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.
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.