ESXi 6.5 kickstart installation

Kickstart installation for ESXi 6.5

Use this method to carry out an ESXi installation in a few minutes. 

In some previous posts here at mobiletiger I explained how to use different ways to install ESXi, mostly to get a workaround for some N3150/J3160 systems, which „freeze their screen“ after outputting the message „relocating modules …“

Other articles with similar topics here in my blog:
1. ESXi on N3150/J3160
2. ESXi instant internet installation
3. ESXi 6 on qotom-j1900

1. Kickstart overview

I’m showing here, how to modify an ESXi ISO file, so that the installation runs completely automatically from USB.
This can be used in principle on all systems, of course also on the above described or on „headless systems“ without connecting a display.

To get a complete overview or to get a detailed list of installation methods and commands, please read the original document from vmware:
https://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-65/topic/com.vmware.ICbase/PDF/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-65-installation-setup-guide.pdf

2. ISO image preparation

You’ll need a server with more than 4 GB RAM, at least two cores, SSD/harddisk and an empty USB stick (>=8GB).
CAUTION: DATA WILL BE OVERWRITTEN on USB stick and on your server. So use this procedure at your own risk!

First of all you’ll need an ESXi ISO file, perhaps a modified file which contains custom drivers for your system. Read my other article for some tips how to create your own custom installation ISO file or have a look here: http://www.v-front.de/p/esxi-customizer-ps.html

I made a custom ISO file with this command (see v-front.de for details):
.\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.5.ps1 -v65 -vft -load net55-r8168,net51-r8169,sata-xahci

This image currently contains additional drivers for some ASRock and similar systems, e.g. Q1900/N3150/J3160/J3455-ITX
Download link is here: http://www.jorba.de/esxi/ipxe/ESXi-6.5.0-20170304101/ESXi-6.5.0-20170304101-standard-customized.iso

Than create a bootable USB stick (size >= 8GB), for example use portable Rufus for this task.

Download portable Rufus from here: https://rufus.akeo.ie/?locale=en_US

Rufus dialog to create ESXi boot stick from ISO

Insert an empty USB stick, use the above parameters and select your ESXi ISO image, than click on Start button to create a bootable USB installation.
(Again the warning not to overwrite some important data!)

Download boot.cfg and ks-nowipe.cfg from my blog and copy (replace) them on the USB stick. These are the kickstart files.
Download links:
http://www.jorba.de/esxi/ipxe/ESXi-6.5.0-20170304101/usbboot/boot.cfg
http://www.jorba.de/esxi/ipxe/ESXi-6.5.0-20170304101/usbboot/ks-nowipe.cfg

3. Boot from USB and start installation

Insert USB stick into your server, boot from USB

–> BIOS needs to be setup in legacy boot / compatibility mode (not UEFI).
–> Installation will need about 10 minutes to complete, there will be a reboot

Wait for completion!

Post installation customization

Embedded host client

After installation, you can manage the system with the embedded host client inside your browser: http://<ip-address>/ui
You will find the ip address inside your router’s DHCP status table.

Login credentials

The managing user is „root“, the initial password can be set in the ks-nowipe.cfg installation file.
If you use my above file without changes, the login it is simply „root/password„, so change it immediately 😀

ESXi shell / ssh

My kickstart files enable ESXi shell and ssh.
This are useful management tools, but if don’t need them, switch them off using the management client.

Direct console (DCU)

If the „direct console (DCU)“ is not working on your server due to missing video output or because you use the server „headless“, is can be accessed via SSH (if you leave it enabled).

Start putty or another ssh-tool, connect to your ESXi Server and enter the following commands:

export TERM=linux
dcui

ESXi-DCU-via-SSH
ESXi console via SSH

Periodic Backup

A really good free backup script for ESXi is ghettoVCB:
http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2015/05/ghettovcb-vib-offline-bundle-for-esxi.html

Feedback

This post was updated several times and will be updated periodically in the future.
Feedback welcome.

Antonio Jorba

13 Responses so far.

  1. Jeroen sagt:

    Hello Antonio, will this iso also work on the Qotom-Q190G4N, J1900 with 4 eth ports and ssd?

  2. Ryan sagt:

    Antonio,

    If you want to add another possible method to your list, here’s what finally worked for me:

    I bought a cheap mSATA to USB enclosure from Amazon, put the card from my J1900 into it and connected it to my laptop. I then used your VMPlayer idea to pass through the mSATA to the VM as a physical disk and installed ESXi. I then moved the disk back into the J1900 and booted it successfully. Unfortunately your 6.5 image you posted earlier didn’t recognize the network ports on my J1900, but I used one of your 6.0 images from a different post and it worked flawlessly. It showed up on the second Ethernet port as you listed as well.

    If you want, I could provide a DD style image of my disk that someone could use a Linux Live CD to apply to their disk while it’s in their computer and save them the trouble of the adapter.

    Thanks again for your help! Now to try getting it to 6.5.

    • Antonio Jorba sagt:

      Hi Ryan,
      Thank your for your feedback. Fine, that your system is up and running. Good idea to provide a DD image. Please post a link here.

  3. Ferdinando sagt:

    Ciao Antonio,
    thanks for your nice guide, I will try to on my Asrock Q1900-ITX as soon as I can, I would ask you if I can install esxi directly ON usb drive instead of the first hard drive.
    Do I need to edit the ks-nowipe file? I’m scary to destroy all my data on my disk (I was migrating from bare metal Xpenology to Esxi)

    Thanks

  4. Gary sagt:

    Hi Antonio, your guide has been invaluable. I have installed your ESXi-6.0.0-20160804001-standard-customized.iso file on my QOTOM J1900 using another box – an HP N36L – to install as the graphics are supported. I then transferred the mSATA disk to the QOTOM and it works. Thanks for the guide. Now to see if I can upgrade to ESXi 6.5 without destroying it!

    Cheers
    Gary

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