Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 7.27.35 AM
I have received a number of inquires asking whether ESXi can be installed on the latest 2014 Apple Mac Mini 7,1. Unfortunately, some early reports have indicated issues trying to get the latest version of ESXi installed on the Mac Mini and the results are also the same using old releases of ESXi as well. As of right now, VMware Engineering is unable to comment on the issue until they can get their hands on a the latest Mac Mini in house for investigation. If you happen to own the latest Mac Mini and live in the Bay Area and wish to help expedite the process by donating your system for testing, feel free to drop me a note. I will update this blog with new findings as they are made available regarding ESXi and the new Mac Mini's. The answer is yes, you can install the latest release of ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 and to be able to get the SATA HDD to show up, you will need to install a custom VIB shown below.

UPDATE 3 (11/7) - For those just wanting the latest ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 + SATA VIB ISO, I have created ESXi-5.5u2p03-MacMini-7-1-HDD.iso that you can just download and install.

UPDATE 2 (11/6) - Thanks to one of our CPD Engineers Charles Monnett, we now have a way for ESXi to detect the HDD located in the new Apple Mac Mini 7,1. It turns out there was a new SATA controller that is being used for the HDD and because it's PCI ID (8086:9c03) was unknown, it was not being claimed by the AHCI driver. Once this was added to the driver map files, ESXi could now see the second drive. Of course, I wanted to simplify this for end users, so I have built a new VIB called vghetto-apple-macmini71-hdd.vib that needs to be installed which can be done by using the following command:

esxcli software vib install -v /vghetto-apple-macmini71-hdd.vib -f

esxi-mac-mini-7-1-0
Once the VIB has been installed, go ahead reboot for the changes to take affect. We can now run the following command on the ESXi Shell to confirm that we now see both the SSD and HDD disk OR we can do so using the vSphere C# Client:

esxcli storage core device list

esxi-mac-mini-7-1-1

esxi-mac-mini-7-1-2

UPDATE 1 (11/5) - It looks like an internal team was able to get their hands on the latest Mac Mini 7,1 and using the latest ESXi 5.5 Update 2 Patch03 image, they were successfully able to install ESXi, however it only recognized the internal SSD (Samsung based) and not the Fusion drive. This will need to be further investigated on why the other device is not being claimed but it looks like as of now, you can at least get stock ESXi installed and use the SSD.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.23.16 PM

In the mean time, if you are looking to purchase a Mac Mini to run ESXi, I would highly recommend you take a look at some of the platform changes here and here before deciding to purchase. The most significant change in my opinion is the removal of user replaceable memory with soldered in memory! This means that you will NOT be able to upgrade the units after purchasing and you will need to max out the configuration during the initial purchase with Apple. This is one of the unfortunate changes to the Mac Mini platform and I personally would recommend looking at the last release of the Mac Mini's (Late 2012) which will provide the most bang for the buck. For the old Mac Mini's you will most likely have to look on eBay or even Amazon as they are no longer sold by Apple or their retailers.

Disclaimer: Running ESXi on an Apple Mac Mini is not officially supported by VMware, please use at your own risk

79 thoughts on “ESXi Support for 2014 Apple Mac Mini 7,1

  1. Another unfortunate change is that the mac mini do not have Quad Core CPU configuration any longer only Dual core as well as the removal of the 2nd HDD support. It seems they moving away from the SMB server market with these changes on the Mac Mini and promoting it as a Desktop. I guess they counting on the Mac Pro to fill that gap.

  2. Apple buys RAM from a limited pool of suppliers. It’s not ECC, but if RAM is now only factory supplied I wonder if this might nudge VMware towards officially supporting the Mini?

    Lots of ifs and buts, but if Broadwell is socket compatible it’s possible the Quad Core could come back. Ivy Bride was socket compatible across quad and dual core models Haswell isn’t.

  3. William –
    Maybe you should consider setting up a special “ESXi on 2014 Mini” crowd source donations account somewhere so you can go out and buy that mini for the good of the community. I know I’d happily pitch in toward it if others would commit as well.

