For quite a while I’m hearing stories about the ability to run VMWare ESXi 5.1 on Mac hardware. During my search I never found a story (success of failure) about the Mac Pro 3,1 (early 2008) model.

In order to develop training at MarCoach I often need multiple machines with different OS’s to be able to interact with e.g. Microsoft Exchange or Linux systems running Munki.

When using a Mac, Apple allows us to install OS X on virtualized hardware as well as long as we don’t run to many instances at the same time.

Imagine how great this would be with the snapshot functionality, create a snapshot, change the systems and revert back if necessary.

Despite the lack of successtories I decided to go ahead. The advantages outway the risk of spending (loosing) time by far.


As mentioned, I’m using a Mac Pro 3,1 (early 2008) machine. The machine has two CPU’s, 8Gb of RAM. Initially there is one disk, a 320Gb Seagate ST3320820AS_P that came with the machine.

The disk is connected to an Intel ESB2 Serial-ATA controller which is on the compatibilty list of VMWare. Ethernet is provided by an Intel PRO/1000 EB controller. This one is on the list as well.


Firmware update

The first step was to boot the machine in OS X (10.8.3) and to make sure that all relevant firmware updates where applied. This exercise is left to the reader.

Install media

The next thing was to create bootable media to install from. I decided to install from a USB disk instead of CD ROM in case I had to modify the VMWare image. It’s was ment as a timesaver.

The USB disk was partitioned with Disk Utility and contains a Guid Partition Table (GPT). The filesystem is MS-DOS (FAT)

Don’t forget to Unmount (not eject!) the created volume before continueing to the next step. This was the hardest part, I ended up doing it from the commandline with the command:


Go to the VMWare Site and download ESXi. Register and download ESXi 5.1. I used ‘ESXi 5.1 ISO image (Includes VMware Tools), 2012-09-10 | 5.1.0 | 301M | iso’

Download UNetbootnetin from and run it. Select the ISO just downloaded and also select your USB device. If the device is not shown remove the device, reconnect it, unmount it from the commandline as shown above and restart Ubootnetin.

After making the selection my screen looks like this:

Click on OK and wait for UNetbootin to make the USB Disk bootable.


Time to move on and install ESXi on the Mac Pro. Shutdown the Mac and insert the USB Disk in a USB port. Turn the power on whilest pressing the Option (Alt) key. In the list of bootable volumes you should see an external boot device with the name EFI. Select this device and start the installation.

In my case it was a Next, Next, Finish kind of install since it detected the hardware proparly and I only had one disk as a installation destination. The ESXi installer did its job and only asked relevant quesions… Like installing OS X but then with a text console. After a while the system prompted me to remove the USB disk and restarted without any problems.


The system started up nice, but with a DHCP provided IP configuration. I decided to change this and hit the F2 key (Something Mac users are not used to) to customize the system. After logging in as ‘root’ with the previously defined password I selected ‘Configure Management Network’ and changed the IP configuration from DHCP to static.

The name of the Network Adapter is vmnic0, I didn’t change anything here, bonding interfaces is something I might try later, the same goes for the VLAN config.

IP Configuration allowed me to change the IP Settings. DNS Configuration allowed me to change the hostname.

When done changing the settings I pressed Esc to go back to the previous menu and the system prompted me to accept the changes. This requires a network restart.

The next thing I did, not neccessary but for my own good feeling is to go into Trouble Shooting Mode Options and enable both the ESXi Shell and SSH.

Mission completed… ESXi is installed and running. Time to find a Windows Machine and start configuring ESX with the VMWare vSphere Client.


VMWare compatibility guide:

VMWare Community Supported Hardware: Community-Supported Hardware and Software


Der Flounder:

Disclaimer: All information posted is written with the upmost care and valid at the time of writing. Changes in versions can supersede the provided information. Please use your own judgement.

4 thoughts on “ESXi 5.1 on Mac Pro 3,1

  1. Hallo Marco,

    Kicken, of niet? Ik heb ESXi ook draaien, maar dan op een Mac mini. We gaan hem in onze bestaande ESXI cluster hangen om verderver testen.

  2. Ik vind het geweldig. Het loopt als een trein.
    Helaas, geen cluster hier dus ik ben erg benieuwd naar je ervaringen.

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