes all usb devices under vmkernel’s control instead of the COS.

        Reply
      • I figured I could get around the usb issue using a KickStart file but that just gives an error about not being able to find a working nic!?

        So frustrating…

        Reply
  • Any news about this ?

    Reply
  • It’s been almost a years since I started monitoring this thread and nothing…

    I could only hope one day, I’ll wake up and to find out that Apple has released a Mac Mini capable of running VMware ESXi.

    Reply
    • I just bought a Mac Mini Server Edition (2010) and i will try to continue to see if there is anything more i can do to get this working. Not that i am a specialist in Linux but ill search for help.

      donnib

      Reply
  • Still no news (July 2011)?

    Reply
  • Hi,

    I’ve been following this thread for a while now. In the mean time I’m helping myself with VMware Fusion on a latest mini server, 8Gb of ram and a 256Gb ssd in it. Performance is great as long as you don’t boot a second machine. Running 2 machines with each 2Gb of Ram is dreadful. So I can only hope ESXi has better resource mgmt for multiple machines than fusion…(and of course not having MacOs sitting in between)

    Reply
  • I have also been working on this project for a while.

    I was able to get further into the install process by using a kickstart.

    http://www.vm-help.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3310

    The install cd actually has a default kickstart that does the following:

    vmaccepteula
    rootpw mypassword
    install –firstdisk –overwritevmfs
    network –bootproto=dhcp –device=vmnic0
    %post –interpreter=python –ignorefailure=true
    import time
    stampFile = open(‘/finished.stamp’, mode=’w’)
    stampFile.write( time.asctime() )

    So, it accepts the eula, sets the password to ‘mypassword’, wipes and installs on the first disk it finds (forcing it to overwrite if it finds a vmfs partition). It sets the network to dhcp on the first nic.

    With that, the keyboard/mouse missing doesn’t matter during the install . . .if it would work.

    On the mini 4,1 it drops at the point where it’d touch the disk with:
    “An error has occurred while parsing the installation script

    error:file://etc/vmware/weasel/ks.cfg:line 12: install –firstdisk specified, but no suitable disk was found.”

    I haven’t yet tried clearing the partition table ahead of time on it to see if maybe the existing guid partition table is pissing it off.

    To try the default kickstart, hit shift-o when it gives you the option and add this to the runweasel line:
    ks=file://etc/vmware/weasel/ks.cfg boot

    Reply
  • Just posted my results on the VMware communities forum. Copied here FYI:

    Unfortunately ESXi 5.0 does not work on a Mac mini (2011 server i7 quad-core). The ethernet does not work.

    Purchased a Macmini5,3 yesterday and tried to install ESXi 5.0 on it. My friend who builds/administers ESXi boxes (as runs it on plenty of unsupported configurations) and I were able to boot ESXi via a USB flash drive, but could not get TCP/IP working over the ethernet.

    It fully booted as per (http://gregcarriger.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/turn-your-laptop-into-an-esxi-5-0-host/). Things looked promising – keyboard was working, and we could see the hard drives in the logs, but we ultimately could not ping the box, and obviously couldn’t connect to it using ESXi client.

    TCP/IP would not run on it – it did not pick up an IP address even though a DHCP server was running on our network. Manually setting the IP address did not work either. We even set up an ARP route to try to get any packets to the box. All without luck.

    We dug around to find info on the Broadcom 57765 ethernet (also in Macmini5,1, and I think the 2010 Mac mini), and confirmed it was recognized by the tg3 driver. Aside from seeing its MAC address (and confirming it was up by checking into the stats on the managed switch). We were even able to force speed/duplex settings (i.e. 10 half duplex) and saw it reflected on the managed switch. But at no point could we get packets on/off the interface.

    —–

    It’s pretty close – maybe somebody smarter than us will get this working!

    Reply
    • Oh, my friend suggested that had the Ethernet worked, the two drives would run in a RAID configuration – which matters to those who want higher availability. Also, we weren’t able to acquire a ThunderBolt display to see if the NIC on that was supported.

      Maybe somebody smarter than us can get this to work!

      Reply
  • I have a Macmini5.1 (i5-2415M CPU @ 2.30Ghz

    I can install ESXI 5.0.0 Buid 469512 but not network working, i can see the mac address of it but no trafic running…

    I put a manual ip, try to ping and nothing.

    Reply
  • Hi Pedro,

    Can you post instructions on how you got ESXi 5 to install on the mac mini even without the NIC side of things working? Did you use a modified ks.cfg file?

    I am able to get it to boot to the install and unfortunantly cant get it to see the first disk to install too using the –firstdisk command in the ks.cfg file.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Cheers,
    xdefiantx.

    Reply
  • I have a

    Macmini5.1 (i5-2415M CPU @ 2.30Ghz

    I boot from USB, and install it on another USB.

    In new macminis you are able to boot from usb, tomorow, i post a step my step.

    Reply
    • Hi Pedro,

      I’m curious if your setup is already working. Next to ESXi there’s a possibility to run XENserver on a Mac Mini but I prefer to have ESXi running..

      Thanks in advance!

      Bart

      Reply
      • I have a Mac Mini 5,3 (i-7 2.0) we installed ESXi 5.0 on and we are seeing the same thing, Mac address appears in our managed switch but it never actually works.

