VMware Homeserver – ESXi on 6th Gen Intel NUC

Intels 6th Gen NUCs are out and it’s time to take a look on their capabilities as homeserver running VMware ESXi. NUCs are not officially supported by VMware but they are very widespread in many homlabs or test environments. They are small, silent, transportable and have a very low power consumption, making it a great server for your homelab. I’ve posted a preview on the new models in December. Currently, 6th Gen NUCs are available with i3 and i5 CPU



  • Skylake CPU
  • Up to 32GB of DDR4 SODIMM memory
  • Available with and without 2.5″ HDD slot
  • M.2 slot with PCIe x4 support
  • External SD Card Slot
  • Intel I219V Network Adapter
  • Intel Sunrise Point AHCI controller

The Kits are shipped with:

  • Chassis
  • System board
  • Processor (soldered)
  • Power adapter for different countries
  • Power cord
  • VESA bracket

To get an ESXi Host installed you need:

  • Memory (1.2V DDR4 SODIMM)
  • M.2 SSD (22×42 and 22×80), 2,5″ HDD or USB-Stick

Model comparison

Model (2.5″) NUC6i5SYH NUC6i3SYH
no 2.5″ Slot NUC6i5SYK NUC6i3SYK
Architecture Skylake (14 nm)
CPU Intel Core i5-6260U Intel Core i3-6100U
Base Frequency 1.8 GHz 2.3 GHz
Max Frequency 2.9 GHz 2.3 GHz
Cores 2
TDP 15 W
TDP-down 9,5 W 7,5 W
Memory Type 2x 260-pin 1.2 V DDR4 2133 MHz SO-DIMM
Max Memory 32 GB
USB Ports 2x USB 3.0 (front panel)
2x USB 3.0 (back panel)
2x USB 2.0 (internal header)
Storage M.2 SATA or PCIe x4 SSD
Wireless LAN Yes
Bluetooth Yes
Gigabit LAN Yes (Intel I219V)
VT-x with EPT Yes Yes
VT-d Yes Yes
Price $400 $320


HCL and VMware ESXi Support

The NUC itself is not supported by VMware and not listed in the HCL. However, some essential components are listed. ESXi runs out of the box starting with the following releases:

  • ESXi 6.0 with patch ESXi600-201601001 (Build 3380124) released in January 2016
  • ESXi 5.5 Update 3 (Build 3029944) released in September 2015

To clarify, the system is not supported by VMware, so do not use this system in a productive environment. I can not guarantee that it will work stable. As a home lab, or a small home server it should be fine.

Network (Intel I219-V)
On previous NUC versions it was required to create a customized Image in order to install ESXi on a NUC. The 6th Gen NUC is equipped with an Intel I219-V Ethernet controller which is listed in the HCL.

Ethernet controller Network controller: Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection I219-V [vmnic0]
Class 0200: 8086:1570

Currently only ESXi 5.5 U3 is listed with the e1000e driver version but this driver has also been added to ESXi 6.0 with patch ESXi600-201601001. For older releases it was also possible to create a custom iso with the latest e1000e driver. Use the following PowerCLI Image Builder commands to create a custom ESXi Image with the latest e1000e driver:

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml
New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-20151104001-standard" -name "ESXi-6.0.0-20151104001-NUC" -Vendor "virten.net"
Add-EsxSoftwarePackage -ImageProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-20151104001-NUC" -SoftwarePackage net-e1000e
Export-ESXImageProfile -ImageProfile "ESXi-6.0.0-20151104001-NUC" -ExportToISO -filepath ESXi-6.0.0-20151104001-NUC.iso

Storage (Sunrise Point AHCI)
The AHCI driver for previous NUC versions was always available, but unsupported controllers were not correctly mapped to the driver. Therefore it was required to use the additional sata-xahci package by Andreas Peetz (v-front.de). This is no longer required as the Sunrise Point AHCI driver is correctly mapped since ESXi 5.5 U3 and ESXi 6.0 U1.

