VMware Homeserver - ESXi on 4th Gen Intel NUC

Whether you want to build a vSphere Home Lab for testing or a Home Server, basic requirements are the same: decent price, good performance and low power consumption. The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) family has grown to the 4th generation, including some great enhancements for ESXi Hosts. Definitely the best enhancement is that Intel has added a SATA port to the board, that allows to use more than a single mSATA SSD.

intel-nuc-4th-gen

Intel NUC Systems are available as system board only and with a chassis. The 4th Generation NUC is available with 3 type of CPUs: Celeron, i3 and a i5. You can choose between a chassis with, or without 2.5" drive support.

Available Models (Kit / Kit with 2,5" Slot / Board only):

  • D54250WYK / D54250WYKH / D54250WYB: Intel Core i5-4250U (up to 2x 2.60 GHz)
  • D34010WYK / D34010WYKH / D34010WYB: Intel Core i3-4010U (2x 1.7 GHz)

Review

Features

The Kits are shipped with:

intel-nuc-components

  • Chassis
  • System board
  • Processor (soldered)
  • 19V, 65W power adapter
  • Power cord (Type B, E, G, or no cord)
  • VESA Bracket

To get an ESXi Host installed you need:

  • Memory (SO-DIMM DDR3)
  • mSATA SSD, 2,5" HDD or USB-Stick

Model comparison

D54250WYK D54250WYKH D54250WYBD34010WYK D34010WYKH D34010WYBDN2820FYKH
(No ESXi support)
Form factorUCFF
ProcessorCore i5-4250UCore i3-4010UCeleron N2820
Clock Speed1.3 GHz (2.6 max)1.7 GHz2.4 GHz
Cores222
HTYESYESNO
Max Memory16 GB16 GB16 GB
Network1x 1Gb Ethernet1x 1Gb Ethernet1x 1Gb Ethernet
Ports4x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0 (int.)
1x SATA
4x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0 (int.)
1x SATA
1x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
Intel VT-dYESYESNO
VT-x with EPTYESYESYES
AESYESYESNO
TDP15 W15 W7,5 W

intel-nuc-guide

HCL and ESXi 5.x Support

All Intel NUC systems have hardware support for virtualization and a 64-bit capable CPU. Therefore it should be compatible to VMware ESX. SATA and Network drivers are not included in the ESXi Base Image, so you have to create a customized Image. This is very easy with ESXi-Customizer by v-front.de:

This article explains how to create a customized Image for ESXi more detailed.

To clarify, the system is not supported by VMware (No HCL entry), so do not use this System in a productive environment. As a home lab, or a small home server it should be fine.

Tested ESXi Versions

  • VMware ESXi 4.1
  • VMware ESXi 5.0
  • VMware ESXi 5.1
  • VMware ESXi 5.5

Delivery and assembly

The NUC is shipped in well designed box. The Box contains a short description how to open and assemble the components. The system is a little bit heavier than it looks and has a high build quality. The upside is scratch-sensitive, so be careful with it.

To assemble the memory, you have to remove 4 screws on the bottom. The assembly is really quick, it took about 5 Minutes to open it, install the memory/SSD modules, and close it. The 2.5" enabled version also allows to fit a 2.5 hard disk into it.

intel-nuc-4th-gen-with-2.5-slot

Setup

To install the NUC you need an external USB CD drive. Create a customized ESXi ISO and use the USB CD drive to install the NUC. When you have the proper drivers installed, the installation should succeed without problems. I would recommend to install ESXi on an USB Stick. That allows to use the SSD and HDD for VMware vSphere features like VSAN.ESXi-on-Intel-NUC

Power consumption

Due to its Haswell technology, the power consumption is very low:

Idle: 5-10W
Peak: 25W

With that, the average operating costs are at about 3-4 Euros per month:
20 watt * 24 h * 30 (days) = 12,96 KWh * 0,25 (EUR) = 3,24 EUR
Consumption measured with Voltcraft Energy Monitor 3000

Intel NUC Gen 3 vs. Intel NUC Gen 4

Intel's 4th Generation NUC leverages the Haswell technology.