        Reply
  • xanderphillips
    December 3, 2011 9:26 pm

    Have you tried something like this to get the broadcom network card to work?

    http://pwong-tipsandtricks.blogspot.com/2010/06/install-broadcom-driver-for-vmware-esxi.html

    Reply
  • I can get it working… if someone is willing to get me a remote access to a mini…

    Reply
  • Go to http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

    Download UnetBootIn
    Run UnetBootIn
    Select ISO > vmware.esxi5.iso
    Select USB > select your pen drive

    Click ok! Than boot from usb.

    All alright except no ip.

    Reply
  • Same issue with the MBP (Late 2011) same BCM57765 chipset detected as tg3, but no traffic.

    Reply
  • Glad I found your posts. I was just about to start doing exactly the same install on y new mac mini quad core server. I’ll now revert to Lion-Fusion 4 and hope, like you guys, that someone smarter looks at this and figures out a fix

    Reply
  • We figured out how to get VMware ESXi 5 working on a Mac Mini 2011 (5,3). We did a write up to help those to update the Broadcom NIC driver. Thanks to the Author of this blog for starting this thread.

    http://paraguin.com/2012/01/10/the-mac-mini-vmware-esxi-5-server-part-2-installation/

    Reply
  • Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  • I can confirm that the Paraguin process above does also work on a MBP 8,2. Very sweet.

    Reply
  • There is my last build ESXI 5 update 1 already patched to MacMini Ethernet Drivers.

    ESXi 5.0 Update 1 | 15 MAR 2012 | Build 623860 PatchedacMini
    Last updated: 15 MAR 2012

    You only need to burn it or copy to usb

    http://goo.gl/VreXa EFI Version
    http://goo.gl/7M5kX NoEFI Version

    EFI Version Works for me.

    Regards from Portugal

    Reply
  • Hi,

    I tried it with a Mac Mini Late 2009 (3,1) and it was bootable. However it was not able to recognize any network adapter 🙁

    Now I tried to figure out which kind of chipset what it has. Anybody has any idea how it should be found? Or which command can provide it? The dmesg said just that:

    Ethernet [nvenet]: Link up on en0, 1-Gigabit, Full-duplex, Symmetric flow-control, Debug [796d,0000,0de1,000d,cde1,3800]

    Or where I can found any driver for additionally to esxi 5.x?

    Reply
  • the mac mini 3,1 uses an nforce430 chipset including the nforce networking adapter. Ive searched for hours and have not found a single hope for those drivers.

    Reply
  • I want to run OS X 10.7.4 VMs on my Mac Mini so I need to install the VMware update patch from this URL https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/details/esxi50u1/dHRAYndkZSpidHclZQ=

    If that removes the NIC driver, how can I get it back? Thanks

    Reply
  • You can use the esxi customizer, to integrate the patch and the driver.

    Please visit: http://v-front.blogspot.pt/p/esxi-customizer.html

    Regards from Portugal.

    Reply
  • Thanks Pedro. I managed to get it woring, however the Lion VM runs incredibly slowly, and uses all of the CPU in the Mac Mini5,1

    I’m sadly going to be returning the Mac, and the extra RAM, and hoping to avoid restocking fees.

    No Lion VMs for me 🙁

    Reply
  • Did you try my ISO?

    That iso have the last Update and have the ethernet driver

    There is my last build ESXI 5 update 1 already patched to MacMini Ethernet Drivers.

    ESXi 5.0 Update 1 | 15 MAR 2012 | Build 623860 PatchedacMini
    Last updated: 15 MAR 2012

    You only need to burn it or copy to usb

    http://goo.gl/VreXa EFI Version
    http://goo.gl/7M5kX NoEFI Version

    Reply
  • Yup. That ISO is the one I used. The VMs just ran incredibly slow.

    Reply
  • Hi Pedro,

    I have installed ESXi successfully on my mac mini server 5,3 ( intel graphic card ) and it’s going well.
    The only thing I noticed is that none of my guests have audio capability and the graphic card is so bad that the resolution permitted is 640×480 max.

    Have you noticed this too ?

    I guess it’s because of the apple hardware or maybe esxi is missing some drivers. I will run mostly linux machines on it and the only thing I am interested is to be able to ssh into them, but you know I was just wondering if
    maybe it’s something wrong with my setup.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Hi Pedro,
    are you using an i5 or i7 machine and is this a fresh install no mac os on the machine

    Reply
  • The links don’t work. They go to a page that is a fake download page.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the Tutorial, I have a Mini Mac Mid 2010, and when I get into the “welcome to the installation of ESXI” the keyboard does not work, I cannot pass that part, tried with many keyboards. Anyone know how to go around that?

    Reply
  • After trying and trying I found a forum that did point me to the correct track, and i was able to do it.
    This is the way:

    1)Install ESXI to a USB Stick from a PC.
    2)Boot the 2010 Mini MAC (which was my case) from the USB Stick. Then you will be able to have the keyboard working and able to install

    I pass a week to find a solution, hope this helps others not to waste too much time 🙂

    Reply
    • Alex, what did you try before when the keyboard wasn’t working on your Mac Mini 2010? Is that the server version (no CD drive) or non-server version (with a CD drive)?

      I have a Mac Mini 2010 (non-server version with CD drive) that I want to try to install ESXi on, primarily as a home media server.

      Reply
  • Hi Brent,

    I have a Mac Mini 2010 (non-server version with CD drive) that I’m not using that I want to try to install ESXi on, primarily as a home media server.

    I don’t know a ton about ESXi and even less about the capabilities of the Mac Mini running ESXi, so I thought I’d ask before I embark too far along this path: Would a Mac Mini running ESXi have access to additional attached USB drives and/or network shares? (second part is probably a dumb question)

    Thanks!

    -Sean

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

Menu
{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}