Fixing broken Realtek and Marvell NICs in ESXi 5.5.

So, you’ve heard about the newest bling on the market. All the cool kids have it. Basically the Reebok Pumps of the virtualization world. You want to upgrade to ESXi 5.5. You installed a fresh copy and the network card that used to work in 5.1 doesn’t seem to work. If you upgraded, it seems to work? Say what?! You’re not alone and your eyes are not deceiving you. If you built a home lab similar to mine, you’re in the same situation. VMware removed some very useful drivers from the 5.5 build. Drivers that us home lab people live and die by, but it’s very easy to get them back.


If you have an ESXi host running 5.1 and you want to be sure that the network is supported after install, do an upgrade and not a fresh install. Unless you want to just create an iso with everything in it. (More on that in a bit…)

Update existing 5.1 install.

With your host connected to the internet, you’ll want to fire up your favorite ssh client and ssh to your host and run these vCLI commands.

What you’re doing is opening the firewall and downloading and applying the new 5.5 image profile. This will ensure that the driver you were using will still work. I’ve been told that booting off the 5.5 disc and selecting upgrade also works. I used to do
my old whiteboxes that way and it worked. I can’t confirm it though, I use the other method below. For now, some simple vCLI action will take care of it without the need to burn a CD.

esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
esxcli software profile update -d -p ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard

Doing a fresh install with custom 5.5 iso.

So you’re probably still reading this post because you either a.) didn’t find the post before you decided to do a fresh install or b.) want to just build an iso you can use in the future just in case.


So pat yourself on the back. You get some extra steps and hey, maybe you’ll learn something new. We’re going to bust out some PowerCLI ninja action. What we need to do now is create a custom ESXi 5.5 image that you can do a fresh install with that will include the drivers that used to be built in and work in the last version. /sigh. The life of an IT guy.

What we’re going to use here is a tool called ImageBuilder. It’s a fully supported tool by VMware (check out the documentation links here). It was created for things like this to keep the vanilla ESXi lightweight and give YOU the flexibility to add in any drivers you might need.

  1. Download PowerCLI from the VMware site here.
  2. Open PowerCLI (run as Administrator) and run the following commands below. It’s important to run as Administrator because you’ll likely get permission errors trying to write the iso on the last step otherwise.
  3. Take note while running each line. Some are for certain drivers you may or may not need.
#If you've never used PowerCLI before, set the ExecutionPolicy to RemoteSigned. Skip this step if you have already.
Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned 
#Makes sure the ImageBuilder snapin is added.
Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder
#Connects to the software depot. Takes a few seconds to connect.
#Takes the standard ESXi 5.5 iso and clones it so we can essentially slipstream in the missing drivers.
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard" -name "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -vendor "withNICs" 
#Use these two for broken Realtek adapters.
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -SoftwarePackage "net-r8168"
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -SoftwarePackage "net-r8169"
#Use these two for broken Marvell adapters.
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -SoftwarePackage "net-sky2"
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -SoftwarePackage "net-s2io" 
#Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient.
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox" -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox.iso

Once that’s all done, you should have a custom iso file located at: C:\ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox.iso. Burn it and boot! Boom, you’ve got your NICs and ESXi 5.5! Not to mention, you probably can run faster now that you’ve got your Reebok Pumps.

This entry was posted in Networking, vSphere 5.5, Whitebox. Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to Fixing broken Realtek and Marvell NICs in ESXi 5.5.

  1. Pingback: The Perfect VMware vSphere 5 Home Lab | Ryan Birk – Virtual Insanity

  2. tarlcabot says:

    I just tried updating one of my hosts using Update manager image upload option on my Shuttle SH67H3 with the RealTek imbedded nic and the Intel dual port 1g. Did NOT select the option to remove 3rd party drivers, so figured I’d be good to go…not.

    I’m watching the boot up with glee, until it dumped out with a error message stating the NIC specified was not found, hope that it would just continue the boot process, but no – black screen with a bunch of code pumping out the aforementioned error message.

