How to Install your first VMware ESX Server Guest Operating System

VMware ESX Server is free to download, evaluate, and install a guest operating system inside. Whether you are evaluating it or you have purchased it, in this article you will find out how easy it is to install a new guest operating & your first virtual machine.

How do you download and evaluate VMware ESX Server?

If you already have VMware ESX Server installed, you can skip to forward two paragraphs. If you do not yet have VMware ESX Server, it is free to download and evaluate. To do this, go to Evaluate VMware ESX Server & the VMware Infrastructure Suite. While I am not going to go into Virtual Center and the rest of the features of the VMware Infrastructure Suite in this article, for more information on what the Suite had to offer you and its Advanced features, see my article: Understanding VMware ESX Server Advanced Features.

What do you need to know before you install VMware ESX Server?

Before installing VMware ESX Server, you should know that it has some specific hardware requirements and it won’t install on any PC or laptop. Make sure that the hardware you will be installing it on is on the VMware Hardware Compatibility List.

One more thing that you should know is that there are two versions of VMware ESX Server. There is the traditional “full” version with the service console installed. That version is ESX Server 3.x. The alternative is the “thin” version, VMware ESXi. Unless you have a need for ESX 3.x, I would recommend ESXi just because it is smaller, easier to install, and quicker to boot.

To learn how to install VMware ESXi, visit my article: How to Install VMware ESXi Server.

For more information on the various VMware ESX Server options and VMware Infrastructure suites and the costs associated with them, please see the VMware Product Index.

Installing your first Guest Operating System in VMware ESX Server

To create a new virtual machine in ESX Server by installing your first guest, just follow these simple steps.

  1. Open your VMware Infrastructure Client (VI Client). Right-click on your ESX Server and select New Virtual Machine

Figure 1: Select New Virtual Machine

  1. Choose to create a Typical virtual machine in order to reduce the number of questions you will have to answer in order to create the new VM and click Next.
  2. Next, give the new VM a name. In my case, I called the new VM “”, and clicked Next.

Figure 2:
Naming the new VM

  1. Select the Datastore that this new VM will be install into. In my case, I just used the local storage on my ESX Server, and clicked Next.
  2. Choose the operating system that you will be installing. In my case, I chose Windows XP Pro 32-bit, and clicked Next.

Figure 3:
Selecting the type of Guest OS

  1. Choose the number of Virtual Processors. In my case, I stuck with the default of 1, and clicked Next.
  2. Select the amount of RAM that this new Guest VM will have. In my case, I stuck with 256MB of RAM for the new Windows XP VM.

Figure 4:
Selecting the amount of RAM for the new Guest VM

  1. Choose the number of virtual NICs and the virtual networks that the vNICs will be attached to. I took the defaults.
  2. Now, choose the amount of disk space that will be allocated to the guest virtual disk. In my case, I took the default of 8GB.

Figure 5:
Selecting the amount of disk space allocated to the new VM

  1. Finally, review the settings configured for the new guest VM. If they are all correct, click Finish.

Figure 6:
Verifying settings for new virtual machine

  1. Verify that the new Virtual machine was successfully created.
  2. Before booting the new VM, you need to attached the Windows XP installation media (CDROM) to the new virtual machine. To do this, select the new guest VM, then click Edit Virtual Machine Settings.

Figure 7: Edit Virtual Machine Settings

  1. In the virtual machine properties, click on the Virtual CD/DVD Drive. In my case, I have the Windows XP installation media in an ISO file and stored on the ESX server’s local data store. I clicked on Datastore ISO file, and browsed to the Windows XP ISO file. Finally, I clicked, Connect at power on, then OK.

Figure 8:
Editing CD/DVD Drive, using ISO file, and Connecting at Power On

  1. Now that we are ready to install the operating syste, Power On the new Virtual machine and go to the Console so that you can go through the installation process.
  2. Because the installation media was connected at power on, the Windows CD should boot automatically, inspect the hardware, and begin loading files for Windows Setup. It is very important that you PRESS F6, when you see the “press F6 to load a SCSI driver”. This is because ESX will use a Buslogic SCSI driver, by default and you will need to direct the installer to the Buslogic driver.

Figure 9:
Press “S” to specify a SCSI driver

Once you see the screen above, press “S” to specify a SCSI driver.

  1. You will need to download the VMware SCSI Drivers and have this file available on your system.
  2. Now, click on the Connect Floppy button on your VI Client Toolbar and select the VMware SCSI Drivers FLP file that you downloaded. Go back to the Windows XP screen to INSERT FLOPPY AND PRESS ENTER, and Press Enter.

Figure 10:
VMware SCSI Driver Found

Now, Press Enter, then Press Enter again.

  1. You should now see the normal Window XP Setup / Install screen, below. Press Enter to being the setup.

Figure 11:
The Windows XP setup process begins, press Enter

Now, follow the typical Windows XP installation procedure. This includes pressing F8 to accept the license agreement, choosing to install Windows XP in the only partition available, pressing “C” to create a partition, pressing enter to create the partition, and then pressing enter to install the operating system. Choose to Format the partition (Quick) using the NTFS file system.

  1. Once the file copy has completed, Windows XP will restart. At that point, make sure you disconnect the virtual floppy disk. Once Windows XP restarts, you will answer the typical Windows XP setup questions and your new Windows XP VMware ESX Server Guest will be ready for use! Here is what my completed installation looks like:

Figure 12:
Windows XP successfully installed inside VMware ESX Server as a new VM

  1. And finally, once the new VM is up and running, don’t forget to install the VMware Tools on the VM to improve performance and provide some great features!


In this article, I covered step by step, how to install a new guest operating system in VMware ESX Server. We started with where to download and evaluate VMware ESX Server, provided information on what to watch out for when installing ESX Server, and moved on to how to install a new guest VM. We had to make sure to watch out for how to provide the VMware SCSI drivers for Windows XP or else the XP installer would say that it has no disks available for the installation. After following the procedure, step by step, our new Virtual Machine Guest OS is ready for use!

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