Create an ESXi 6.0U2 installation ISO with Realtek 8168 Drivers

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02/2021 Update – I was asked to try these steps with ESXi 7.x and I can confirm this driver will not work. I stopped running Realtek NICs quite a while ago.  It’s not an issue with the steps but with ESXi 7.0.  It does not support drivers with Linux dependencies. The driver ‘net55-r8168 8.045a-napi’ has a Linux dependence that is not part of ESXi 7.0 and this is why it will not install.  See the error message below.  If you want to install ESXi 7.0, I’d recommend going with NIC that is on the VMware HCL or very close to it.

Add-EsxSoftwarePackage : VIB Realtek_bootbank_net55-r8168_8.045a-napi requires vmkapi_2_2_0_0, but the requirement cannot be satisfied within the ImageProfile.

09/2019 Update – I have created a updated blog and video showing how to create custom ISOs for ESXi.  Though it doesn’t include the Realtek drivers, one could use it for the same purpose.  Check it out here – Create-an-esxi-installation-iso-with-custom-drivers-in-9-easy-steps


ESXi no longer supports Realtek Network drivers nor are they included on the installation ISO.  However, if you want to install ESXi 5.x and 6.x (7.x is not supported) with the Realtek drivers, then users will have to create a custom ISO. Keep in mind these drivers are NOT supported by VMware and should be used at your own risk.  Normally, I would use my trusty ESXi-Customizer GUI program but it is no longer supported for ESXi 6.  In replacement they offer a CLI supported program. However, instead of learning another 3rd party tool I’d rather rely on the VMware tools provided to me. VMware enables users to create custom ISOs via PowerCLI and in this blog I’ll explain how I used PowerCLI create my ISO. Keep in mind these are the steps that worked for me and your environment may vary.

NOTE: These steps do not work with ESXi 7.0.

— Required Tools and Files —

To get started you will need two files and PowerCLI Installed on a Windows PC.  You can skip these steps if you have the ESXi Offline Bundle, PowerCLI installed, and the RealTek Drivers.

STEP1: File 1: Download VMware 6.0U2 Offline Bundle ZIP >> www.vmware.com/download

STEP 2: File 2: Download RealTek 8186 Offline bundle >> https://vibsdepot.v-front.de/wiki/index.php/Net55-r8168

STEP 3: If you haven’t yet download and install PowerCLI >> https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/automationtools/powercli

Tip: If you don’t know PowerCLI try starting here

STEP 4: Next Place the files from Step 1 and 2 into c:\tmp folder

–POWERCLI COMMANDS—

Now that you have your files and PowerCLI ready follow these steps.  For the steps below I included a screenshot and the actual commands. This will allow you to copy, paste, and edit these commands directly into your environment.

STEP 1: Open PowerCLI (Tip: If you don’t know PowerCLI try starting here)

STEP 2: Add ESXi 6.0u2 and RealTek8186 products to the local Software Depot (Tip: All commands below assume your files are located in the c:\tmp folder)

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\tmp\update-from-esxi6.0-6.0_update02.zip

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\tmp\net55-r8168-8.039.01-napi-offline_bundle.zip

STEP 3: Confirm the products are in the depot

Get-EsxSoftwareDepot

STEP 4:  List out the ESXi Image Profiles

Get-EsxImageProfile

TIP: Use ‘Get-EsxImageProfile | select name’ for a better view of the list.

STEP 5:  Create a Clone Image to be modified – Ensure you are targeting the “ESXi…..standard” profile from STEP 4

New-EsxImageProfile -cloneprofile ESXi-6.0.0-20160302001-standard -Name “RealTek8186a”

Forward-Looking Tip: Whatever ‘-Name’ you choose, it will show up in your boot ISO

STEP 6: You’ll have 2 entries in this step.  First,  we’ll Set the Acceptance Level to Community Supported (Remember RealTek is unsupported by VMware, hence “community supported”) and Second, for the ImageProfile you’ll enter the ‘-Name’ you choose in Step 5.

Set-EsxImageProfile -Name RealTek8186a -AcceptanceLevel CommunitySupported

For ImageProfile Enter the ‘-Name’ you choose in Step 5. I entered – RealTek8186a

STEP 7: Ensure the RealTek ‘net55-r8186’ driver is loaded from the local depot (Screenshot shortened)

Get-EsxSoftwarePackage

STEP 8: 3 Entries on this step.  First, we add the RealTek software package to the profile. Second, we put in the ImageProfile ‘-Name’ from step 5, and third we enter the SoftwarePackage name.

