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.
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:http://shell.peach.ne.jp/aoyama/archives/2907
Using the ESXi-Customizer
Here is how I set up the ESXi-Customizer
- Start the ESXi-Customizer
- Load the ESXi 5.5 ISO
- Load the net-e1000e-2.3.2.x86_64.vib driver package
- Uncheck UEFI bootable. (I have read both suggestions both for and against. Unchecked has worked well for me)
- Hit Run! to create the new ISO
- 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!