HOW TO: Install and Configure VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1)

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
MVE^2, Expert of the Year 2017-2011, Scribe 2016-2012, Author of the Year 2017-6,2013-2012 VMware vExpert 2018-2011 27 years of experience.
In my previous 24 VMware Articles, most featured Intermediate VMware Topics, my next series of articles will concentrate on topics for the VMware Novice.

In these series of basic VMware articles, I'll be showing you the basic skills required to install, configure and deploy virtual machines using VMware's FREE VMware vSphere Hypervisor.

This article will show you how to install and configure the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 on a computer. VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 is also known as ESXi 5.1.

The FREE version of ESXi 5.1 is limited to 32GB per server.

ESXi 5.1 will install and run only on servers with 64-bit x86 CPUs.
ESXi 5.1 requires a host machine with at least two cores.
ESXi 5.1 supports only LAHF and SAHF CPU instructions.
ESXi 5.1 requires the NX/XD bit to be enabled for the CPU in the BIOS.

A full list of the ESXi 5.1 Hardware Requirements can be found in the VMware ESXi 5.1 Install Guide

Check the VMware Hardware Compatability Lists (HCL), to discover if your computer is certified for use with ESXi 5.1.

If your computer is not listed on the VMware HCL, it may still be possible to install and run VMware ESXi 5.1 on your laptop, desktop, or server. The HCL exists because the server vendor and VMware have certified and tested ESXi 5.1 will function correctly, on the servers listed on the HCL.

1. Register with VMware.com and Download VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1

Open the following link in your web browser
Click the License and Download Tab
VMware Download CenterClick Create an Account, to Create an Account and Login to the VMware Download Center. VMware will email you an Activation link which needs to be opened to create the account.

The following page will be displayed when you have successfully logged into the VMware Download Center.
VMware Download CenterPay special attention to the FREE License information which is displayed, and record this License Number, this will be required in a later article.

Click the download link for VMware ESXi 5.1 (CD ISO) Installable to download the software required to install ESXi 5.1 and also download the VMware vSphere Client 5.1. The VMware vSphere Client 5.1 software is the client software that allows us to connect and manage the ESXi 5.1 server, this will be required in a later article.

Either use the Download Manager or Manually Download button (which uses your web browser). The CD ISO is only 301MB so should not take too long to download. We have a very slow internet connection, at approx 350 kB/sec, and it takes us approximately 10 minutes to download.

Once the downloads have been completed using your favourite MD5 and SHA1 checksum utility, confirm the downloads have been downloaded correctly, using the published MD5 and SHA1 checksums from the VMware website.  We use the MD5 & SHA-1 Checksum Utiliy 1.1 from http://raylin.wordpress.com/downloads/md5-sha-1-checksum-utility/.

Many VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 installations fail due to corrupt downloads.
MD5 & SHA1 checksum confirmed with published checksums for VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.1.0-799733.x86_64.isoMD5 & SHA1 checksum confirmed with published checksums for VMware-viclient-all-5.1.0-786111.exe

2. Installing VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1)

Write (Burn) the VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.1.0-799733.x86_64.iso downloaded in Step 1, to a blank CDROM, using your favourite CD writing software. We use ISO Recorder (http://alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm). If you are using remote server utilities, e.g. HP iLo or Dell iDRAC,. you can attach the virtual CDROM drive in the server to the VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.1.0-799733.x86_64.iso ISO, so there is no requirement to write a CDROM.

This is a step which is often missed, ensure the BIOS BOOT order is set to BOOT from the CDROM Device or ATAPI device in the server, otherwise the computer will not BOOT from the CDROM.