+ Lower Power Consumption
+ SATA Port
+ Chassis with 2,5" drive support
+ Additional USB 3.0 slots
- no vPRO Technology (i5 only)

Shopping Guide

1.

Chassis

intel-nuc-4th-gen-100px

D54250WYK (Core i5)
D54250WYKH (Core i5 with 2.5" slot)
D34010WYK (Core i3)
D34010WYKH (Core i3 with 2.5" slot)

 2.

Memory

nuc-sodimm

Crucial 16GB Kit (2x 8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz

Samsung 8GB (PC3L-12800) DDR3L 1.35V 

8GB G.Skill DDR3 1333MHz SO-DIMM

 3.

 SSD

nuc-ssd

Crucial m4 64GB mSATA SSD

Crucial m4 128GB mSATA

Samsung SSD 840EVO mSATA

 4.

 2.5" HDD

25inch-hdd

2.5" Hard Disk Drive List

 5.

USB Stick
nuc-usbstick

SanDisk Cruzer Fit 8gb

79 thoughts on “VMware Homeserver - ESXi on 4th Gen Intel NUC”

  1. Great write up, do you know if any of these have multiple nics and can they run ESXi5.5.

    Will be taking my vcap this year and will need some of these for a home lab.

      1. Do you have an write ups/suggestions on USB 3.0 network adapters? Either getting them to be natively recognized in ESXi or passed through to the guest?

  2. Intel says that the Celeron version has already been released, but I can't find it in any stores. I've read other places that they're going to release it this quarter. Do you know more?

  3. Anyone had any luck with a dn2820fykh. I get the stuck relocating modules with unmodified modules and a blank screen just after that with the .vib s put in.

  4. Hi,

    Does USB (USB3) passthrough work for the guest system? I'd like to use D54250WYKH at least for pfsense firewall and NAS storage. For the NAS I would need to use propably USB attached hard drives.

      1. Just to clarify, passthrough of individual USB devices connected to the host does work, but runs fairly slow (a USB3 hard drive copied a 10G file of zero's at 35MB/sec).

        However, passthrough of the USB 3.0 controller to a VM does NOT work. The passthrough screen only shows the internal USB 2.0 EHCI controller (which does passthrough fine), and doesn't mention the USB 3.0 XHCI controller anywhere. Hopefully 5.5 Update 2 or 6.0 or whatever the next one is will add support for it.

        1. So the external usb ports are of no great use for the VM's?

          Running ESXi 5.5U1 on a D54250WYK (usb stick boot with mSSD as local datastore) I tried to add a usb controller to a VM but could not get a connected usb device (1TB usb harddisk) added. I thought about a small NAS VM with attached usb harddisk to make nfs shares available.
          Looks like I have to wait...

          1. I can confirm that USB3 passthrough, although is configurable, meaning I can see/mount the drive plugged in to the host as PCI passthrough, runs very slow. hdparm -Tt /dev/sdc1 37MB/s . Thats like USB2 speeds. I am on VMware 6 beta. So, the nas would need to be something else....

  5. I'm having the same issue as Mick and Domi. I have a 2820 (Celeron kit) w/4G and a single 2.5" spinning SATA drive.

    I tried the custom build with the link to the two vibs you referenced, but it didn't seem to make any difference (still hung at "Relocating Modules").

    I found another post that said to add the option to "ignoreHeadless=TRUE", but it still hung.

    When I rolled back to ESXi 5.1U1, it would go past the "Relocating Modules" but only to a black screen.

    Any help/advice would be greatly welcomed and appreciated.

      1. I have same problem :oops: with
        - NUC DN2820
        - SSD 2.5" 60GB SATA

        When I booted from esxi 5.5, the nuc hang with message "Relocating modules...". An after customizing, using param "ignoreHeadless=YES", but nothing better.

    1. I have not tried a mini-PCIe to NIC card.
      You can't use a USB-NIC in ESXi. You can use usb passthrough to use the device inside a virtual machine probably.

  6. I have a D34010WYK with an Crucial M500 msata ssd. When i install esxi i cannot select this drive.

    I loaded a general sata ahci .vib, i enabled ahci in bios.