SATA controller Mass storage controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP AHCI Controller [vmhba0]
Class 0106: 8086:9d03

The 6th Gen NUC is equipped with an Sunrise Point AHCI controller which is listed in the HCL for ESXi 5.5U3 and ESXi 6.0U1 with ahci driver version 3.0-22vmw.

SD Card
6th Gen NUCs are equipped with a SDXC Slot. Unfortunately, there is currently no driver available for ESXi so it’s not possible to use the SD Card slot at the moment. I’m trying to find a solution for that later.

SD Host controller Generic system peripheral:
Class 0805: 8086:9d2d

Tested ESXi Versions

  • VMware ESXi 5.5
  • VMware ESXi 6.0

Delivery and assembly

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 very scratch-sensitive, so be careful with it.

The installation is very simple. Remove 4 screws on the bottom and remove the lid which is also the 2.5″ drive holder. The assembly takes about 5 Minutes to open the NUC, install the memory, M.SSD module and an 2.5″ HDD.



No customization is required to install the latest ESXi 5.5 and ESXi 6.0 versions on 6th Gen NUCs. You can use the images provided by VMware to Install ESXi:

The simplest way to install ESXi is by using the original ISO and Rufus to create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive.


First NUC with native 32GB Memoy Support


DDR3 (top) and DDR4 SODIMM Module

While it was already possible to use 32GB Memory on 5th Gen NUCs, it is now fully supported. 6th Gen NUCs support up to 32GB of DDR4 SODIMM Memory.

The NUC requires:
2x 260-pin 1.2 V DDR4 2133 MHz SO-DIMM

Please note that DDR3 is not compatible with DDR4. They have completely different slots so DDR3 modules can not be used in 6th Gen NUCs.



The performance of a single NUC is sufficient to run a small homelab including a vCenter Server and 3 ESXi hosts. It’s a great system to take along for demonstration purposes. Currently my NUC (5th Gen vPRO) runs 3 Windows VMs, 4 Linux VMs, 2 virtual ESXi hosts and a vCenter Server with a decent performance.

The following chart is a comparison of the latest Core i5 CPUs based on PassMark:

Power consumption

NUCs have a very low power consumption. My i3 NUC with a M.2 SSD and a SATA 2.5″ SSD consumes about 28W (idle) – 33W (load). During normal usage the average consumption is about 30W.

With that, the average operating costs are at about 5-6 Euros per month:
30 watt * 24 h * 30 (days) = 21,6 KWh * 0,25 (EUR) = 5,40 EUR
Consumption measured with Voltcraft Energy Monitor 3000


Shopping Guide








1.2 V DDR4 2133 MHz SO-DIMM



M.2 SSD List


 2.5″ HDD


2.5″ Hard Disk Drive List


USB Stick

SanDisk Cruzer Fit 8gb

Leave a comment ?


  1. Have you tried so far to add external (ESXi supported) NIC cards to NUC?
    Any recommends?


  2. I have a 5th Gen i3 and love it. Top computer. Would love a 6th Gen i3 :)

  3. I think the power consumption of these new nucs is pretty high.

    I have a 4th generation (i3 4010u processor) and the consumption idle with esxi 6.0 update 1 and 10VM’s is around 10-12Watt powerusage. I only use the msata drive.

  4. Building my VMware home lab – IT Architecture Blog - pingback on February 3, 2016 at 5:58 am
  5. For those of you looking for compatibility for the Intel NUC 6th gen, reference the following for the M.2 and SATA:


    Here is the configuration I am shooting for and any feedback would be nice to hear:

    *Intel NUC6i3SYH Kit with 6th Generation Intel Core i3 Processor

    *G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 32GB (2 x 16G) 260-Pin DDR4 SO-DIMM DDR4 2133 (PC4 17000) Laptop Memory Model F4-2133C15D-32GRS

    *Intel 530 Series M.2 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

    *SanDisk X300 2.5″ 512GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)

  6. Any body having trouble getting the sound card to be recognized while running under ESXi 6?

  7. What would be the CPU performance difference between a 5th gen i7 and a 6th gen i5? Is it best to buy a 5th gen i7 with 32GB of RAM (not officially supported) Or a 6th gen i5 with 32GB?

