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-v2.5.1.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/ESXi-6.5.0-20171204001-standard-customized.zip
(Updated Image 2018/02/03)

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

29 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

  5. Rogier sagt:

    Thanks for the tutorial, I managed to install ESXi 6.5 this way on the J3160dc-ITX. However, the hardware sensors are not working currently. If I go to the host / monitor it says: No sensor data available. Do you also have this problem, or do you know how to fix this?

  6. Spezialtrick sagt:

    I’m just wondering, if this kickstart method or any other one is working a ZBox CI320 with an Intel Celeron N2930?

  7. Keith sagt:

    Thanks for this! I managed to spin up on a Asrock Q1900-ITX and have migrated a few VM’s from hyper-v. Is there a way to update esxi to the current version? I tried using”esxcli software profile install…” but it wants to remove the drivers needed for this to work. Sorry if I missed something about this and thanks again for your 6.5 image and config files!

    • Tomas sagt:

      Hi Keith,

      Which image did you use for your Asrock Q1900-ITX install? Antonio’s customized one works?

      I’m on the same situation with the same mobo, 8Gb + 1Tb HDD + 32 Gbyte SSD…

      I’m on the verge of cutting my veins due to unsuccessful retries on this one…

      Thanks!!!

  8. Antonio Jorba sagt:

    Update ESXI 6.0 to 6.5u1: https://tinkertry.com/easy-upgrade-to-esxi-65u1-patch02
    Update ESXI 6.5.x to 6.5.0d: https://tinkertry.com/easy-upgrade-to-esxi-650d

    Howto apply patches:
    1. Download patch file
    Patch-overview from v-front.de
    https://esxi-patches.v-front.de/ESXi-6.5.0.html
    Official patch portal (registration needed) for patch bundle ZIP download:
    https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/patch#search

    2. Activate SSH through web client, than use putty or something similar to connect to ESXi host

    3. Transfer ZIP file to ESXi datastore (web client datastore upload or WINSCP, …)

    4. Patch system:
    esxcli software vib update -d /vmfs/volumes/Name of datastore/Name of ZIP-file
    Replace Name of … with the correct datastore and file name. Configuration will be saved due to ‘update’ option.
    Use at own risk, make backups before patching and read notes at http://www.vmware.com !

    • Antonio Jorba sagt:

      Update to Update 😀
      These are the steps that I did today, to update from 6.5.0 (Build 4564106) to 6.5.0 Update 1 (Build 7388607)
      Note: In my system I had installed ghettoVCB and some additional NIC and SATA drivers in my custom image, so I have to use the -f flag (force).
      And actually there is an error when installing the locker_tools.vib. The installer writes out ‘no space left on device’, although I had a lot of it 😉
      I fixed it by first installing the locker vib manually!

      Here are the very simple steps to make an online update:
      (Of cause you need an internet connection)
      1. Stop all VMs
      2. Install locker vib manually
      cd /tmp
      wget http://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/esx/vmw/vib20/tools-light/VMware_locker_tools-light_6.5.0-1.33.7273056.vib
      esxcli software vib install -f -v /tmp/VMware_locker_tools-light_6.5.0-1.33.7273056.vib
      3. Update system
      esxcli software profile update -f -p ESXi-6.5.0-20171204001-standard -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
      (wait some minutes for installation completion)
      4. reboot

    • Keith sagt:

      Thank you so much for this and such a quick reply!
      My first attempt was actually using a few of the links you mention, but I think I didn’t do things properly. Now I know I was on the right track.
      Hopefully I can try this out this weekend, but not before I take a few more backups/images. Cheers!

  9. switchgott sagt:

    Hi to all,
    big thanks for this work.
    But i have a small question.
    I use a 500GB normal hhd for my esxi.
    But i only get write performance with 15MB/s.
    This is realy poor.
    Used the neweset esxi version.
    I disabled the vmx sata driver, use the sata_xhci driver.
    Still the same.
    Any idea what i can do?

  10. switchgott sagt:

    Thanks for this info.
    but disable this driver didn´t help me.
    Performance on vmfs is realy realy poor.
    Is it possible to create a new driver for N3150 ?

    • Antonio sagt:

      With this command I have generated the last uploaded image:
      .\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.5.1.ps1 -v65 -vft -load net55-r8168,net51-r8169,sata-xahci
      The network drivers are necessary, because N3150 / J3160 have unsupported realtek NICs.
      As for the hard drive driver, I’m not sure if it is still necessary to replace it in version 6.5.
      I could generate a new image without replacing the SATA driver.

      This version is included in above image:
      VIB sata-xahci 1.39-1

      This command allows you to view the loaded VIB modules on your system. The version number of the sata driver would be interesting:
      esxcli software vib list | less
      Please enter this command via SSH (putty) on the ESXi and post the result (only SATA driver version).

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