    Can anyone help me with this problem?

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  8. Hello, I have this running but I cannot get my Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapter to work with the vghetto-apple-thunderbolder-ethernet.vib although, it works fine with my mac mini. If anyone can solve this problem and allow me to use two nics on my NUC, I would buy you some beer :)

  9. Hello,

    thank you for this guide. I am now a proud owner of esxi 5.5 on Intel NUC 4th gen with the i5-4250U.

    One thing i do not understand is the summary tab in esxi displays 2 processors each @ 1,895 Ghz. While the base frequency of the proc is at 1.3 Ghz and with turbo boost reaches 2.6 Ghz, i do not understand how the 1.895 value shows up.
    Does this mean the proc is capped at 1895 Mhz ? If so, how to fix this? Do i need to disable power saving and speedstep in bios?

    thank you!

  10. Thanks so much because that is awesome post. I only wants to clarify that the nuc celeron model 2820 seems dont have vt-d technology (like i3 and i5 models have) and cannot do passtrougth devices to vm´s. Can anyone confirm that testing on real life ?.
    Sorry about my english ! :oops:

  11. My Intel NUC D34010WYKH arrived today. Thanks for the posts.I have Erik Bussink style Shuttle XH61Vs for the heavy duty VMs but needed small ESXi hosts for the homelab 'production cluster' so i3 should be fine.
    Have also used http://itq.nl/shoebox-size-datacenter-hardware/ as inspiration. Just need some work on a case to accommodate the JetWay mini-pcie dual NICs now.

  12. NO vPRO on the I5 version of the intel nuc 4 gen!!!

    based on this site i got the I5 version but in gen4 nucs they no longer have vpro AMT ;-(

    chip cpu on intel page and see

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  14. FYI - I was able to install ESXi 6.0 Beta on my 4th gen NUC (D34010WYK) without injecting any drivers; it recognized the nic AND my Patriot Pyro M3 mSATA disk right out of the box. Still doesn't seem to recognize the Intel 7260 WLAN card though, but then I've never tried to use wireless on an ESXi server. Is it even supposed to work?

    1. Hello,
      i have also tested ESXi 6, but my mSATA SSD (Intel) is not recognized. Can you say me, what BIOS settings you have ? Have you AHCI enabled ?

    1. Unfortunately this is not possible. An USB NIC is not supported by ESXi.
      With usb passthrough you can use the NIC inside a virtual machine, but the ESXi can't use it due to missing drivers.

    2. There are NIC adapters on Mini PCI Express that should work, the downside is that you have to make a way out of the NUC, to actually connect an ethernet cable.

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  20. I have a D34010WYK with running ESXi 5.5U2.
    ESXi is installed on a SanDisk USB Stick.

    i want to use the internal USB 2.0 ports with DirectPath I/O.
    if I assigns Intel Corporation Lynx Point-LP USB EHCI #1 to a VM I see the SanDisk USB Stick(USB3.0).
    After this are no changes to the ESXi longer possible.

    Can me help anyone?

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  25. Anyone else experiencing the msata drive slowing to a crawl. I have the D54250WYKH running esx 5.5 on usb. However my vm's on the 2.5 ssd drive aren't experiencing it just the msata drive.

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    1. Update is possible but you have to keep sata-xahci package. If something goes wrong, use Shift+R during startup to rollback.
      ESXi 6.0 upgrade and install images for NUCs are available here.

  27. hi Guys,

    I am running VMware 6.0 on the 5th Gen UCS (Model: Nuc5i5myhe) so I am looking for a second Nic configuration and the mini-Pcie one wont work since there is only M.2 Connector in the Nuc 5th Gen. Anyone as seen M.2 Ethernet adapters somewhere? So far I Have no luck.

    ideas are welcomed

    Steph.

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  33. I've got ESXI working on my DN2820FYKH.
    I used the newest Bios Version 0068 - FYBYT10H.86A.0068.2019.0619.1548
    Combined with the ESXi-6.7.0-20190604001-standard (Build 13981272)
    (You have to add the net55-r8168 driver to the install iso and use the "ignoreHeadless=TRUE" option)

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