    • 5th gen for better cpu perf…but not 32GB support…unless I’m missing something?

      • There are 16GB DDR3 SODIMMs available, but they are rare (as far as I know, only one company makes them at the moment). And they are HUGELY expensive – last time I looked, the 2 SODIMMs were more expensive than the NUC!

        • Crucial 32GB Kit (CT2KIT204864BF160B) is at $320,- at the moment. Same modules in DDR4 are $160,-. So yes, NUC6 with DDR4 is a better deal.

  8. Anyone having an idea on how to get the sd card reader working in ESXi 6.0?

  9. does the skylake bug trouble the system when running several VMs and maybe high cpu utilisation?

  10. How is the Intel I3 CPU performing against the I5?

  11. I try the last version of VMware ESXi 6, all ok, but when run a VM (Windows Server 2012) the NUC sudden shutdown. Normal?

  12. Hi fgrehl,

    great blogs you have here. I’m looking to replace my homeserver (now still a laptop from 2006) with a NUC. With a few gadgets I threw in the corner for HTPC purposes, I’m now wondering if I could combine it all together with nowadays technology.

    Looking over several forums online, there’s not really a decisive answer yet, so maybe you could help me out.

    The specs already state that it’s a nice home theatre capable device. Intels site also claims VT-x & VT-d support, meaning hardware 3D/video acceleration could be forwarded to guest os’s. Do you have any experience with this and how are your findings? Is it still highly experimental for hackers or is it becoming a true viable option?

    Thnx for reading/answering, I’ll stick around for some future posts and experiences anyway :)

    • The NUCs are great as HTPC, but if you want to install ESXi on it you have a problem as you can’t get the Virtual Machines screen to the HDMI output. If you want to use it as HTPC and run VM on int, maybe VMware Workstation is an alternative.

      • Ah, didn’t think of that.

        So only 2 ‘true’ options remain;
        – Find a way to designate vPro’s AMT as primary console for ESXi. Chances of getting this done is probably 0 since AMT was not designed for this or it works the other way around.
        – Wait for Skull Canyon to arrive from Intel http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/nuc-kit-nuc6i7kyk-features-configurations.html and hook up a passively cooled graphics card for 1 of the Guest OS’s. But that would be completely overkill + expensive again, also energy consumption almost triples with this beast.

        I’ll look into my options, thanks for responding. I’m was always very happy with the way VMware ESXi can be configured and handled, but VMWorkstation … then I’d rather have KVM running again.

  13. Today I went to the store to exchange the Gigabyte Brix gb-bsi7ht-6500 (6th gen i7) for the Intel NUC6i5SYH. I did this, because the Gigabyte Brix suffered from the issue on the Skylake architecture (Without running any vm’s on the ESXi 60% overall CPU load, each core alternately peaking at 100% individually. Gigabyte doesn’t have a (bios) fix available. During the unboxing of the Intel NUC I already noticed the huge difference in build quality. After a vanilla install of esxi 6.0.0 update 02 I noticed that the load was a flatliner, all cores average under 0.1%. @fgrehl, have you done some bios or config adjustments to keep the 6th gen running smoothly with ESXi 6?

    • Hi George. I Just bought a gb-bsi7ht-6500. I’m trying to install ESXI, but it’s not working. What ESXI image did you use? Where did you got the drivers?

  14. I’m having big trouble getting any image to install on my new NUC6i3 box. After reading this I was happy that the drivers would be pre-installed in the image, but every time install fails with no network adapter found. I installed Windows on the box to confirm not a hardware issue and card was fine. Any ideas?