    So I will try your method on my other Shuttle, that way I don’t have to recreate the whole landscape again from scratch.

    Wish I could have found your site first…lol

  3. tarlcabot says:

    Ok, what I’m all good now. Did the vcli update for my other ESXi server, which completed with no problems. Then burned a CD as stated above, went back to my failed ESXi installed and went into recovery mode, flipped back to the other ESXi bank, rebooted and it came up fine in the older module. I then used the CD and did an in place upgrade on that server and I can confirm it works like a charm!

    So I now have both ESXi’s and VC up to the latest version…thanks for your post, definitely would have been lost without it!

  4. Dave says:

    Hi! Im cannot download the imagebuilder. Are there any source aside to the source provided in the link?

  5. ruben says:

    Anyone else getting the “Initializing ACPI” problem?

    I updated the bios on my shuttle to the latest and greatest and did a fresh install using the white box iso

    Install works great, but it never gets past the acpi error after the initial reboot

    • Ryan Birk says:

      I have not seen it. Are you on an SH67H3 and what BIOS version are you running?

    • Keith says:

      I used this page to build an esxi 5.5 box and ran into this problem. It had me chasing my tail for a couple of days, but the solution was here:

      In a nutshell, the Shuttle box (BIOS from 4/2013) wouldn’t boot using the UEFI-based USB drive. I had to stop using unetbootin and use a tool called Rufus that let me choose a setting that set up a Master Boot Record (MBR). Yes, like the old-school MBR.

      Honestly I’m not sure why that worked since I haven’t paid attention to boot loading or the development of UEFI in years, but I’m happy enough to have my <$1,000 machine up and producing very little heat or noise.

  6. Joe T says:

    I have an ESXi box very similar to your setup. SH673 BIOS 2.04 running Intel Sandy Bridge i5 and 32GiB of RAM. I was running 5.0 with zero issues. Now I’ve tried to upgrade to 5.1 and now 5.5 and with both those versions, none of my VM’s will load past the Windows splash screen. It will just sit there and churn. It seems like if I leave it running for a day it will eventually start but it’s not normal and the VM is not very responsive. I’ve troubleshot just about everything and cannot figure out why i cannot run VM’s in 5.1 or greater. ESXi is running on a 4GB USB flash disk and my VM’s are on a Synology NAS box running NFS. Have you run into this before?

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Never ran into any issues myself. I’m on a different NAS though. You might try doing a Storage vMotion and try a different disk, check latency, etc. Sounds like a datastore issue to me.

      • Joe T says:

        I found the problem. It was an incompatibility with the firmware on my Synology DS412+ NAS box and vSphere 5.1. It’s well documened and a firmware upgrade on my NAS box solved the problem.

  7. Rob Ford says:

    Thanks very much, Ryan, this post really helped me out getting my homelab upgraded successfully 🙂

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  9. ACanadian says:

    Thanks for the great post Ryan, I am working on setting up my home lab. Was making good progress, then I got stuck. I’ve updated the firmware on my shuttles, and I’ve created a custom ISO of ESXi 5.5 as per your instructions. I pop the freshly burnt USB key into the front port of the shuttle and fire it up. Everything starts up nicely, until I get to the screen the says “Welcome to the ESXi 5.5 Installer”, I am asked to press Enter to continue. I am NOT able to press enter, the keyboard is no longer functioning. I’ve tried different usb keyboards, all with the same result. It seems as if ESXi 5.5 has lost connectivity with the USB ports?

    • ACanadian says:

      Trick was to use a USB 2.0 port on the shuttle….. I wish I could get those hours back… unbelievable!

      • Ryan Birk says:

        Haha, I was going to say try the USB 2.0 ports but you beat me to it.

        • ACanadian says:

          Ya, that really is all it takes. I also noticed that ESXi 5.5 couldn’t detect a usb key on a USB 3.0 port for installation either. Though you can boot the shuttle to install ESXi 5.5 from a usb key on a USB 3.0 port. Which is why I was so confused !?!!?

