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Discovering VMware ESXi Free: A Beginner’s Guide

Virtualization has become a vital tool in the world of information technology, managing hardware resources with unparalleled efficiency. VMware, a front-runner in this domain, offers a variety of solutions including VMware ESXi, a free version of their virtualization platform.

The Freebie Without Support or Warranty

Like most free software, VMware ESXi does not come with a warranty or support. But, fear not. The internet is rife with online communities teeming with people ready to help troubleshoot any problems you may encounter.

The Fine Print: Technical Limitations

The free version of VMware ESXi, while powerful, does come with certain limitations. These restrictions typically relate to system scalability. For instance, there’s a limit on the number of physical CPUs it can support on the host machine, capped at 2 physical CPUs. Physical RAM is also limited, with a maximum of 12TB per host. The number of virtual CPUs (vCPUs) that can be allocated to a single virtual machine (VM) is limited to 8.

Moreover, the free version of VMware ESXi cannot be managed using vCenter, VMware’s centralized management tool. This restriction means that vCenter features like vMotion, High Availability, and Distributed Resource Scheduler are unavailable. Additionally, the free version lacks APIs for Data Protection, preventing third-party backup software that relies on these APIs from backing up VMs running on the free version of ESXi.

Downloading and Installing VMware ESXi

You can download VMware ESXi directly from VMware’s official website, but before to be able to download the free product, you will need first to create an account and to login to https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/.

Then you can access https://customerconnect.vmware.com/en/evalcenter?p=free-esxi7 to download the ISO. The obtained ISO image can be prepared on a USB stick using Rufus, a user-friendly and free tool.

Below is the webpage you should be able to see, once you will have actually registered to download the product. No worries, that’s really for free! As you can see, the webpage is allowing you to download the famous hypervisor and to see the correct license to use with.

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ESXi license page

Production-Ready VMware ESXi and Free Veeam Backup

Despite its limitations, the free version of VMware ESXi can still be used in a production environment. This capability allows small businesses to leverage virtualization without additional costs. Plus, it is compatible with Veeam Backup, a backup software. Veeam Backup also offers a free version allowing up to 10 scheduled VM backups, further enhancing your data safety.

Licenses for the First Month and How to Get One

When first using VMware ESXi, no license is needed for the first month. After that, you will need to obtain a free license from VMware’s website. We prefer to mention it since it’s not surprising to find some server not properly licensed in production.

GitHub Licenses

It’s worth mentioning that you can find licenses for all VMware versions on GitHub. Although this might seem like an attractive option for lab use, we strongly advise against using these licenses due to legal concerns.

In conclusion, the free version of VMware ESXi serves as an excellent starting point for virtualization beginners. It provides an opportunity to explore the platform’s features, and can even be used in a production environment in certain scenarios. However, as with any free software, it’s crucial to understand its limitations and ensure it’s used legally.


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