I know several of you have reached out asking about the support for ESXi 6.5 on the Apple Mac Pro 6,1 but as of right now, the Mac Pro 6,1 is currently not supported with ESXi 6.5. I know this is not ideal especially for customers who wish to take advantage of the latest vSphere release. The good news is that VMware is in the process of testing the Apple Mac Pro 6,1 for ESXi 6.5, however there is not an ETA on when this will be completed by.

Some of you might be wondering why this did not happen earlier? The primary reason is that hardware certification for ESXi is actually performed by the hardware vendors. Once a vendor completes the certification for a particular hardware platform or component, they submit the results to VMware and the VMware HCL is updated. If there is a piece of hardware that is not on the VMware HCL today, it is definitely worth reaching out to your hardware vendor to inquire about its status.

In Apple's case, it unfortunate as they do not participate in VMware's Hardware Certification program for ESXi which makes certification challenging. VMware intends to continue to support customers who require the use of Mac OS X Virtualization and will work towards getting the Mac Pro's certified for latest version of vSphere as mentioned earlier. Historically, testing and certifying ESXi for Apple hardware does take an additional amount of time and in some cases, code changes may even be required due to unexpected hardware changes from Apple.

I hope this gives customers some additional insights into how Apple hardware is certified for ESXi. If you would like to see this improved in the future, you may want to reach out to Apple and provide them with your feedback.

Now ... before you close this blog post thinking it is going to take awhile before there is going to be an update regarding ESXi 6.5 and Mac Pro 6,1, please continue reading further 🙂

UPDATE (07/28/2017) - ESXi 6.5 Update 1 just GA'ed yesterday and is fully supported with all current Apple Mac Pro 6,1 (as you can see on the HCL here) and the workaround mentioned below is no longer required. This means you can install ESXi without any modification to the image.

UPDATE (03/25/2017) - VMware has just published the following VMware KB 2149537 which outlines the officially recommended workaround to install ESXi 6.5 onto the Apple Mac Pro 6,1. The VMware HCL has also been updated to include the Apple Mac Pro 6,1 4-Core, 6-Core, 8-Core & 12-Core systems. In a future release of ESXi, the workaround will not be required and ESXi will just install out of the box. This temporarily workaround is to enable customers who wish to run the current version of ESXi 6.5 which includes GA release, 6.5a and 6.5p01.

Disclaimer: The following section below is not officially supported or recommended by VMware. Please use at your own risk.

Early last week, I had a customer who had reached out to me that attempted an install of ESXi 6.5 on their Mac Pro 6,1. They were already aware that the platform was not officially supported with ESXi 6.5, but wanted to see if I had any ideas that they could try. When attempting to boot the ESXi installer (upgrade or fresh install), they saw the following error message in the ESXi logs:

WARNING: vmw_ahci[00000e00]: ExceptionHandlerWorld:AHCI_SIGNAL_ABORT_REQUEST signal.
vmw_ahci[00000e00]: ExceptionHandlerWorld: Abort scan took 1 (us) to complete, 0 commands aborted.
FSS: 5749: No FS driver claimed device

The customer had theorized that perhaps there was an issue with the AHCI driver but since the system would not boot further, there was not much more they could do. Looking at the error, I also agreed the issue might be related to the AHCI driver which gave me an idea. The specific driver shown in the logs is the new AHCI Native Driver which is new in ESXi 6.5. Perhaps, the new driver is not able to claim the disk drives and is preventing the boot-up. I recommended to the customer that they could actually fall back to the "legacy" vmklinux driver and see if that would allow them to progress further and to my surprise, that actually worked. Not only did the installer completely boot, but the customer was able to perform both a fresh install of ESXi 6.5 as well as an upgrade from ESXi 6.0 to 6.5 on the Mac Pro 6,1 without any issues.

Of course, we do not know if this is the real fix or if there are other issues. So far the customer has not reported any issues but it is still recommended that customers who want official support for Mac Pro 6,1 and ESXi 6.5 to hold off until it is certified by VMware. For customers who wish to push the "Not Supported" boundaries a bit, below are the instructions on how to get ESXi 6.5 booted and installed on Mac Pro 6,1.

Add the following ESXi boot option (persistent) by pressing SHIFT+O when you are presented at the initial black screen.