  4. Community-
    I want to look at the Gigabyte BRIX as an alternative to the MAC Mini purely based on the recent hardware support changes of the Mac Mini 7,1. Our project relied on the Mac Mini to provide us with the necessary hardware to be able to build and support virtual environment for small research institutions to perform ETL process on longitudinal databases for analysis purposes.

    Has anyone considered or using an alternative to Mac Mini Server and what are they?

  5. I use 3x Intel NUC D54250WYK boxes for my Homelab. The only downsides for me are the 16Gb RAM limit and only one NIC.

  6. On the install, the keyboard disappears as soon as esxi starts to load, any ideas ?
    The keyboard is a plain old hp one that’s works on lots of other platforms.

  7. Hi William,

    nice to see that there are still some guys within VMware that care about officially unsupported hardware and help the community to get it working with ESXi – thanks for your and Charles Monnet’s work on this and thanks for sharing it!

    Just a note: instead of installing the vghetto-apple-macmini71-hdd.vib to enable the HDD you could also install my custom sata-xahci VIB that also enables this (8086:9c03) and a lot of other unsupported SATA AHCI controllers. For details see http://vibsdepot.v-front.de/wiki/index.php/Sata-xahci

    Andreas

  8. This is awesome. Thank you for the ISO, the VIBs, and this whole blog in general 🙂
    I think I asked this somewhere else already, but haven’t seen anyone chime in… Any idea if it’s possible to get Thunderbolt storage to work in ESXi on the new Macmini7,1?

  9. So to do dual drives you need to order the Fusion 1TB bundle which gives a 1TB 5400rpm mechanical HDD and a 128GB PCIE SSD which tend to be much faster then the regular SATA equipped variants. Putting cost aside I wonder how three of these would fair in a VSA setup. Perhaps even utilise the second thunderbolt port as Ethernet aswell. Any thoughts?

  10. HI William,

    I just installed on a MAC Mini 7.1 i7/3.0GHZ/16GB/1TB Fusion Drive and I can confirm it worked well with no issues.
    The Apple thunderbolt to Ethernet was also recognized as a second NIC.
    Datastores show up as 113GB PCIe SSD and 931GB NON-SSD LUNs.

    Is there any chance to boot from SDHC memory card in order to save USB ports for other nice things?
    I tried, but the mem-card was not recognized in the VMWare installer (when you select the target drive).

    Thanks a lot again for this very interesting blog!
    Helmar

  11. Is anyone here tried the installer .iso in Macmini7,2? We have experience in running ESXi on Macmini6,2 with Core i7 quad-core CPU and interested to get another Macmini7,2 with Core i7 now. So we wanna double confirm the installer works on Macmini7,2 before placing order. Thanks.

    • We managed to borrow a Macmini7,1 to perform a test installation and the installer works fine. However, we still haven’t had any chance to get a Macmini7,2 to test that. William (or any reader), please kindly share any info/experience if you ever tried that or heard of any successfully story on Macmini7,2 hardware. Thanks.

  12. Kenneth are you talking about Mac Mini 7.1?
    When you go to Configuration>Storage>add Storage>select (disk/Lun) it is empty? Which configuration does your MM have?
    Mine are MAC Mini 7.1 i7/3.0GHZ/16GB/1TB Fushion Drive and they off 128GB PCIe SSD and 1TB HDD.

    BTW, I added a second thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter and after reboot it was recognized.
    So now 3 1GB NICs are available, one internal, two via the Thunderbolt.

    • I just got my new MacMini 7.1 with the 512GB SSD option and ran the install using the ESXi-5.5u2p03-MacMini-7-1-HDD.iso (Thanks, BTW). It doesn’t seem to want to install to the SSD as I never get a prompt to do so.

      Do I need to always boot with the USB?

      This is what I get when issueing the following command….

