VMware ESXi on Mac Pro 3,1

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Installing VMware ESXi on Apple hardware can be tricky, especially on older hardware. This page describes how to get a modern (ish) version of ESXi to work correctly on a Mac Pro 3,1 (early 2008).

To start you will need a free VMware account and access to https://my.vmware.com/

Downloading ESXi

  1. Go to https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/details?downloadGroup=ESXI650&productId=614 and log in if required
  2. Select "6.5.0" in the Select Version dropdown
  3. Next to "VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi ISO) image (Includes VMware Tools)" click Download Now
    You will now have the file "VMware-VMvisor-Installer-6.5.0-4564106.x86_64.iso" (sha1 4b71e69c606a54ae1c4b34341e341f1f6786d7b2)
  4. Burn the ISO image to a CD or DVD disc, or use a tool like rufus or Etcher to create a bootable USB stick.

Installing ESXi

  1. Power on your Mac Pro and hold Option until the boot device selection appears.
  2. Insert the CD/DVD/USB stick for ESXi.
  3. Select EFI Boot on the right using the arrow keys or mouse and press return
    Macpro 31 vmware 1.png
  4. The ESXI Installer will now start.
    Macpro 31 vmware 2.png
  5. The installer will take 5-10 minutes to fully load.
    Macpro 31 vmware 3.png
    Macpro 31 vmware 4.png
  6. Once loaded press Enter to continue.
    Macpro 31 vmware 5.png
  7. Press F11 (volume down) to confirm you have read the EULA.
    Macpro 31 vmware 6.png
  8. The installer will now scan for disks.
    Macpro 31 vmware 7.png
  9. Select the disk you would like to install to and press Enter
    Macpro 31 vmware 8.png
    Note: If the disk is not blank VMware ESXi may refuse to install. Boot macOS or a linux Live CD and use dd to overwrite the beginning of the disk. This process is not covered here.
  10. Choose your keyboard layout and press Enter
    Macpro 31 vmware 9.png
  11. Enter a password to use for the root user account then press Enter to continue.
    Macpro 31 vmware 10.png
  12. The installer will do another hardware check.
    Macpro 31 vmware 11.png
  13. You will receive a warning that the CPU "may" be unsupported in future ESXi releases. This is the last release that will work. Press Enter to continue.
    Macpro 31 vmware 12.png
  14. Press F11 to confirm you want to install.
    Macpro 31 vmware 13.png
  15. ESXi 6.5.0 will now be installed.
    Macpro 31 vmware 14.png
  16. When installation is complete remove the CD/DVD/Usb stick and press Enter to reboot.
    Macpro 31 vmware 15.png
    Macpro 31 vmware 16.png
  17. After rebooting VMware ESXi will automatically start.
    Macpro 31 vmware 17.png
    Macpro 31 vmware 18.png
  18. ESXi will automatically be assigned an IP address from your network using DHCP
    Macpro 31 vmware 19.png

Accessing the ESXi web interface

  1. Using a computer on the same network and a web browser go to the URL shown on the ESXi status screen.
    Macpro 31 vmware UI 1.png
  2. ESXi uses a self signed SSL certificate. To bypass the warning click Show Details and then visit this website. On the security popup confirm by clicking Visit Website
    Macpro 31 vmware UI 2.png
  3. At the prompt enter the username root and the password you set during the installation process and then click Log in
    Macpro 31 vmware UI 3.png
  4. Welcome to VMware ESXi 6.5.0 on your Mac Pro!
    Macpro 31 vmware UI 4.png

From this point forward ESXi will function normally and you should now install the free license available from VMware under your account page.

Because this is the last build of ESXi that supports this hardware you can not install any ESXi updates or you risk ESXi crashing on startup as shown below.

Macpro 31 vmware crash.png