Windows Server 2012 R12 and Windows 10 on ESX 4.1!

By admin, October 31, 2015 22:22

Well, you didn’t mis-read the above! Yes, I finally managed to get both (W2K12R2 & Win10) running under the old daddy VMWare ESX 4.1 with the latest VMTools installed, not supported? Huh? You must be kidding me.


1. Basically, in order to run your OEM copy of Windows Server 2012 R2, you will need to select Windows Server 2008 R2 as the OS template. Also you need the latest SLIC 2.3 ROM, the correct Dell Cert and of course a valid OEM Key.

2. De-select the default video driver (ie, WDDM) when installing VMware Tools or you will get a black screen immediately. At least this is true on Windows 10, but somehow no problem with W2K12R2. Details please refer to this blog article. (Update: actually you don’t need to install VMware Tools here)

3. Still, you will find the mouse isn’t working smoothly in W2K12R2 and Win10, this happens to both Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 as well, and the solution is simple, download and install the latest VMWare Tools which comes with the updated drivers for video (VMware SVGA 3D), disk controller (PVSCSI) and network cards (VMnet3).


4. Again, after you have successful upgraded your VMWare Tools, then you will need to create a 1MB hard disk and select the SCSI to 1:0 and change the secondary controller type to Paravirtual, restart the VM, shut it down, change the primary hard disk controller to Paravirtual as well, finally remove the 2nd disk and controller. Viola, there is your lightening fast PVSCSI disk!

5. The other things I discover W2K12R2 and WIN10 keeps crashing for every 3-5 hours without any reason, then I found this KB which solved the problem, and make sure you applied all the windows updates.

6. Another tips is to turn off the Sleep Mode under Power Option in Windows 10, or you will face VM constantly went to sleep and hence VMTools status always shows “Not Running”.

7. Finally I discover you can install the latest Linux CentOS 7.x and Ubuntu 15.x without any problem on ESX 4.1 although it’s not listed as supported OS…strange, but working perfectly fine which leads me to think we can in fact install any updated OS on the much older ESX 4.1. One hint is to download the latest VMTools and install it! (Actually you don’t need as somehow CentOS 7-1611 comes with VMTools automatically somehow)

8. I also noticed those Linux VMware Tools status shows as “Unmanaged”!  That’s actually ok, as the tools is installed from the latest package instead of using the default attached CD-ROM (which the version doesn’t work anyway), so you can safely ignore it.

So who said these two latest OS from Microsoft aren’t supported on ESX4.1? Think again. :)

Update: May 15, 2017

Tested the latest CentOS 7-1611 also worked perfectly on ESX4.1.

Update: Oct 10, 2017

Problem found W2K12 constantly hangs, finally identified it’s the old anti-virus program Symantec Endpoint Protection that’s causing the conflicts, you will need the version at least v14.0.2415 in order for the OS to be stable.

Update: Dec 25, 2017

It turns out Windows Server 2016 follows exactly the above step and I can confirm W2K16 is running happily on ESX 4.1 without any problem! Except you need to have SLIC 2.4 BIOS!