Add-EsxSoftwarePackage

ImageProfile: RealTek8186a

SoftwarePackage[0]: net55-r8168 8.039.01-napi

Tip: For the SoftwarePackage you MUST enter the full name, if you just use the short name it will not work

STEP 9: Validate the RealTek drivers are now part of the RealTek8186a Profile (Screenshot shortened)

(Get-EsxImageProfile “RealTek8186a”).viblist

STEP 10: Export the profile to an ISO

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile “RealTek8186a” -ExportToIso -FilePath c:\tmp\RealTek8186a.iso

And that’s it… You should find your new ISO in the c:\tmp folder.  From here you can burn your ISO to a media of your choice or boot the ISO via ilo, iDRAC, virtual media etc.

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

17 thoughts on “Create an ESXi 6.0U2 installation ISO with Realtek 8168 Drivers

    Richard Powers said:
    January 10, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    I know this is older blog post but I like the quick to the point blog posts.

    Thx

    RichPo

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      January 21, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      You are very welcome Mr. Powers, and you hit on the point of my no-nonsense blog – my posts get right to the point and leave out the fluff! Feel free to reach out any time.

      Like

    Navel said:
    April 9, 2018 at 2:45 am

    Thankz Mat , this is just what i needed. Been looking for almost 2 hours before I found your tutorial.
    Indeed the “no-nonse, straight to the point” approach is in my opinion the best. Lots should take learning from this.
    I sure will come back to check the rest of your blog. First gonna install ESX.

    Cheers,
    Navelpluiz.

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      April 9, 2018 at 9:31 am

      You are very welcome and thank you for taking the time to post up.

      Like

    Ben said:
    May 13, 2018 at 1:43 am

    Hi, Where would I find an ISO file with the realtek drivers already injected. that would be most useful…

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      May 17, 2018 at 8:43 am

      I believe, and don’t quote me on this, the last time RealTek was part of the VMware ISO was vSphere 5.1. After that the RealTek Drivers were no longer supported with ESXi and everyone with a non-production Home labs have been injecting them ever since. I don’t recall why they were removed from the vSphere line and I have not heard of their return. Best bet for compatibility is to buy Intel or Broadcom NICs.

      Like

    Wilstay said:
    August 13, 2018 at 5:32 am

    I downloaded net55-r8168-8.039.01-napi offline bundle by improvising the URL. But got stuck at the same spot like before (at step #7). Then I decided to try my luck with esxi-customizer gui method which was not working at all previously. This time I tried with esxi 6.7 latest iso with vib extracted from net55-r8168-8.045a bundle. It worked like a charm. Following is the URL. Please note that customizer doesn’t run in Windows 10. You need to alter one line in cmd file (please google).

    https://tinkertry.com/use-esxi-customizer-gui-to-inject-multiple-driver-vibs-into-your-esxi-installer-iso

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      September 24, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Thanks for the comment. Yep, mine post was around ESXi 6.0, so I’m glad you found a way to get it working with ESXi 6.7

      Like

    Yussuf Rajab said:
    September 24, 2018 at 5:23 am

    please provide the iso image you have created. That way will be super easy

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      September 24, 2018 at 10:01 am

      Thanks for the comment. Supplying a ISO that is modified is a great idea… However, it would be a violation of licensing and re-distributions agreements so legally I cannot.

      Like

    Mocha Emiro said:
    October 8, 2018 at 8:24 am

    this is the best, quick tutorial of crafting custom iso for ESXi.
    i use this for my 6.5 version.

    I hope will find success.

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      October 10, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      Thank you for the comment. I do appreciate it! If there is anything I can do to improve the blog post please do let me know.

      Like

    Thanh Hieu said:
    August 15, 2019 at 1:02 am

    Thank you so much, your tutorial is quickly and easy to doing.

    Like

    Rene said:
    February 20, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    I am trying this for hourt now, alle works as described exept the softwarepackage.

    Whatever combination i try, i always get this error.

    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage : Cannot add VIB ‘net55-r8168 8.045a-napi Realtek’ which is not in the depot

    I use the latest VMware-ESXi-7.0U1c-17325551-depot.zip

    Like

      Matt Mancini responded:
      February 20, 2021 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks for the comment, I’ll follow up in an email and see if I can help you.

      Like

    Sam said:
    March 2, 2021 at 3:18 am

    Hello Matt, I really appreciated this article. Finally, I could install ESXi 6.0 on my Dell Optiplex 3010.

    Like

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