Running ESXi and vSphere 5.1 in a VMware workstation

In this article I provide the steps needed to run ESXi and vSphere 5.1 on a VM within VMware workstation. The reasons why you would want to do this are for testing, development, learning and portability.

VMware workstation will be installed on a host such as a laptop and the ESXi/vSphere will run on a VM guest within VMware workstation.


The requirements to accomplish this are:

  • INTEL VT or AMD 64bit processor.
  • VMware workstation (a evaluation copy will do).
  • ESXi, ESXi free or vSphere ISO image.
  • Changes to VMX configuration file.

Before we begin the procedure it is advisable to work out what CPU we have installed on our motherboard. To do we can run:

CPU-Z which is downloadable from

Install Procedure

Here is a simplified step by step procedure to reach the end results:

  1. If you have not already done so, download a copy of the ESXi/vSphere ISO image from VMware
  2. Create a VM with OS Red Hat Enterprise 4 64bit.
  3. assign 1 virtual CPU, 2GB RAM (minimum), 1 SCSI disk (40GB).
  4. Edit the CPU and configure INTEL-vt / AMD-v execution mode.
  5. Disable 3-D graphics.
  6. Remove unneeded HW such as Floppy disk, USB and sound card.
  7. Edit the VMX file for the virtual machine:
    1. Close VM workstation completely.
    2. Go to the RHE4 vm files present on your HD.
    3. Open up the VMX file in notepad.
    4. Add the following line anywhere on the file:
  8. Boot the VM from the ESXi/vSphere ISO image
  9. Install the product
  10. Point your vSphere client or web browser to the VM.

Once the above has been done you will also be able to create VM's nested with the newly created ESX host (performance will be very degraded, however it is quite useful to demonstrate the capabilities of ESXi)