  10. Michael says:

    Hey everyone, I too got stuck on ESXi 5.5 install until finding this article! Thanks Ryan Saved the day there! I however am wondering if anyone else has run into another small issue…Running an ASUS M5A97 with the RTL8111F NIC onboard. The install went well, and all network connections look “up” an connected. Even tested pinging the gateway through the “Test Management Network” and it tested fine. BUT then whenever I try to connect using vSphere client it finds the ESXi Host but as soon as it goes to “Loading Inventory” it stalls and times out.. Then after that to get any connectivity I have to completely restart the server.

    Its very strange, I can even ping the server from my Win7 Workstation but as soon as I try to login with vSphere the connection dies. Any ideas? Any help would be appreciated.

    • Michael says:

      I apologize I am still fairly new to virtualization with ESXi. I am however learning a ton, with your posts Ryan, they are all very informative, so thank you!
      With my issue above would not having a local domain setup cause this kind of issue (lab is currently on a workgroup and DNS is coming from the gateway)? For example one thing I’m seeing is that ESXi is auto populating my ISP as a dsn suffix even if I remove it and leave it blank.

      Also Ryan, as mentioned in one of your other posts I went ahead and purchased an Intel Pro/1000 PT dual port server Adapter(on the way). We’ll see if that makes any difference. So I guess what else in general could I attempt here….Any thoughts?

    • Steve says:

      I’m having a similar problem.. I just had a house fire and lost everything.. I’m starting with new stuff, and was able to get ESXi 5.5 loaded on a new ASUS A88XM-A with instructions here.. The NIC comes up, and I manually configure with an IP address, but it can’t ping anything but itself.. Currently I have it back to back with my laptop with a CAT6 cable which works fine when the same hardware is booted up with a Linux rescue disk, so I know the hardware works. I’m discounting all hostname/suffix/DNS problems because I’m using all IP addresses, and checking even the arp table to prove to myself that they’re not communicating. Link is 1 gig on both sides…

      Can anyone think of a reason that a seemingly “up” NIC on ESXi with a typical address wouldn’t be working?
      Thanks in advance!

  11. chagol says:

    Hi Ryan, thanks for your article. I’m able to install it now. However when I login to console, esxi simply wouldn’t get an ip address from my router. it keeps getting a 169 ip. i tried restarting network management, restarted esx box, changed cable and even the router.

    as a test, i also installed windows 2012 hyper V which seems to pick up an ip address from my router.

    any ideas?


    • Ryan Birk says:

      Sounds like you need to go in and specify which network adapter is your management adapter in the DCUI. That will resolve your issue.

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  14. AJ Decoy says:

    It err’d out on the last command for me:

    PS C:\Windows\system32> Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-1331820
    Export-EsxImageProfile : Parameter set cannot be resolved using the specified n
    amed parameters.
    At line:1 char:23
    + Export-ESXImageProfile <<<< -ImageProfile "ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox"
    + CategoryInfo : InvalidArgument: (:) [Export-EsxImageProfile], P
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : AmbiguousParameterSet,VMware.ImageBuilder.Commands.ExportProfile

    • Ryan Birk says:

      You’re missing the -ExportToISO parameter. Scroll to the right and double check the full line of code. “Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox” -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox.iso”

    • AJ Decoy says:

      oooops, nevermind I didn’t copy the whole command…

  15. Josh Santangelo says:

    Thanks for documenting your solution — I’m new to ESXi and this solved the problem for me.

  16. Greg Link says:

    This was a life saver for helping me setup VMware for my vWLC training. I was struggling with NIC card support and your guide made my job easy.

  17. neil says:

    Thanks very much for this – it made my problems installing ESXI 5.5 on an ASUS M5A78L-M motherboard simply go away!

  18. david D says:

    Hey there,
    I ran the ISO update for a dell xps box with a realtek 8168 nic, I can get passed the install and set up the IP address, but cannot ping out of or into the box. I can see the driver when i do a vib list and lspci shows the nic as a realtek. Any ideas to get the NIC to “wake up” and actually work?

