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FAQ: VMware vSphere, ESX 4 and vCenter 4 installation

These step-by-step processes for installing vSphere, ESX 4 and vCenter 4 will help you provide valuable virtualization implementation services for your customers.

If your customers are ready to upgrade to VMware vSphere 4, you better know how to perform a successful vSphere installation. Knowing how to perform an ESX 4 and vCenter 4 installation will create opportunities for additional business and will ensure continuous revenue.

In this Project FAQ, vSphere expert Jason Kappel answers frequently asked questions about performing a fresh install instead of an upgrade and explains the step-by-step process for installing vSphere, ESX 4 and vCenter 4.

Read Jason Kappel's answers to other frequently asked questions about comparing vSphere features and editions.

Can solutions providers use their customers' existing hardware when installing vSphere?
Does vSphere need to be a fresh install, or can solutions providers conduct an upgrade of an existing ESX implementation?
What are the steps to do a fresh install of VMware ESX 4?
How do I install vCenter 4?
More resources on vSphere installation
About the expert

1. Can solutions providers use their customers' existing hardware when installing vSphere?

It depends on the hardware that they currently have in their environment. Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) and some earlier VMware products could run on either 32-bit or 64-bit hardware, but vSphere requires 64-bit hardware.

2. Does vSphere need to be a fresh install, or can solutions providers conduct an upgrade of an existing ESX implementation?

You can perform a fresh install of vSphere if your customer has new hardware or if you want to start your customer's virtualization environment over from scratch. If you have an existing VI3 implementation, you can upgrade the existing Virtual Center Server and ESX hosts with certain ESX versions. Solutions providers should know the necessary steps to perform a vSphere upgrade to make sure they are taking advantage of potential business opportunities.

3. What are the steps for doing a fresh install of VMware ESX 4?

First things first: Make sure you have hardware that is on the VMware hardware compatibility list. Then follow the steps below.

  1. Insert the ESX 4 installation media into your customer's server and boot to the media.
  2. When the ESX 4 installation media boot screen comes up, choose to install ESX in graphical mode.
  3. Click Next on the welcome screen.
  4. Accept the license agreement and click Next.
  5. Choose your language and click Next.
  6. The option to install custom drivers is new to ESX 4. Install any drivers you need and click Next.
  7. At the licensing screen, you can choose to either install a serial number for the machine you're installing to now, or you can choose to enter a serial number later if you are going to implement vCenter Server. Once you've made your choice, click Next.
  8. Select the network interface card (NIC) you would like ESX to use for systems tasks. You can also add a virtual local area network ID if it's required. Click Next.
  9. Configure the network settings for the NIC you just selected. You can either select Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) or you can enter in static IP information. In the lower left-hand corner of the network configuration screen, there is a new option to test your settings. When you click the Test these settings button, ESX will connect to the network and make sure there are no conflicts. Once you've configured the IP information and tested your settings, click Next.
  10. You can now choose either the Standard or Advanced options to set up the disk configuration. Choose Standard and click Next.
  11. Select a location to install ESX and then click Next. A data loss warning window will pop up and notify you that anything on the disk you just selected will be erased. Click on OK to continue.
  12. Select the time zone the host will reside in and click Next.
  13. Enter in the address of a network time protocol server, or set the date and time of the ESX host and click Next.
  14. Enter in a password for the root account. I also recommend that you create a normal user that can be used for non-root type activities. You can do this by clicking on Add and entering in a username and password for that user. Click OK and then Next.
  15. Review the installation settings and verify that everything is correct. Then click Next to start the installation.
  16. Once the installation is complete, click Next and then Finish to reboot the system.
  17. Once the host reboots, you can connect to it via the host management website, which can be found at http:host-ip-address, or you can log into the console directly.

4. How do I install vCenter 4?

Make sure you have met vCenter hardware requirements and operation system requirements and that you have installed all prerequisites from the VMware compatibility matrix.

Once you have installed the prerequisites, log on as an administrator to the server you would like to install vCenter on. Then follow these steps:

  1. Start the vCenter setup by running autorun.exe from the installation media.
  2. When the vCenter installer window comes up, choose vCenter Server from the installation menu.
  3. Choose your language and click OK.
  4. Click Next on the welcome screen.
  5. Agree to the licensing agreement and click Next.
  6. Enter in your license key and click Next or just click on Next to install in evaluation mode.
  7. Choose to either install Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express edition or use an existing supported database. If you choose to use a remote database server, you'll need to create a data source name from the Open Database Connectivity ODBC Data Source Administrator in Windows. If you are going to use a remote database server, you must create the database and logs prior to completing the installation of vCenter.
  8. Configure the vCenter Server to either run as a local "SYSTEM" account or as a domain user account. Click Next.
  9. Choose the installation path and click on Next.
  10. Since this is the first vCenter you are creating, choose to Create a standalone VMware vCenter Service Instance and click Next.
  11. Verify the port numbers that are to be used and click on Next.
  12. Click on Install to begin the installation of vCenter.
  13. Click on Finish to close out of the vCenter installation wizard.
  14. From the installation screen, choose to install the vSphere Client.
  15. At the welcome screen, click on Next.
  16. Accept the license agreement and click on Next.
  17. At the following information screen, click Next again.
  18. Decide whether you want to install the Host Update Utility components and then click Next. The Host Update Utility is used to patch and update ESX and ESXi systems.
  19. Chose the installation location for the vSphere client and click Next.
  20. Click Install to install the vSphere client.
  21. Click on Finish to end the installation and then click on Yes to reboot the system.
  22. Once your system has finished rebooting, you can install other vCenter components, such as Update Manager, Guided Consolidation Service and vCenter Converter.

More resources on vSphere installation

How to install and configure VMware vSphere ESXi 4
VMware vSphere: Install, configure and manage
VMware vSphere 4 QuickStart Series: Install and configure ESXi
How to install vSphere 4 inside of VMware Workstation

About the expert
Jason Kappel is an infrastructure architect and virtualization expert at Avanade Inc. He specializes in enterprise infrastructure and data center optimization, virtualization and systems management. He has worked with some of the largest companies in the world to implement green data center solutions and has implemented several multinational server and desktop virtualization systems.

This was last published in December 2009

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