How to add Intel NIC drivers to an ESXi 5.5 ISO

Modifying ESXi ISO images to include network drivers

Using new hardware with not-yet supported or unsupported drivers is often required when using consumer grade and/or desktop components. Most of the motherboards I have presented here on this blog (ASRock Z87 Extreme6, ASRock Z77 Pro4-M, Intel DQ77KB, Intel DQ77MK) have had unsupported network controllers.

There are ways to add support for a NIC after ESXi has been installed. However, to install ESXi from the beginning requires at least one supported network controller. Adding or updating a driver directly in the ESXi ISO solves this issue.

Tools required

To be able to perform the driver inclusion the following tools are needed:

When it comes to what driver to include I have to be honest to report that I have not been able to fully figure it out. Intel seems to have two lines of drivers for Linux, igb and e1000. from what I understand, the igb drivers are mostly for server NICs and the e1000 drivers for desktop NICs. Some desktop controllers use the igb driver though. Here is an excerpt from Intel’s website:

e1000e.x.x.x.tar.gz is designed to work with the Intel® 82563/6/7 Gigabit Ethernet PHY, 82571/2/3/4/7/8/9, 82583 Gigabit Ethernet Controller, and I217/I218 controllers under Linux*.  The latest version and earlier versions of this driver are available from SourceForge.

If your adapter/connection is not 82563, 82566, 82567, 82571, 82572, 82573, 82574, 82577, 82578, 82579, 82583 -based, you should use one of the following drivers:

– igb-x.x.x.tar.gz driver supports all Intel® 82575/6-, 82580-, I350-, or I210/1-based Gigabit Network Adapters/Connections.
– e1000-x.x.x.tar.gz driver supports all Intel® 8254x-based PCI and PCI-X Gigabit Network Adapters/Connections.

Furthermore, the drivers for ESXi needs to be recompiled from the above versions. The ASRock Z87 Extreme6 board, that will be used in this example, have the following two controllers:

  • Intel® Ethernet Connection I217-V, e1000e driver.
  • Intel® Ethernet Controller I211 Series, igb driver.

I will only demonstrate how to get the e1000e driver to work, simply because I have not yet found a newly compiled version of the igb driver. The newest e1000e driver I can find on the Internet is:

Credit goes to the following site:

Using the ESXi-Customizer

Here is how I set up the ESXi-Customizer

  1. Start the ESXi-Customizer
  2. Load the ESXi 5.5 ISO
  3. Load the net-e1000e-2.3.2.x86_64.vib driver package
  4. Uncheck UEFI bootable. (I have read both suggestions both for and against. Unchecked has worked well for me)
  5. Hit Run! to create the new ISO
  6. Burn the ISO to a disc or make a bootable USB out of it.

This is what the ESXi-Customizer looks like for me.


I hope everything works out. Either way, let me know in the comments below!