      ~ # esxcli storage core device list
      t10.ATA_____APPLE_SSD_SM0256F_______________________S1K4NYDFC05446______
      Display Name: Local ATA Disk (t10.ATA_____APPLE_SSD_SM0256F_______________________S1K4NYDFC05446______)
      Has Settable Display Name: true
      Size: 239372
      Device Type: Direct-Access
      Multipath Plugin: NMP
      Devfs Path: /vmfs/devices/disks/t10.ATA_____APPLE_SSD_SM0256F_______________________S1K4NYDFC05446______
      Vendor: ATA
      Model: APPLE SSD SM0256
      Revision: UXM2
      SCSI Level: 5
      Is Pseudo: false
      Status: on
      Is RDM Capable: false
      Is Local: true
      Is Removable: false
      Is SSD: true
      Is Offline: false
      Is Perennially Reserved: false
      Queue Full Sample Size: 0
      Queue Full Threshold: 0
      Thin Provisioning Status: yes
      Attached Filters:
      VAAI Status: unknown
      Other UIDs: vml.010000000053314b344e5944464330353434362020202020204150504c4520
      Is Local SAS Device: false
      Is USB: false
      Is Boot USB Device: false
      No of outstanding IOs with competing worlds: 32

  13. Hi William,

    Thank you for such an informative blog. I’ve been wanting to setup ESXI on Mac Devices for a while now. I just bought a MacMini iCore7 – 16g and a 2TB Fusion. After burning your update#3 to DVD and booting up from an external superdrive, the install process just stalls @ initializing scheduler. I have read through the post and don’t think I am missing anything. Can you offer some guidance please?

    Jim

    • Two things you could try: 1) double check download wasn’t corrupt, you’d be surprise how frequently this has happened. Maybe switch different browser 2) If you have USB device, see if you can create a bootable one using something like unetbootin and see if you have same problem 3) update the firmware on the Mac Mini, I know this has solved install issues on other Mac platforms

    • Hi,

      I was able to get ESXi 6.0 running on a Mac mini 7.1/i7/16GB/2TB Fusion, using Unetbootin. The hypervisor actually runs from an USB memory pin — not sure if that is good or bad, but at least it works.

      Two issues, however.

      * I can only get the SSD part of the 2TB fusion drive to show up. How did you get the spinning platters to show?
      * Is there any other way to manage the ESXi than a vSphere Client running on a Windows virtual machine? I’d much rather run a web console…

      rgds,
      ~robinL

  14. Thank you! It was the USB trick that worked. I’m up and running, now to copy all my VM’s over to it and retire my huge power hungry dual xeon dell 2950’s heater noise machines! 🙂

  15. William, May I ask you for more advice? As you know the MacMini’s have one limitation – HD space and redundancy. If I start adding more Mini’s to my lab, what do you suggest I put in place to address that? I had purchased a 18TB Drobo last year for just that reason but the upgrade to ESXi 5.5 killed that off with NFS2.

    Should I look for a VMWare certified NAS to host my VM’s via ethernet or can I connect multiple Mini’s to a thunderbolt NAS?

    Thank you,

    Jim

    • You have several options. If you’re interested in NFS, which I would say is probably the easiest with the Mac Min’s given their limited IO connectivity, any NFSv3 solution would work. Given the Mac Mini platform is not supported, you don’t necessary have to look for an NFS system on HCL, I would bet that you probably won’t be find home lab grade hardware on there as everything is meant for the Enterprise, but doesn’t to check out. I would also recommend doing some searches online as I’m sure many people have used variety of solutions including just regular Linux NFS Server or Microsoft SMB w/NAS support. Again, your performance will vary based on these solutions.

      If you’re interested in Thunderbolt type storage, I personally haven’t done anything with it as I’m not aware of any “officially” supported TB Storage platforms for either Mini’s or even Mac Pro (which is on the HCL).

      However, I have heard of two successful use of TB based storage which you can find https://communities.vmware.com/message/2388450#2388450 and http://vcdx181.com/stage-x-homelab-expansion.html

      Good Luck

  16. The ISO method worked for me, I had followed that VMware post a few times already and it failed. I will say that upgrading to Yosemite would not be recommended, the VM performance was/is horrible. I am planning on redoing the VM(s) in Mavericks only and will also test out OSX Server.