At this point, you can now successfully boot the ESXi 6.5 installer and perform either a fresh install or an upgrade. You will NOT need to perform this operational again as the change is persistent. If you prefer not to manually have to add the ESXi boot option by hand, you can create an ESXi bootable USB key and then simply edit both boot.cfg and efi/boot/boot.cfg and append the option as shown below:

kernelopt=runweasel preferVmklinux=True

I will be sure to share this information with our Engineering folks working on testing the Mac Pro 6,1 but at least we know its possible to install ESXi 6.5 🙂 Big thanks to Andrew for reaching out and I think we were both pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

FYI - For customers who use the Apple Mac Mini, ESXi 6.5 seems to run fine without any issues (e.g. fresh install or upgrade). I have not heard of any real major issues, so you should be fine. Please note that the Apple Mac Mini is not an officially supported hardware platform, please use at your own risk.

39 thoughts on “ESXi 6.5 support for Apple Mac Pro 6,1

    • I have accomplished this using rEFInd. I simply use dd the iso to img and then dd the img to usb and with patience, I went back into the mac by removing the SID, and NVROM <—windows hack "windows installer" <—remove all partitions and then install esxi on a 2ndry thumb drive.

      Now the issues of internal storage are still a mystery so I use iscsi


  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to help with this! We used this for some development hosts and so far things appear to be working OK. Looking forward to official support and putting this into production.

    We’ve had a much better experience installing macOS Sierra VMs on 6.5 (with the new Guest OS version OS X 10.12 setting). Previously we’ve had issues installing Sierra from ISO (converted in various ways from the InstallESD.dmg) and sometimes issues booting into the OS but now it appears to work without issue.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for sharing and also confirming this workaround. I’m also glad to hear that macOS Sierra deployment on vSphere 6.5 is working well for you

  2. Indeed, thanks very much! We have it up and running as well. Going through and testing it on the pro (cluster), mini (single hosts) and xserve (cluster) in production simulations now. Luckily looks like many of the HBA and 10gig cards we use are still on the HCL so its all going smooth.

  3. I think your last sentence about the Mac Mini is a little bit too optimistic 😉

    I tried the 6.5.0 installer on a brand new Mac Mini 7,1 16gb 512SSD today. That one got stuck on a few random spots before i went back to 6.0. Symptoms exactly like the ones you describe for the Mac Pro.

  4. Will there be any support for the Mac Pro 5.1, still running my lab on my old work horse and would like to upgrade at some point.

    I did try a fresh install and it fell over in a heap, im however not sure what the error was and maybe the steps you have mentioned above may help

  5. Ridiculous that this isn’t supported by VMware yet. I’ve been using 6 on this hardware since beta 2 with similar ‘hacks’ listed above to get it to work, along with third party drivers for the thunderbolt NICs and other changes to make it boot off of the internal disk. With all the solutions published in their forums you would think they would have adopted it by now.

  6. FWIW, I ran into this same issue on a Mac Mini 7,1. Adding the ‘preferVmklinx=true’ boot option took care of it.

  7. I’ve been running 6.5 on a MacPro 6.1 with out issues. My issue is that no external drives are recognized when attached to the MacPro. I’d like to attach some usb and firewire drives to create extra datastores, but the devices never show up in the esxi web interface. Have I missed some step?

    • Have a red face here, I have a typo above, not a MacPro 6.1, but 5.1 fat fingers at the keyboard ;-}

  8. Hi, esxi 6.5 on Mac mini 6.2. Def issues with vmw_ahci driver. Installed SSD, works fine in OSX >400MB/s. Initially I was getting 200kp/s yes k when uploading a VM. Using this link:


    I’ve now got the performance up to ~20MB/s, but this falls very short of the 118MB/s I can achieve over the network.

    Something is not right with the support of the Panther Point AHCI Controller.

  9. Thanks a lot! This workaround also fixed my issue that ESXi 6.5 vmw_ahci doesn’t recognize the drive attached to qemu-kvm AHCI controller. I got errors like this:

    vmkernel.log:3415:2017-03-27T02:47:20.507Z cpu0:66624)vmw_ahci[00000002]: scsiDiscover:calling ahciReadIdentityData
    vmkernel.log:3416:2017-03-27T02:47:20.517Z cpu0:66624)WARNING: vmw_ahci[00000002]: ExecInternalTempDMA:ERROR: DMA transaction did not transfer data for internal command.
    vmkernel.log:3417:2017-03-27T02:47:20.517Z cpu0:66624)WARNING: vmw_ahci[00000002]: ahciReadIdentityData:ERROR: failed to read identity
    vmkernel.log:3418:2017-03-27T02:47:20.517Z cpu0:66624)vmw_ahci[00000002]: scsiDiscover:ahciReadIdentityData failed!

