With all my other hobbies like 3D printing, micro-controllers, and DJ-ing I’m quickly running out of space at home. My kids insist that the house not be used as a man cave, so I’ve ended up with numerous sheds in the garden. I have a beefy lab with four servers totaling 320GB of RAM and couldn’t justify buying into the whole Intel NUC way of life. Now I want to downsize, so I have invested in my first NUC. I cannot afford at £750 a pop to replace all my servers in one go, but the idea is one at a time. I purchased a bare-bones NUC10 core i7 with 64GB of RAM. I knew I needed at least 2 NICs, so following William Lam’s blog, I purchased a StarTech USB NIC.
The first step was to install the memory, which was very straight forward. Undo the 4 screws on the bottom of the NUC, and that exposed the motherboard. Just a case of inserting the 2 x 32GB DDR4 memory sticks. I did notice that this NUC can take both SATA and NVMe disks. I needed neither since, in my lab, I always boot ESXi from USB disk.
The next thing I had to do was prepare a custom iso as I’d read on William Lam’s blog to make the StarTech USB NIC work I would have to install the Native USB NIC drivers, which were a FLING. So I downloaded ESXi-Customiser so I could easily make a new ESXi 7 iso that had the USB driver embedded into it. ESX-Customiser is no longer developed but still work if you hacked the .cmd file to stop it checking for a windows version by adding a REM statement at the beginning:
The idea is you point it as an existing iso file of ESXi and then the driver you want to include in .vib or .zip format press go, and it makes a new iso file for you.
The next step is to use RUFUS to create a bootable USB disk with the ESXi 7 iso on it so you can install it from the USB key. Select the USB key you want to use and select the newly created iso file. Make sure you have “MBR” and “Boot or UEFI” selected. Click start, and Rufus will create the bootable ESXi7 USB key for you.
Now for me, I had another USB disk, which I plan to install ESXi on. I inserted both USB keys into the NUC and powered it on. ESXi 7 started to install, but seconds later, I got a PSOD with an error saying failed to verify signatures of the following vibs… it was not happy with the USB native driver.
The workaround was to disable Secure Boot in the BIOS, and the install continued on. The next issue I got was the installation couldn’t find the onboard NIC. I have been in this situation tons of times with home lab installs. The issue (from memory) is VMware includes server-grade NIC drivers and not desktop drivers by default. So the Intel NE1000 driver baked into the ESXi iso was for the server version. I had to downgrade the driver with the one found >HERE< . Now the install worked and both NICs could be seen by the newly installed ESXi 7.
As the old adage goes: fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
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Well Friends you may have noticed that I went quiet over the last few months. There is a great reason for that. At the beginning of the Corona outbreak in the UK I turned my attentions to making PPE Face Shields for Nurses, Doctors and Care-workers. Please watch my video story about the whole experience.