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ESXi 5.1 for Mac Hardware

ESXi 5.1 Homeserver on Mac hardware write-up

This article are mainly for my own purpose, but i thought that maybe others could benefit from my experience. If i have made errors in the article i apologies. Thoughts and suggestions are more than welcome.


What is the background for the use of Virtualization and what is it?

The past years has given us hardware with so much power that we don’t use. I am speaking of multicore processors, multiple gigs of RAM, Network speeds that we only could imagine 10 years ago. Alongside that, the server software has not kept up with the use of all that power, so a normal production server for example a mail server, utilize only 15-20% of the given processor power. This gives us the possibility to split all that power into pieces and run more instances of OS’s on a single machine.

example: you have a machine with a quad core processor with hyper threading enabled, that setup gives us 8 virtual processors to play with or 4 virtual dual core processors. Actually you can assign the number of processors needed for your VM’s as long it is within the limit of the actual hardware. As well with RAM, install 16 GB or more in that machine and you have the possibility to have 4 dual core processor VM’s with 4 GB of RAM each.

Virtualization is making a platform that provide a set of “Hardware” called a Virtual Machine (VM).


Reduced need for hardware
Power savings
Higher flexibility
Easy management of each VM
Enterprise Grade Virtualization software (very very stable)
Use of Shared Network Storage.
Its free.
Did i mention that its FREE.


ESXi 5.X does not come with the Broadcom network drivers
No FireWire support
Scaled for large Enterprise solutions(can be confusing for small home servers)
Extensive use of Shared Network Storage. (Its not all home users that have that)

Why put ESXi on Mac hardware:

Because if you like to run Mac OS X Server you will need mac hardware to not breaking any licensing agreements.
Plus wouldn’t it be great to have a production server running Mac OS X Server and on the same machine setup a test environment of various kinds of Linux, Solaris, Windows. With that prospect i can’t get my arms down. :-)

The Mac Mini is a very popular setup with ESXi, its small, silent and don’t need much power.
Preferable you want to get a quad core setup for your ESXi and as much RAM you can afford
Other Mac hardware can be used too, such as Mac Pro and various MacBook Pro’s

This article contains info on setting up vmware ESXi 5.1 on a MacBook Pro 15″
I was lucky to get my hands on a damaged MacBook Pro 15″ which i could strip down to only the logic board. No display attached or optical drive. Even the topcase/keyboard, bluetooth/airport card has been detached from the logic board for power savings.

MacBook Pro 15″ Early 2011 (macbookpro8.2)
2.2 GHz i7 QuadCore 6MB Level3 cache “Sandy Bridge”
16 Gb RAM Kingston
500 Gb harddrive Seagate Momentum XT with 4 Gb of SSD
500 Gb USB Harddrive
500 Gb NFS Share on the Local Network

Preparing for the setup:

You need to have access to a windows installation, preferable a VM in either fusion or virtual box if you like it to cost less. Share your macs desktop to let go easier with the patching of the ESXi installer.
Download the VMware vSphere PowerCLI to you windows desktop.

Make the ESXi 5.1 Offline Bundle:

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.1.0-799733-standard” -ExportToBundle -FilePath C:\

Your ESXi 5.1 Offline Bundle are now located within your Windows VM at C:\

Close the VMware vSphere PowerCLI to clear all arrays and variables made at the previous commands.

Next you need to add the Broadcom driver for the network.
Download the driver here: VMware ESXi 5.0 Driver CD for Broadcom NetXtreme I Gigabit Ethernet Driver – 3.120h.v50.2

Unpack the .zip and locate the Offline Bundle in it. Drag it to the root of the hard drive C:\ and rename it for easy writing further on. Mine is just called C:\

Open up the VMware vSphere PowerCLI again and begin to add the Broadcom drivers into the ESXi 5.1 Offline Bundle to be able to make a bootable ISO image.

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\, C:\

Output should be:

Depot Url


Create a new Image Profile (in example, I’m using the full version w/tools)
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-5.1.0-799733-standard” -name “ESXi51-Custom”

Add the broadcom driver to our Image Profile
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile “ESXi51-Custom” -SoftwarePackage “net-tg3″

Create an ISO from our custom Image Profile
Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi51-Custom” -ExportToISO -filepath C:\VMware-ESXi-5.1-Custom.iso

Now you have a perfectly well-made VMware ESXi 5.1 ISO image with embedded broadcom drivers ready for you to either burn to a CD-Rom or use UNetbootin to make a  bootable USB-key.

Install the ESXi 5.1 on your hardware, provide the ESXi with a static IP address and try out the ESXi by putting the address http://”ESXi-IP-Adress: . And VOILA you have a Bare-metal HyperVisor running on Mac hardware ready to put some nice Virtual machines on it.

So Whats now?

First you will need to download the vSphere Client from VMware’s site, you will need a free account to do so. Install the vSphere Client on your windows VM on your client computer.
Connect to your ESXi host’s IP address
And your set to go.

Use the site to setup a OSX server in a VM.
I strongly encourage to sign up for a free account on and register for the free licensing of ESXi 5.1.

Update: Now that ESXi 5.5 has been released and used in production all over the world. My experience with using my MacBook Pro 8,2 quad core i7, is that the network drivers has now been included the standard installation image from VMWare. Thumbs up for that. :-)

Source for building this write-up:

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