    • Chris L. says:

      Having the exact same issue with a Dell XPS 8700 desktop and a Realtek 8168 NIC. Did you ever come to a resolution?

  19. Tero says:

    Hi, I haven’t played with the ESX for a while and decided finally build my own setup at home. I was struggling with the ESX v.5.5 and my Fujitsu P1510 (mb D2415 with Realtek 8169 NIC) for a while and I thought the nic was broken. Googling around reveled Vmware has lightened the support of drivers in the basic image. I found this guide and created the custom build iso with the PowerCLI and it worked like a charm, Fujitsu is running now the v.5.5.

    Thanks Ryan, it’s fun to learn something new everyday 🙂 !

  20. Stanley says:

    Hello I just installed ESX 5.5 on to the IBM 3650 M4 Servers. Having trouble with my network connectivity. When I set up my static address and the my domain controllers ip addresses. The test fails for all three. I mirror everything that I did on the other server rack for ESX 5.1. Is there something that I miss.

  21. Mike Kolling says:

    Excuse my esxi ignorance, I have built the home lab with the dual port Intel card and its running esxi 5.5 with that but I would like to now get the inbuilt Realtek card running as well to have a spare NIC port.
    Do I need to completely reinstall VMware esxi or can I not just retro add the drivers afterwards and install the card?
    How do you download drivers and updates to the ESXI machine?
    Any hints would be most appreciated!

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Mike, yes you can add them after the fact. Follow the first portion of this post. If you do an upgrade via the first method, the drivers stay intact. So you don’t need to mess with them.

  22. dev says:

    Hey Ryan,
    I was trying to install ESXi 5.1 ony my labserver but kept getting those “network adapters not detected” errors and my installation didnt progress. my home lab has a Gigabyte GA-Q87M-MK 4DDR31600 RAID PCIE3.0 SATA3 USB3 mATX HDMI DVI DP GbE motherboard with Intel Core i7 4770 LGA1150 CPU. I tried to burn the custom ESXi 5.5 using the powecli method you explained above, but that didnt help still. could you pls suggest if I am missing anything. do I need another set of network drivers to be added when i run the PwrCLI commands..??
    any help is appreciated.. thnks

    • Ryan Birk says:

      Unfortunately, with all the various hardware it’s hard to say what might be going on. Some hardware doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as others in regards to ESXi.

  23. alessandro abram says:

    Fine, the second time I have tried it worked. But the problem is:why Vmware cancel realtek driver from 5.5 iso? Why ict life is so complicated?
    thank you

  24. eksbs says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I have question for you, I have same hardware as you and I was able to install 5.5 and it works fine, but my issue is that (this is nested env.), I cannot get my VM to access network. It is same issue with Bridge, NAT or host only adapter. My ESXi host gets IP from any adapter and works just fine, but my guest VM will get an IP but cannot ping gateway. For example my host has NAT address of 192.168.166.x and my guest VM will get DHCP address of 192.168.166.y but it cannot ping gateway of but can ping ESXi host 192.168.166.x.

    Have you see this before?

  25. Rich says:

    I must be doing something wrong. I used the script and it created the ISO, which I then burned using Rufus, but I still get the “No Network Adapters” error when I try to install.

    Motherboard = ASUS P6TD Deluxe
    Onboard NICs = Marvell Yukon 88E8056

    Is there any hope for me? 🙁

  26. Jason says:

    Very cool. Definitely going to try this so I can use the onboard NIC, giving me 3 total NIC’s.

    If i might ask, is their a library or documents of some sort that you can reference when building in the drivers? For instance, your line here:

    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-Whitebox” -SoftwarePackage “net-r8168”

    Adds the realtek driver, but how did you know to specify that exact driver? Just trying to figure that out so I can learn more about customizing my .iso image.

    Thanks. Great stuff.



