Install ESXi 5.5 with Realtek 8111/8168 NIC

Install ESXi 5.5 with Realtek 8111/8168 NIC

Posted by on Tue Sep 24th, 2013 (edited on Sun Feb 16th, 2014) in ESXi, Network 28 Comments

ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 all worked fine with the common Realtek 8111/8168 series of network adapters, typically found in a variety of consumer-class motherboards. What to do in the home lab? Suddenly you can’t even install ESXi, even though you have a perfectly workable system that happens to already have Realtek onboard. Such as my very own vZilla? Yes, with 5.5, you’ll get the dreaded “No compatible network adapter found please consult Hardware Compatibility Guide for supported adapters” message. Even though you likely won’t find this chipset on the HCL, this article gets you clear of that hurtle, offering two approaches.

Software fix #1:  Inject the 5.1 driver into the 5.5 installation media.

How’s simply adding the driver from 5.1 back into your installer ISO image sound. You know, the driver that VMware has apparently taken away from 5.5. While this fix could be seen as a slight hack, it’s hardly dangerous, and can be convenient if you just want something that works. You’re likely unsupported in the home lab anyway. You’re basically just front-loading a VIB (driver bundle) that VMware’s own procedure talks you through the same approach, Installing async drivers on ESXi 5.x (2005205), Jul 24, 2013. It’s just that the VIB is about a year old, and hasn’t been tested by VMware on ESXi 5.

The demand for info on this is clearly there, with 2 excellent conversations going on right here at TinkerTry, and numerous discussions around the web on this common issue. The fix is pretty straight forward. I found a timely article just yesterday which has nicely explains how the ESXi Customer tool does its gentle massage of the ISO, even from Windows 8.1. It’s titled Adding Realtek R8168 Driver to ESXi 5.5.0 ISO by Erik on Sep 23 2013, where he points us to the correct file.

Here’s a copy of the exact VMware_bootbank_net-r8168_8.013.00-3vmw.510.0.0.799733.vib file. For Chrome, that’s done by Right-clicking the URL above, then choosing Save As…That’s the exact file I used for my RTL8111E.

While Erik is talking about the 8168, it’s the same driver family as the 8111, as seen on Realtek’s site. I’ve tested that this injection method works fine with 5.5 and my ASRock Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard and it’s 2 RTL8111E ports in my 2011 vZilla virtualization whitebox. See screenshot I just took above. Injection took mere seconds, and I then used Rufus to take the ISO and a make bootable USB flash drive out of it, in about 2 minutes, demonstrated here. That same flash drive is used to boot from USB, then chosen as the installation target. Elegant, quick, no CD/DVD burning needed.
ESXi-Customizer-Settings
See also:
Finally, and alternative injection technique that uses just PowerCLI 5.5:
Installing VMware ESXi 5.5 on the Gigabyte Brix by Phil Wiffen, Sep 23 2013.

 

Software fix #2:  Add the VIB to an existing ESXi 5.5 installation

Assuming you somehow got ESXi 5.5 going already, say with another brand of NIC, then the below article should get you through simply adding the VIB,
Realtek 8169 NIC in ESXi 5.5 not detected by default – install a VIB by Vladan Seget on Sep 30 2013.

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