How do you install VMware ESX Server 3i (ESXi)?

VMware ESX Server 3i is a very powerful and free Enterprise virtualization platform. I covered all the basics of it, how it is different, and why you want it in our previous article “What is VMware ESX Server 3i?

Now, let me show you how easy it is to download and install VMware ESX Server 3i.

Downloading VMware ESX Server 3i

The following assumes that you DID NOT receive ESX 3i embedded in your server. If you did, you wouldn’t need this article. You wouldn’t need to download it or install it.

To download ESX Server 3i, you need the installable 200MB ESX Server 3i ISO. Go to the VMware ESX 3i website and fill out all the necessary information.

Once you have 3i, you can install it on any server that is supported in the VMware ESX Server 3i HCL (hardware compatibility list). And keep in mind that because 3i support SATA disk, it can be installed on much wider variety of servers than ESX 3.x can.

To demonstrate and get screen captures of how to install VMware ESX 3i, I installed it inside VMware Workstation. While you can use the ISO CD to install ESX Server 3i inside VMware Workstation with the proper settings, I can tell you that, no matter your host system hardware or settings, 3i will run extremely slow and if you go to start a new virtual guest, 3i will crash.

Thus, I recommend that you find a physical server the meeting the HCL and install 3i on it. Even if the server doesn’t meet the HCL, 3i may install on it and you may be able to use it for testing and eval. In my case, I grabbed an old Dell SC430 with a 2.4Ghz Celeron CPU, 2.5MB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive. 3i installed on that system just fine and I never consulted the HCL.

I first used Nero to burn the ISO file onto a bootable CD (you can use whatever CD burning software you want). I inserted that CD into the CD drive and powered on the system. I made sure that I booted from the CD in my BIOS then I was rewarded by seeing the VMware ISO booting.

After it went through the “black loading” screen, it moved to the “yellow loading” screen.

 Finally, I was brought to the “Welcome to VMware ESX Server 3i 3.5.0 Installation” screen.

I pressed Enter to Install and pressed F11 to accept the license agreement.

I chose to install 3i on the default partition disk (which in my case looks very small because it is running inside a virtual machine and the disk is only 8GB) by pressing Enter. 

Next, I confirmed the install by pressing F11.

  The installation happened in under 2 minutes. I pressed Enter and rebooted the system.

Once rebooted, I saw:

  From here, I was able to press F2 and access the slim management interface. There, I set the root password and configured a static IP (and other network settings) on the server.

VMware ESX Server 3i is one of the best innovations in virtualization to date. ESXi is now accessible to everyone, now that it is free. The install is quick and easy, as is the administration. In this article, you learned where to obtain and how to install ESX Server 3i. As you can see, it is very easy to download and install. I encourage you to try out VMware ESX Server 3i, you can click here to dowload ESXi for free.

For more information on ESX Server 3i, please see the following:

What is VMware ESX Server 3i?

How will VMware ESX Server 3i Change the future of Virtualization?

VMare’s ESX Server 3i Homepage (including links to datasheets and documentation)