How to: Installing VMware ESXi 4 on a 6 year old cheap motherboard

I’ve been trying to get VMware ESXi 4 on my old MSI MS-7388 motherboard for a long time. No matter what I tried, neither the SATA controller on the motherboard or the add on SATA controller would be recognized.

Install VMware ESXi 4.0 on an unsupported motherboard (SATA controller must support AHCI):

  1. make sure the SATA controller(s) is set to AHCI in the computer’s BIOS
  2. download VMware ESXi 4 iso
  3. burn the iso to either a cdrom or a USB thumb drive (512mb minimum) using unetbootin
  4. boot the computer into VMware ESXi
  5. Before you’re prompted to hit Enter to begin, hit ALT-F1 which will get you to a console screen without a prompt
  6. Type “unsupported” followed by Enter
  7. When prompted for a password, just hit Enter
  8. Type “vmkload_mod ahci” followed by Enter.  This will load in the driver for just about any AHCI compliant SATA controller
  9. Hit ALT-F2 to finish the installation

At this point VMware ESXi 4.0 will be installed but it won’t start when you reboot.  This is because VMware won’t load the AHCI driver by default.  So… we will have to tell it to load it automatically.  You will need a Linux Live CD such as Ubuntu.

  1. Boot into Linux
  2. From the desktop you will need to mount the VMware partitions.  In Ubuntu 8.04 and higher, you just need to click on the folders in the drop down menu
  3. Locate oem.tgz on the second VMware partition and overwrite it with this oem.tgz.  It includes a system.map file telling VMware to load the AHCI driver
  4. reboot and boot into VMware ESXi

You should have a fully working VMware ESXi server installed and ready for you to setup virtual machines! 🙂

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