How to build latest VMware ESXi ISO image for Intel NUC 4th generation

When it comes to building cheap and reliable home lab Intel NUC computers are huge success. Their low power consumption and small footprint makes them perfect for almost any kind of home lab, including building a VSAN lab. Recently I ran into the issue where I needed an additional network card for my NUC. I needed to transfer vCenter server from iSCSI storage, to a VSAN datastore on the same host. The problem when building a dvSwitch is that you need redundant netowork in order to migrate/move vCenter from standard to distributed switch. Since Intel NUC is so small machine, there is no place for an additional PCI card of any kind. There is however a solution, ThinkPad USB 3.0 Ethernet Adapter from Lenovo. The problem is that, ESXi installation does not include drivers for the USB network card, so we need to build a new image with the VIB file. To perform the following steps, you will need following:

1. ThinkPad USB 3.0 Ethernet Adapter (Priced from £3.00)
2. Driver for the RTL8153 chipset
3. SATA xahci driver for the NUC sotrage controller
4. VMware PowerCLI 6 (VMware account required. You can register for free)
5. ESXi Customizer PS (PowerShell) script

For obvious reasons, this needs to be performed on a PC running Windows OS.

When you have downloaded all the required files, do the following:

1. Install VMware PowerCLI 6 by running the installation file.

2. Create a VIB working directory (In my example C:\drv)

3. Copy/move RTL VIB file to the directory from step 2.

4. Unzip and copy/move SATA VIB file to the directory from step 2. Now you should have ONLY 2 files in your VIB working directory!

5. Now we need to add local offline VIB files by running the following command: .\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.4.ps1 -pkDir C:\drv ← Replace this with your own location of the VIB working directory. This will invoke building of a new ISO file with the latest ESXi installation including all the VIB files from your VIB working directory. Here is my example!

PowerCLI C:\esxi> .\ESXi-Customizer-PS-v2.4.ps1 -pkgDir C:\drv

Script to build a customized ESXi installation ISO or Offline bundle using the VMware PowerCLI ImageBuilder snapin
(Call with -help for instructions)

Logging to C:\Users\amnesia\AppData\Local\Temp\ESXi-Customizer-PS.log …

Running with PowerShell version 5.0 and VMware vSphere PowerCLI 6.3 Release 1 build 3737840

Connecting the VMware ESXi Online depot … [OK]

Getting Imageprofiles, please wait … [OK]

Using Imageprofile ESXi-6.0.0-20160804001-standard …
(dated 07/30/2016 01:48:09, AcceptanceLevel: PartnerSupported,
For more information, see http://kb.vmware.com/kb/2145667.)

Loading Offline bundles and VIB files from C:\drv …
  Loading C:\drv\r8152-2.06.0-2_esxi60.vib … [OK]
     Add VIB r8152 2.06.0-2 [New AcceptanceLevel: CommunitySupported] [OK, added]
  Loading C:\drv\sata-xahci-1.28-1.x86_64.vib … [OK]
     Add VIB sata-xahci 1.28-1 [OK, added]

Exporting the Imageprofile to ‘C:\esxi\ESXi-6.0.0-20160804001-standard-customized.iso’. Please be patient …

All done.

PowerCLI C:\esxi>

Building a new ISO file (360+ MB) can take some time, depending on your Internet connection, so give it some time. Now you can proceed with ESXi installation.

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