New Intel 6th generation Core i7 NUC, Skull Canyon, doesn't currently run ESXi 6.0 - Fixed!

Posted by Paul Braren on May 22 2016 (updated on May 26 2016) in
  • Virtualization ESXi Homelab Network
  • May 24 Update - this issue has apparently been figured out already! See BIOS settings and details in Erik Bussink's post. Basically, disable Thunderbolt in the BIOS for the ESXi install, then re-enable afterward, see details. Original article appears below.

    Back on May 17, I published the article:

    This was well before it began shipping. Based on specs and features alone, I expressed some concerns about VMware ESXi compatibility, since it's overtly targeted toward the Windows gamer market:

    ... assuming the designed-for-Windows 10 hardware gets along well enough with VMware ESXi 6.

    On Thursday, May 19th, I got an email from talented and adventuresome Raymond Huh:


    I was just wondering if you tried or have successfully installed VMware ESXi 6.0 Update 2 (or any version) on the new Intel NUC NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon). I have it paired with the Samsung 950 Pro NVME SSD and GSkill DDR4 2800 32GB Ram and I am always getting the following error message:

    Error loading /tools.t00
    Compressed MD5: 39916ab4eb3b835daec309b235fcbc3b
    Decompressed MD5: 000000000000000000000000000000
    Fatal error: 10 (Out of resources)

    I have tried everything that I can think of with no success, including injecting the latest AHCI driver VIB into the esxi ISO and I tried it with all three 6.0 versions.

    Would love to hear back from you, especially if you have a solution!
    Appreciate it.


    • Ray

    Ray's consent to publish this email has been obtained.

    Then on Saturday, May 21st, William Lam published this article, featuring Ray:
    - Heads up – ESXi not working on the new Intel NUC Skull Canyon

    I'm confident that if anybody will someday be able to share a tip about how to get past this particular issue, it's William and the distinguished group of enthusiast contacts he's collaborating with. While it's true that William does work at VMware, I don't believe it's any part of his official job role to help his enterprised-focus company deal with incompatible gear. That said, he's certainly proven to be a very powerfull advocate for keeping affordable "ghetto" home lab options available to the masses, given his virtuallyGhetto site's massive popularity.

    These light "hacks" are good for all of us

    Along with folks like Florian Grehl, Andreas Peetz, and Eric Busnik, these prominent bloggers help cover ways to get these devices working with VMware ESXi:

    • previous generation Intel NUC
    • Apple Mac Pro
    • Apple Mac mini
    • Thunderbolt, see William credit his colleagues
    • USB VMFS datastores / vSAN
    • additional NICs for NUC
    • Realtek NICs / AHCI SATA

    These breakthroughs have been a hugely positive contribution to the home virtualization lab community. From TinkerTry alone, I've linked to William Lam 39 times, Florian Grehl 9 times, and Andreas Peetz 42 times, and Eric Bussink 3 times.

    While I'd strongly recommend you read through all of William's Skull Trail post, here's an excerpt, his closing thoughts:

    For now, if you are considering purchasing or have purchased the latest Intel NUC Skull Canyon with the intention to run ESXi, I would recommend holding off or not opening up the system. I will provide any new updates as they become available. I am still hopeful that we will find a solution for the VMware community, so crossing fingers.

    You'll want to keep following virtuallyGhetto for all the latest breaking word on this.

    My personal perspective

    I didn't buy a Skull Canyon NUC, focusing instead on building up my home lab based on an efficient Xeon D-1500 server I leave running 24x7, featuring no discreet GPU just plain old VGA, since a local console isn't needed or wanted for head-less ESXi anyway, especially with integrated BMC/IPMI/iKVM Remote Console. I'm also experimenting with a vSphere 6 Datacenter Workstation all-in-one concept, as well as tinkering with ways to affordably play with vSAN, essentially a RAID6 of 2500MBps/1500MBps NVMe storage over 10GbE.

    My Xeon D-1540/1541 testing here at TinkerTry actually helped Supermicro get their Xeon D-1540/1541 onto the VMware Hardware Compatibility Guide. After about a decade of tinkering with various unsupported configurations, my search for a fully supported system that I could actually run efficiently and effectively at home was finally over.

    I realize trying ESXi on unsupported hardware does help folks learn a LOT about how this hypervisor works, AND how to troubleshoot it all. I've certainly gone that route in the past, using various ThinkPads, the Mac mini, and Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI, and ASRock motherboards. Creative repurposing potentially saves folks some real $ too, I totally get that. That mentality was the focus of TinkerTry when first launched back in June of 2011, as I set out to create vZilla, based on a gamer-friendly ASRock Z68 motherboard with an Intel Core i7 2600K. Back then, there was nothing home-lab friendly on the VMware Compatibility Guide anyway. Me, and other vZilla builders, such as ruderthanyou, have no regrets, vZilla was a good system. But it was limited to 32GB or RAM max, and used about 3 times the watts of today's Xeon D-1541 turn-key ready-to-install ESXi Bundle 2.

    There are now ways to put together a NUC-like system with far more virtualization capabilities than the NUC. See the new Open HomeLab Project Supermicro Xeon D-1500 page, featuring the more affordable 4 core Xeon D-1521 35 watt System-on-a-Chip, for example. Xeon D-1500 motherboards are usually Mini-ITX form factor, just 6.7"x6.7", so you might also want to check out the small form factor mini-ITX case that Jarian Gibson is bringing to the Experts 2 Experts Virtualization Conference that he and I are presenting at next week:

    Of course, I'll have my mini-tower Xeon D-1541 with me, so we can compare and contrast the merits and drawbacks of each design (heat, noise, etc.) together. Should be fun!

    May 26 2016 Update

    William has renamed the title:

    since this issue has now been resolved. In the BIOS, simply disable Thunderbolt for the ESXi install, then re-enabled Thunderbolt afterward. I've also added links to related articles, below.

    See also at TinkerTry

    See also