    Thank you,

    Jim

    • Olivier,

      If you would like to send me 7,2 & 7,3 model, then I would be more than welcome to confirm for you. Else, the best I can say is it *should* work as these all derive from new 7,x models. It seems that 7,2 might just be a diff CPU, so maybe the same for 7,3. Remember, the Mac Mini’s are not an officially supported platform and the work that’s been done at VMware has all been volunteered efforts. So please keep that in mind

  17. I have a Mac Mini 7,1 and when installing VMWare ESXi 5.5, the installer won’t complete because my USB Keyboard will not allow me to press “Enter” to have the installation complete. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  18. Looking for some advice regarding Mac Mini 7,1 (1.4G/8GB/500GB) with ESXI – with ESXI 3 VM’s – 2x OSX Yosemite, 1x openSUSE 13.2 all the VM’s run really really slowly – unusable infact. On the same machine with the VM’s running on Fusion they are all usable and work fine. Any ideas?

      • Unfortunately we never got a response Freddy and eventually gave up. Have now found a way of installing the needed software in OSX so that we don’t need an opensuse VM anymore. And just brought some extra Mac minis as the virtualisation performance of esxi was rubbish on the platform. Weird as on fusion all was ok but things like headless auto start weren’t available.

  19. Hi,

    I just give a try with the ISO file on Update 3 (11/7) and it works perfect!. I will be testing a few virtual machines and hopefully not getting into issues :).

    The Mac Mini model is A1347.

    Thanks a lot!

      • Thank You.
        I have deleted all the partitions using Disk Utility in recovery internet mode, using Internet recovery to reinstall mac now. Thx

        • hey, i am trying to boot into recovery but no key combination is working (using a logitech wireless keyboard)
          search around and found the alt key works, but still nothing.

          Did you run into any issues booting into recovery?

  20. Thanks for this awesome post. I am trying to install a fresh download of vSphere Hypervisor 6 onto the HDD of the new Mac Pro but its not recognizing the drive. Any tips on how to get it to recognize the SSD? I see that you or someone edited the ISO file to include the drivers for the new HDD. I would love try and create one for 6. Any advice?

  21. The link for ESXi-5.5u2p03-MacMini-7-1-HDD.iso is no more valid. Is it possible to reupload a new mirror ?
    Thank you

  22. Hi William Lam,
    We have many Mac Mini 7.1 which will be used as ESXi server. I have a customized ESXi 5.5 U3 installation iso as well as usb created for unattended installation. Simply plug in the usb stick on Mac mini and hold Option key, then select the usb (EFI) and ESXi installation will be started and completed without any further interaction. My challenge is that how to get the ESXi installation remotely through an automated fashion, such as netboot or PXE boot? I tried to use DeplymentStudo but it does not work as it cannot capture and create entire disk on Mac Mini disk where ESXi installation is residing on with many partitions. It can only pick and create one partition. Seems Mac Mini does not support PXE boot either.

    Thanks a lot for your help.

    David

  23. Hi William,
    Thanks for your info and response. One more question, do you know Mac Mini 6.2 supports ESXi 5.5 U3? I have Mini 7.1 and I am able to install ESXi 5.5 U3 using USB stick without issue. But just realized that same USB stick boots with purple screen on Mini 6.2. Could not figure out the root cause yet but wondering if ESXi 5.5 U3 can be installed on Mini 6.2. I have a USB stick with ESXi 5.5 U2 (copied from your site) and that boot and install on Mini 6.2 fine, no issue there.

    Thanks a lot for your help!