  10. I can confirm that 6.5 works perfectly with no modifications on a 2009 Xserve with 8-cores (the last Xserves made). Even my USB3 PCI cards seem to be recognized and allowed for pass-through if desired.

  11. Thank you for writing this! Any thoughts on how to get VMWare tools installed in guest OS’? The darwin.iso file seems to be missing from /usr/lib/vmware/isoimages/.

  12. I’ve tried to find other potential uses of my Mac Pro 6,1. Before finding this site, I’ve only focused on Linux. Thanks! However, I found the video parts of my two D700 cards were shown in grey/disabled for passthrough at the hardware dialog box of ESXi 6.5, but only the audio parts could be enabled. Any methods or suggestions to have D700 GPU passed-through to guest OS? Thanks!! By the way, FYI, with the newest iso I donwloaded, I did not need to use the ‘prefervmklinux=True’ to get an event-free boot.

  13. All this are good! But can you throw some light on the licensing part from Apple perspective? Do apple legally agrees to do something like running N number of OSX on top of esx hypervisor.

    • No, I am not running multiple OS X. Instead, I am planning to run multiple Linux, both host and guest. I’ve managed to pass through my two D700s to two Linux guests at the same time. Although guests could successfully initialized the card, got correct parameters like RAM size or clock speed, the final OpenCL programs failed. Only the very beginning part like getting platform numbers or getting device numbers worked. Real programs just hung. This is the farrest I can get right now.

        • VMware can’t provide guidance on how to interpret other vendor’s EULA. The recommendation which I’ve given to many of our customers is to have your organization work w/Apple to understand the requirements. Several customers in the past have mentioned success w/Volume Licensing, but ultimately this is an agreement between your organization and Apple.

  14. Does ESXi 6.5 improve fan behaviour in the 2012 MacMini? The fans were running constantly at a low speed, without any management from the OS, so I had to attach a USB cable to the power cables on the fan, then run that from a USB port on the Mini. It runs the fan at probably 60% speed constantly (due to USB power) but it’s better than nothing.

  15. I followed all the steps above and got the ESXI installed on my MacPro 6,1.. but then it dosn’t have network connectivity. I tried to connect it via thunderbolt and ethernet, but no luck in getting an IP.. any thoughts?

  16. Hi William,

    I was going to inquire about an interesting topic via LinkedIn but I’ll start the conversation here. On the 2013 Mac Pro, using either RHEL (maybe CentOS)/Ubuntu or Windows 2008/2012 R2 been able to successfully get OpenCL running on a virtualized instance with passthrough (or do you require it)(does it function like Nvidia GRID technology)?

    I ask because I have a huge Dell PowerEdge tower that frankly, runs too hot and loud for my office lab. I need the GPU for professional requirements and I need OpenCL applications to recognize the GPU (at least one of them). I think I read that the legacy AMD driver under 14.04 *fglrx* was being used. One of the issues I have came across so far on bare hardware recently with AMD is the provider supplied drivers are messy. AMDPRO-GPU is the driver being used under 16.04 LTS that supports newer GCN GPU architechtures for which I thought this should be, at least if it’s what people claim they are variants of here:

    William, would you be willing to validate on any VM, Linux or Windows, that you can run an OpenCL application (i.e. SETI)?

  17. William,

    I’ve followed your blog for years, running my first DFIR lab with a MacMini server model, later a full blown Dell R610 with dual Xeon hex-cores and now, I had to downgrade that (because it was just too hot in my lab) to a Mac Pro. This will be running my SIEM/UEBA, AD-DS/NPS server along with my SOA and ITSM solution – I’m a little concerned on applying https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/52345

    As some of this is done at microcode level by the vendor, we all know Apple could give a hoot about DellEMC or VMware – will this even work?

    Look, I like Dell servers. They are made in Round Rock and I support that. I don’t support not being able to run a consumer GPU on a 16x PCI lane (just because) or proprietary drives so I’d really like to know I can patch this OS without bricking it. Your thoughts on mitigation for the hypervisor host?

    • @lamw Seems the installer fails now, current Boot ROM for Apple is MP61.0120.B00 – usual nfs4client error and then – no network adapters found with installer must exit. Really expensive brick to run Splunk and Nexpose on!

