With the release of the 2019 Mac Mini the old 2012 quad core Intel workhorse found itself heading for retirement, however with hardware having been upgraded a few times over the years it should still work as a good little ESXi host.
There’s a number of good blog posts out there on how to install ESXi 5.x / 6.x on the Mac Mini, with William Lam’s https://www.virtuallyghetto.com summarising these. The process of installing ESXi 6.7 on the Mac Mini turned out to be very straight forward.
Prepare install USB media
First of all download the ESXi 6.7 install ISO from the VMware site. The VMUG Advantage EvalExperience is a good starting point for access to the full licensed suite for a reasonable cost for home lab usage.
Once the ISO file is available simply follow the instructions on the TechRepublic article https://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-to-create-a-bootable-vmware-esxi-usb-drive-on-macs/ to create the bootable USB media (alternatively do it the old fashioned way with a bootable physical CD/DVD).
Once the USB key is prepared plug it in to the Mac Mini and reboot this. As soon as you hear the startup chime press and hold the option / alt button until the OSX boot manager displays a list of devices – then select the “EFI boot” option.
The ESXi 6.7 installation is the standard installation procedure – please check the vSphere 6.7 installation documentation.
Accessing the ESXi hypervisor
The ESXi embedded host client has been included in the ESXi installation since version 6.0.x, hence the ESXi installation gives direct access to the GUI after install.
The host client allows simplified access to most functions – however these are in the context of the ESXi host and does not give the full VirtualCentre feature set:
- General host management
- Datastore management
- Network configuration
As per the pictures above my Mac Mini has both a smaller 256Gb SSD disk and a 1TB SATA disk – the latter was formatted and configured as a VMFS volume direction from the host client, with no need to drop down to esxcli / command line.
In addition the usual troubleshooting options in the ESXi console (ESXi shell / SSH access) can also be switched on to allow command line access.
For the last few major versions of VMware Fusion this also allows simplified remote management of ESXi hosts:
The VirtualCentre VCSA appliance is imported as per standard procedure using the “create / register VM” import wizard. Note the considerable hardware requirements, which will take up a lot of resources on the Mac Mini (2vCPU / 10GB RAM / 300GB disk).
Once imported and started the appliance is configured as per the VC installation instructions before the Mac Mini ESXi 6.7 host can be imported.