    David

  24. Hi William,

    Found out ESXi 5.5 U3 can be installed on Mini 6.2. I just went through a manual install process and it went through successfully. What I have done is to use your custom.tgz as well as ghettotize-esxi-iso.sh, along with ESXi 5.5 U3 original ISO to create a customized ESXi 5.5 U3 ISO (your instruction on the web site). I created a USB stick from this ISO and install ESXi 5.5 U3 on Mini 6.2 manually without issue. The purple screen I got is only when I modified the boot.cfg and created a ks.cfg to do a unattended installation. Here are the changes I made and please let me know if you see the root cause:
    1. on a Linux box, mkdir /tmp/etc/ks
    2. cd to /tmp/etc/ks, and create a txt file called ks.cfg with following info:
    vmaccepteula
    rootpw password
    install –firstdisk –overwritevmfs
    network –bootproto=dhcp –device=vmnic0
    reboot
    3. cd /tmp
    4. tar cvf customks.tgz etc/*
    5. copy customks.tgz to the root of usb stick where I have customized ESXi 5.5 ISO created.
    6. on root of usb stick. modify boot.cfg with following changes:
    kernelopt=ks=file://etc/ks/ks.cfg
    Also the last line for the modules= is:
    — /imgdb.tgz — /imgpayld.tgz — /customks.tgz
    7. That’s. The usb stick is ready for unattended installation. It works fine on Mini 7.1 but got purple screen on 6.2.

    Any ideas and helps will be really appreciated!

    Thanks!

  25. Hi,

    I have been running 8, MacMini 7,1 systems since July on ESXi6.0 and have been trying to upgrade them to 6.0u!a and having problems with the additional VIB. I have tried using a CD (error that there were unexpected files, Spotlight! on my first MM) and using Update Manager (VIB is community and not compliant, second MM).

    First, did they fix the disk ID in U1a? Do I still need the community driver and if not, can it be removed before updating? I don’t use the internal disks as we have a Synology NAS. If I need it, how do I get UM to ignore the compliance?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    PS: I enjoy this blog immensely and have learned a lot. We started with Xserves and ESXi 4.0 and other than limited ports on MacMini, has worked very well for us.

  26. Hi William
    Thanks for the great guides. I installed Max OS X 10.10 on a 7.1 Mac Mini with no major problems. But now I have trouble with external USB 3.0 Harddisks that I want to share over afp. I connected them to OS X successfully through ‘add USB device’ but the harddisks keep disconnecting frequently for some moments or permanently. The same disks were running without problems on a native OS X on the same Mac Mini. Do you have any idea what I can do?

  27. Hi William,
    have recently bought a Mac mini 7,1 all flash drive and the VIB patch doesn’t work, as the internal (APPLE SSD SM0256G) is not yet seen.
    Your patch is for either the fusion combination or the regular mechanical drive … right?
    Any idea on how to solve the issue ? any other VIB ?

  28. William, Thanks for you hard work on this!

    Also in the same boat.

    VMWare: ESXi 6.0.0, 3568940

    Hardware:
    Apple Mac Mini 7,1
    2.6GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5.
    8GB 1600MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
    256GB Flash Storage

    Installed custom VIB, No SSD drive detected.
    using iSCSI via Thunderbolt Ethernet for now.

  29. I run ESXi 5.5 on mac mini 7.2 and SSD 512GB. What would be the easiest way to clone that SSD to another SSD 512GB as a backup clone in case the main SSD fails?

    • With regards to using a Promise R4 or R6 in ESXi on a Mac mini.

      I tried ESXi 6 as a fresh standard install on a Macmini7,1 (2014) and it initially failed to see the Promise. I tracked down this page and download – https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/details?productId=285&downloadGroup=DT-ESXi50-PROMISE-STEX-407000074 and installed this VIB and this then did allow the ESXi console to see the Promise R4.

      The Promise had originally been partitioned as a Mac standard system in RAID5 configuration i.e. GUID partition and a single Journalled HFS+ volume. While the above VIB did allow the ESXi console to see this we found we had to completely reformat it as a VMFS5 drive in order to make it then allocatable to a Mac guest VM running on the ESXi host.

      Note: The RAID5 is still being done in hardware by the Promise itself.

      I would very much prefer that a Mac guest VM be able to directly access a GUID partitioned and Journalled HFS+ volume. Is there any way to achieve this?

Thanks for the comment!