    • Jason says:

      Ahhh..answered my own question. Just queried the software depot to get a list. Pretty cool. With that in mind, with your steps above, the initial steps, does that grab all the drivers, then you add the realtek drivers? Guess I need to read more to understand what is and is not included at the start. Very cool stuff. 🙂

  27. John Fahey says:

    New to this …am trying my first install of ESX 5.5. I have downloaded the
    VMware-PowerCLI-5.5.0-1295336.exe. But went I execute the install it fails indicating it can’t download the required file from the windows site It is April 8th 2014. It it possible windows install can tell I am running on XP and is dropping support?

    Anyone else have problems installing PowerCLI tonight ? Need this to get my first install going as install dies due to lack of a matching Marvell NIC driver available.

  28. John Fahey says:

    email correction

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  30. Sascha Mayer says:

    Thanks for that great tutorial. I’m still on 4.1 and wanted to make a clean new install. Did everything you wrote, got the image, burnt it and -> No Network Adapters <- 🙁 It's a Marvell Yukon 88E8057. Any ideas what to do? Tried to google and found some posts, but all without success 🙁 Any ideas? Thank you for your replies 😉

  31. Pingback: Install ESXi 5.5 on MacPro3,1 with dead onboard Ethernet and a Marvel 88E8053 PCI card. | oemden

  32. Richard C says:

    Now that we’re up to ESXi 5.5 Update 2, is there a new -CloneProfile parameter to use to get update 2?

    Is there a PowerCLI command that lists all of the available profiles?

    Is there a PowerCLI command that lists all of the available software packages?

    Thanks for your help. This article has been the most straightforward way to get around this problem.

  33. Kyro says:

    Thanks a lot !

    To keep your methode but use the last version use the following.

    To know the last build version : Get-EsxImageProfile -name “ESXi-5.5.*” | select name

    using this cmdlet, i found the last version is : 20141004001
    So I just replace it in your proposal:

    New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-standard” -name “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox” -vendor “withNICs”
    #Use these two for broken Realtek adapters.
    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox” -SoftwarePackage “net-r8168”
    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox” -SoftwarePackage “net-r8169”
    #Use these two for broken Marvell adapters.
    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox” -SoftwarePackage “net-sky2”
    Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox” -SoftwarePackage “net-s2io”
    #Take our newly modified profile and spit out an iso to use. This will take a few minutes. Be patient.
    Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile “ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox” -ExportToISO -filepath C:\ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-Whitebox.iso

  34. Daniel Kadane says:

    Thank you very much for this.

    Your steps made it extremely easy to add the necessary drivers.

    Now to get my home lab under way!

    Thanks again.

  35. alessandro says:

    hi! why i get this error:

    PowerCLI C:\esxi> New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile “VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.
    5.0.update02-2068190.x86_64.iso” -name “VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.5.0.update02-
    2068190.x86_64-2.iso” -vendor “withNICs”
    New-EsxImageProfile : Impossibile elaborare la trasformazione degli argomenti
    nel parametro ‘CloneProfile’. Cannot convert length string (e=”Image) to a
    In riga:1 car:35
    + New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile
    “VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.5.0.update02-20681 …
    + CategoryInfo : InvalidData: (:) [New-EsxImageProfile], Paramete
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : ParameterArgumentTransformationError,VMware.Imag

    PowerCLI C:\esxi>

    thank you very much!!

  36. UncleDan says:

    Same as above, which is update 2 profile name. Thanks in advance.

  37. Robert says:

    Hello, I’m hoping someone can help me out. I’m looking to purchase a machine to make my very first Vmware lab and I am deciding between the NUC I7 variety and the Shuttle SZ87R6 which has two Realtek 8111G nics. I will be installing a fresh Vsphere 6.0 image.

    Will these instructions work with a fresh install of Vsphere 6.0?
    If it doesn’t work can i install Esxi on top of a Windows or Linux install?


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  40. Krishna says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Great post.
    What’s the process to identify the required driver name?

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