  18. We are seeing the latest firmware (MP61.0120.B00 – released in conjunction with macOS 10.13) for the Mac Pro cause many varying issues after the install of ESXi 6.5U1 (note we don’t see any errors during the install).

    We have seen the following behavior on identical Pros with the above firmware after we set management network info and then reboot:

    -Management network IP and root password are forgotten (even though we’ve logged in with the password just minutes earlier before the reboot) OR

    -“BANK5: invalid update counter. No hypervisor found.” OR

    -“kernel= must be set in /boot.cfg. Fatal error: 32 (Syntax)”

    We have tried multiple install medias (to rule out a bad CD or USB stick), and we have zeroed out the SSDs in the Pros. The only thing in common with the errors we see is the latest firmware version (MP61.0120.B00), and using the preferVmklinux=True workaround is the only thing we’ve found to mitigate the issue.

    Happy to provide more information or run any tests, but for now we’ll continue to use the workaround.

    • Thank you @specter345. I know this is the case with that firmware, it is intended to address the Thunderkit (Sonic Screwdriver) exploit which Rich Smith of Duo Labs and I confirmed.

      My issues today are now with EFI MP61.88Z.0116.B17.1602221600 which IS listed as compatible with 6.5u1. The installer works without issue, if you don’t mind being pwned at ring -2, -1 and 0 should that exploit be used against you which is only possible with the Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

      The main concern I am having is with this supported EFI release above. I have that EFI firmware as well and while I am aware of its vulnerabilities, both Broadcom BCM577xx onboard pNIC’s are recognized yet the Thunderbolt adapters needed for additional connectivity are not. I have six of these and I plan to use at least four in a managed network. If the vmkernel doesn’t recognize them with supported firmware, that is a whole different ball of wax that VMware needs to address as these should appear as essentially no different that any pNIC connected directly to the PCI-E bus.

  19. @specter345 & @Brian

    Apologies for the delay, I’ve been on paternity leave and yesterday was literally my first day back. Can I ask if either of you have filed an official VMware SR (this is the recommended approach so we can properly track issues/requests), if so, can you provide that to me?

    I’m still catching up from being away, but I did drop a note to a few of the Engrs. They did confirm that they’ve got latest ESXi 6.5u1 running on both MP61.88Z.0116.B17.1602221600 (listed on VMW HCL) as well as MP61.88Z.0120.B00.1708080652 (included w/MacOS 10.13.3) without any issues. If you’re still having trouble installing ESXi, it would be great to get an SR filed (if you haven’t already with all the details and steps you’ve taken).

    With respect to the comment from Brian on the Thunderbolt to Ethernet Adapter, this is not something that was ever officially supported by VMware. I’m not sure if you’re aware or had assumed (although this has mostly worked as the Apple device uses tg3 driver, it was mostly luck that I had discovered it rather than something VMware officially blesses and is listed on HCL).

  20. Hi, can ESXi ‘see’ USB drives as storage beyond installing on a USB thumb drive?
    Thanks in advance.

  21. hi we are also having this issue with the same firmware mentioned by Brian Tate (-“kernel= must be set in /boot.cfg. Fatal error: 32 (Syntax)”). We updated the firmware and are testing.. any updates ?

  22. I will definitely do that. I have some other things to run by you guys as we are really stuck.

    1. The mac pro has officially passed all osx tests by a certified tech.
    2. When we boot esxi in our pre deployment lab on this 2017 mac pro it works fine. We can even reboot it with out issues.
    3. We then move the mac pro into a sonnet case and continue to rebooting in the lab and its fine.
    4. We then move the mac pro into the data center and it crashed like clockwork. It comes up with different errors depending on the version of esxi.

    We are stumped on what it could be. How can it work in our pre deployment lab fine and be rebooted , have the power cord out and plugged back in and still boots? Once moved into our data center it fails to boot immediately.

    Here are the list of errors:

    ESXi 6.5 : Failed to mount boot tardisks.
    ESXi 6.5 : fatal error: 32 ( syntax )
    ESXi 6.0 Key error ‘Bootstate’
    Esxi 6.7: Error loading /state.tgz / fatal error: 6

    Again its only crashing when moved to the data center.

  23. OK so its not the hardware, We installed osx on it and rebooted it in the data center and its up. Its something with VMware as stated by @tateconcepts .. firmware perhaps, however we have the exact same mac pro beside it running the same firmware and its fine… ???

    • Claudio – As I’ve mentioned to others, if you’re having issues, please file an SR w/VMware Support so that they can assist you and pull in right resources

Thanks for the comment!