Power on the Computer, the computer will BOOT from the CDROM, and the following BOOT screen will be displayed
ESXi 5.1 BOOT from CDROMThe default option is to BOOT ESXi-5.1.0-799733-standard Installer after 10 seconds, hit any key will pause the BOOT process.
VMware ESXi 5.1 StartupAt the Welcome to the VMware ESXi 5.1.0 Installation screen Hit Enter to Continue the installation.
Welcome to the VMware ESXi 5.1.0 Installation screenPress F11 (Function Key 11) to Accept the VMware End User License Agreement (EULA)
Press F11 (Function Key 11) to Accept the VMware End User License Agreement (EULA)The ESXi installer will scan the computer storage controller for available devices to install ESXi.
Scanning for available devicesESXi can be installed on a USB flash drive, SD card attached to the computer, local SATA, local RAID Array, or Fibre Channel or iSCSI LUN. All these are supported options. As the footprint for ESXi is very small only 1GB is required for the ESXi OS installation.

We have written an EE Article here on How to Backup an ESXi installation on an USB Flash Drive or SD card, for security or redundancy. After you have completed the ESXi 5.1 installation, shutdown the server, remove the USB flash drive or SD card, and duplicate it using our EE Article.

When prompted select a disk to install ESXi on, in the following example, we have two disks connected to this computer, a single 1GB disk, and a 40GB disk. We are going to use the small disk for the OS. The larger 40GB disk will be used later for the storage of virtual machines.
Select a Disk to Install When prompted, select the keyboard layout and hit Enter to continue.
Please select a keyboard layoutWhen prompted enter a root password, confirm the password and hit Enter to continue
Enter a root passwordThe following will be displayed
Gathering additional system informationWhen prompted Confirm the Installation on the selected disk and press F11 (Install)
 - Function Key 11
All data will be erase, as the disk will be repartitioned.
Confirm InstallThe Progress Bar will confirm installation progress.
The Progress Bar will confirm installation progress.The Progress Bar will confirm installation progress.The Progress Bar will confirm installation progress.The Progress Bar will confirm installation progress.The Progress Bar will confirm installation progress.The installation only takes approximately 5-10 minutes, depending upon speed of storage. When the installation has completed the following screen will be displayed.
Installation CompleteRemove the CDROM installation disk before rebooting. Hit Enter to Reboot. After hitting Enter the follow screen will be displayed and the computer will reboot.
Rebooting Server
ESXi 5.1.0 will operate in evaluation mode for 60 days. This is the same mode as a FULLY LICENSED ESXi 5.0 server. If you wish to evaluate all the bells and whistles that ESXi 5.0 has to offer, do not register your FREE license. for 60 days, this will allow you to evaluate ESXi 5.0 server fully. On day 59/60, Apply your FREE license to continue using the product, or you will not be able to power on any virtual machines.

3. Configuring VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 (ESXi 5.1)

The following screen is displayed when VMware ESXi 5.1.0 first boots
Loading VMware ESXiVMware ESXi 5.1 StartupThe server is fully booted when it displays the following screen
ESXi 5.1.0 fully bootedThe default server configuration is to use DHCP, if you do not have a DHCP server issuing IP Addresses on your network you will need to assign an IP Address. We recommend you use a static IP Address for your ESXi Host Server.

Press F2 to Customize System, you will be prompted to enter the root username and password.
Customize System > Configure Management NetworkSelect Configure Management Network to change Network Parameters.
Select IP Configuration
Select IP ConfigurationSet the Static IP address and network configuration, Subnet Mask and Default Gateway, it's important to set the correct Default Gateway, as this will be used later. Hit Enter to confirm and save the configuration.
Set static IP addressSelect DNS Configuration, enter the correct DNS information for your network, and enter a hostname for your server. Hit Enter to save the configuration.
DNS ConfigurationSelect Custom DNS Suffixes
Enter your DNS suffix (the domain name for your network). Make sure you have created a DNS A Record in your DNS, so that this server can be resolved correctly through forward and reverse lookups.
Custom DNS SuffixesHit Enter to save your configuration.

