Issue getting ESxi 5 and 5.5 servers to boot off Adaptec 9260-4i RAID controller


The first part of this issue is basic enough - I am looking to migrate several physical servers to either an Esxi 5 or 5.5 server.  This is for a test system for a client.  I am putting the server together using a SuperMicro X8SIL-F motherboard, 2 X 2 TB Western Digital SATA drives, and an LSI Adaptec 9260-4i RAID card.  I went with that card after trying the onboard RAID of the SM motherboard, and then browsing through c. 50 articles by various contributors who tried using the RAID-1 feature of the SuperMicro and other motherboards, but found that VMware doesn't work well with the onboard RAID, as for many motherboards it is not a true hardware RAID.  I attached the SATA drives to the LSI RAID card, configured a RAID-1 partition in the RAID BIOS, and installed EsXi 5 on it without a problem.  The issue came when I removed the Esxi DVD and tried to boot.  It came up and said:

  Insert boot media in selected device and press a key

This was also the case when I installed Esxi 5.5.

However, if I boot off the Esxi DVD (either 5 or 5.5), it prompts me to either boot off the DVD, or boot off the hard drive.  When I boot off the hard drive, the server comes up without a hitch.

Overall I have spent c. 2 days' worth of time researching this.  I redid the installation using the Shift-O option and including "Runweasel formatwithmbr" but that didn't make a difference. When I boot off the DVD, select the hard drive to bring up the server, and use the vSphere client to look at the server Storage configuration, the VMFS partition is formatted with MBR, so this does not appear to be an MBR vs. GPT formatting/boot issue.  Somehow, when installing using the RAID card, the boot sector on the RAID-1 partition is not functioning as it should - if it is there at all.  The driver has to be active in the server itself or it would not be functioning.

I have used the SM motherboard in several Esxi setups for test purposes using single SATA drives without issue, and these servers are running for c. a year without issue, so the board compatibility does not appear to be the source of the problem.

Thanks for any input on this.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)Connect With a Mentor VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Firstly, it's dangerous and risky, to build any homebrew combination for ESXi.

Servers used for ESXi should be purchased, which are listed on the

Check the VMware Hardware Compatability Lists HCL here

The VMware Hardware Compatibility List is the detailed lists showing actual vendor devices that are either physically tested or are similar to the devices tested by VMware or VMware partners. Items on the list are tested with VMware products and are known to operate correctly.Devices which are not on the list may function, but will not be supported by VMware.

These servers have been tested and certified for use with ESXi.

A pile of bits, and components, do not make an ESXi certified server.

Have you tried installing ESXi to a USB flash drive or SD card?

Here is the VMware KB on installing 5.x on USB/SD:
jkirmanPrincipalAuthor Commented:
Thanks Andrew,

As it turns out, I had to tweak a couple of settings on the LSI card BIOS, and now it's booting fine, and ESXi comes up without issue.  However, your points are well taken and I will definitely not look to go homegrown on anything I put into operation at a client's office.  The issue was resolved through different means, but I appreciate the rapid response, and will award points as such.  Cheers!
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