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Can you install a RAID Controller into an existing VMWARE 4.1 ESXi Installation and move everything to the RAID Drives?

Can you install a SATA RAID 4 port/drive  Controller into an existing VMWARE 4.1 ESXi Installation and move everything to the RAID Drives?

I was testing out a configuration and in doing so I started off with a single sata drive and will have 4-6 VMs on it and that's all working fine.

I'd like to give the system resiliency and use a RAID  5 or 10, or necessary RAID 1 with 2 2TB Drives

Would I be able to introduce a raid controller at this point and transfer everything to the drives on the RAID?

If so, how do I transfer everything to those drives? Or would I have to do a NEW ESXi installation, and then restore the VM's?

I am also trying to see what RAID controllers are specifically compatible with ESXi 4.1, I am getting cross eyed looking at various HCLs and cross referencing the configurations to determine whether or not it would or MIGHT be compatible.

I am not looking for a high performance solution as this will be a LOW demand ESXi box with only 4-5 XP machines running on them, I was looking into entry level SATA promise and adaptec controllers and as mentioned previously, I could go down to 2 port, raid 1 vs larger raid 5/10 configurations.

Thank you!
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
It depends on whether the SATA controllers is supported by ESXi 4.1.

Not many SATA controllers are supported.

Check the Hardware Compatibility List


What SATA controller is it?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Promise and Adaptec SATA RAID controllers are a good start. When creating the RAID ensure it's below 2TB - 512 bytes, as this is the maximum for ESXi 4.1

if you could find two conteollers that would co-exist with VMware ESXi 4.1, you could move the VMs from the existing datastore to the new RAID 1/10 datastore at the console.

otherwise you could have to backup and restore using Veeam FastSCP, or other third party backup solutions, if you have a licenesed (non-free) version of ESXi.

Checkout the Whitebox HCL for storage controllers


be warned these are for ESXi 4.0, and not ESXi 4.1.
alpine_1Author Commented:
Looking at getting the controller still, here is one I am looking at:


Now if I find a SATA Raid Controller that is compatible, will I be able to transfer everything to the RAID or will I have to do a NEW ESXi install and transfer VM's?

I am still trying to figure out the whole Vmware HCL process....

Any suggestions?

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Can you install into existing ESXi? Yes - but as mentioned (and as you realize) it should be on the hcl in order to be sure it will work. If it is on the hcl then ESX(i) should recognize at boot time and a reinstall will not be necessary.

Your best bet is to choose the raid controller you wish to use based on cost, performance, etc. and then see if it is on the hcl - much easier than trying to list everything on the hcl and selecting from that list.

Another thing - when you search the I/O devices section of the hcl for the controllers look at the first note that appears and you will find that vmware does NOT support SATA RAID for VMFS filesystem. It is only officially supported for installation. That being said I have not ever seen a case where it didn't work - but if you are really worried about running a supported configuration you need to look at SAS or SCSI controllers. Fortunately these days the same controller supports both SAS and SATA - the difference being that SATA has a single I/O channel (and typically lower RPM) while SAS has two.

Good Luck

One last thing - whatever controller you settle on, at a minimum it needs to be equipped with Battery
Backed Write Cache (BBWC) in order to have satisfactory performance in a vmware environment...

This would be my strong recommendation :)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
if you find a controller that will exist with the existing controller, you'll be able to COPY.

otherwise backup, re-install, and restore.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
which model are you thinking of getting?

SuperTrak EX8650
SuperTrak EX8760T
SuperTrak EX8768

are the only ones on the list.
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