Press Escape, the following screen will appear, select Y(es) to apply changes.
Apply Changes and Restart Network Management.Press Escape to Logout and return to the console screen.

You will notice on the console screen, the server now has a hostname configured, and correct static IP Address.
Console Screen
Congratulations you have successfully installed and configured VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1.

In the next article in the series, we will connect and continue to configure the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1.

Thank you for reading my article, please leave valuable feedback. If you liked my VMware article and would like to see more Articles from me, please click the Yes button near the: Was this article helpful? at the bottom of this article just below and to the right of this information. Thank You. Do not forget if you have a question about this article or another VMware, Virtualisation, Windows Server 2012 question, why not post a Question for Me and the other Experts Exchange Experts in the VMware, Virtualisation, Windows 2008, Windows 2012 Zones. I look forward to hearing from you. - Andy :- twitter @einsteinagogo

Expert Comment

Thank you for your series:

First of all let me say ,I am very new to vmware / server virtualizaion  -- Novice
So i need to build my concepts in the best possible way.
I actually attended a training on vsphere 5 icm course and honestly it was like someone going through the deck of slides.
I didnt enjoy it much.

When i found your posts i was like this is what i want and i will now follow yous articles from first to last and ask you doubts.

Hopefully I will be a good VMWare engineer in some months.

Here is what my plan is :

Follow your posts and build a LAB , (best possible configuration LAB)-- follow as many best practicers as possible.

For now i have 1 Rack Server HP G5 - 2 NIC connections , 1 ILO , 8 Disks (Local - SATA) each 80GB , 32GB RAM

With my first LAB , i want to master the basic VMware ESXI features that dont need multiple Hosts , NIC's , SAN , ISCSI

After i finish the LAB - All basic things . I will go to more advance features and add test SAN , NAS , And 1 more host

Question No. 1 -- You have mentioned in your post that you will install exi on 1GB disk and use 40GB for VM's

How would you suggest for me to use the disks for vsphere install and storage of VM's (Best Practice)

Shall i use Hardware RAID and Choose 2 disks as RAID -0 (For ESXi) and rest 6 as RAID 5 (For VMs)

Q2: While ESXi is installing and it shows me the  disks that i configure following your recommendation of Q:1
If i install esxi on partiion 1 , does the setup format (Watever it is called) all the partitions or just one that i choose for esxi intall

as in your case you choose 1GB disk - will it format that only or the 40GB as well

Q:3 What is the File System it formats as

Q:4 We come to Network Configuration:

As mentioned the 1 have 2 NIC cards connected to the Switch and have link (It is our Test VLAN) and has a DHCP available as well.

What will happen when esxi is installed: NIC automatically get IP (From DHCP) domain settings etc (From DHCP Scope Options)
Can i change the IP and delete all domain settings like DNS suffic that it receive from DHCP

As i dont want this to be part of domain.

Q:5 If i have 3 NIC cards on my HP Hhost all connected to the switch , will all of them get IP's from DHCP or only 1 of them

Q:6 Since we configure Mangement Network , is that the NIC that will become VMNIC0

Q:7 What is the naminng based VMNIC?

Q:8 After Host reboots what does vSWITCH0 indicate .. is VMNIC0 converted to vSwitch0

Q:9on the Standard Switch0 it shows : virtual machine Port Group and VMKernel Port
We dint configure that anywhere - How does it assign that

How can I give 2000 Points for this
LVL 131

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Thanks for your kind comments.

All these are different Questions, that should be posted for myself or other Experts to answer in the VMware Zone.

Expert Comment

It was a great article.
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Expert Comment


You definitely made my moneys worth with this article and the availability of your series
LVL 131

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
@bfsmarty I'm glad you've enjoyed them, I'll get back to adding more next year on EE. Many Thanks for your kinds words. Merry Christmas and A Prosperous VMware New Year 2016

Expert Comment

by:David Jones
New to VMware and these article really help as my company start to apply VMware platform.

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