    • The driver is only included in ESXi 6.0 with patch ESXi600-201601001 (ESXi 6.0 Update 1b) or later. What image did you use?
      If that’s not the problem, please press “ALT+F1” during the “No Network Adapters” message, login as root (no password), run the following command and post the result:
      lspci -v | grep "Class 0200" -B 1

      • Hi fgrehl, thanks for your help. I’ve tried a few different images, up to and including 5.5 U3b and 6.0 U2 with no luck. I’ve run the command as requested and the output is as follows:

        0000:00:1f.6 Ethernet controller Network controller: Intel Corporation Ethernet Connection I219-V [vmnic0]
        Class 0200: 8086:1570


      • Hi fgrehl,

        I have managed to fix the issue. Checking through the vmkernel.log, I could see the driver module was unable to associate to the NIC, showing “e1000_probe: The NVM Checksum Is Not Valid”

        I followed the instructions at “https://thesorcerer.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/guide-intel-82573l-gigabit-ethernet-with-ubuntu-11-04-and-fix-pxe-e05/” to flash a default config to the NIC and all is working!

        Hopefully this can help someone else who may find themselves with this issue.

        Thanks again.


  15. What other components are required/recommended to fully assemble this home server so it is ready for the ESXi6 installation.



  16. Anyone running Windows 2012 inside vSphere on the NUC6i3SYH? Looking for the proper storage driver. It works out of the box for Server 2016 however looking for something for 2012.

  17. Thank you fgrehl for your post and inspiration. I just finish my build yesterday and it didn’t take much effort at all. I’m a network guy by trade, but a VMware customer for many years now. I didn’t need a NUC ESXi box for VMware, but to run Cisco VIRL and GNS3 VMs for networking Labs.

    My build is NUC6I5SYH, with 32GB HyperX Ram, and a Samsung 950 M.2. Updated the BIOS to 48, and installed ESXi 6.0.0, 3620759. ZERO Issues, completed everything in less than 2 hours, with me takin my time.

    So again thank you for all the time and effort you put into these post.


  18. Thanks you very much for the guide and the effort you have put in. I have purchased nuc 6gen with 32GB to replace my bulky (full tower i7) esxi box and save some $$$ on power usage.

  19. Hi,
    I just buy nuc 6gen i5 but i have an issue with USB, how can I use passtrought ? VMware say that “intel corporation usb controller” is not compatible… Are they any driver to change that ?

    • I’m currently using this feature with my n6i5. Working perfectly with APC Back-UPS CS650. Need to use XHCI in the virtual machine setup. Then it just works.

  20. I’m looking at one or maybe two i3/i5-6Gen-NUCs for a small lab setup. Reading Amazon reviews I find a lot of people complaining about 6gen NUCs freezing and other stability issues.

    Did anyone here experience this with the 6Gen-NUCs? Should i prefer the 5gen if i don’t need 32 GB RAM?

    • I do not have any stability issues on the 6th gen NUC running ESXi.
      Also, you can run 32GB an a 5th Gen. I have a NUC5i5MYHE that runs with 32GB Crucial memory (http://www.virten.net/2015/10/5th-gen-intel-nuc-with-32gb-memory/)

    • I’m running a lab with two G6 NUCs and one G5, and I never had any stability issues with any of them.

      Based on my experience, I would recommend the G6 for the following reasons:
      1) out-of-the-box driver support in ESXi (with the G5 you need to jump through a few hoops to get the network card working)
      2) their ability to accept 32GB of DDR4 memory. While fgrehl is right when he says that you _can_ run 32GB DDR3 in the G5, that memory is still twice as expensive as DDR4. And two 16GB sticks right now cost as much as the NUC box itself.
      So if there is any chance you will need more memory in the future (and I’m willing to bet there is – considering that the VCSA itself will by default it 8GB of RAM :) ), the G6 is more future-proof. And the price is about the same.

      • typo: the VCSA will EAT 8GB of RAM. Sorry about that! :)

      • Sorry for the late reply – the mail to confirm comment subscription was a false positive in my spam filter.

        ootb driver support is pretty nice but not a killer feature for me: One of my first admin jobs was scripting unattended win2k setups so i’m not afraid of dirty tricks. ;-)

        Getting it close to 20 degrees will be close to impossible, because i have to keep it in my flat. (Another reason for a NUC.) Anyway i will take a deeper look at the G6 NUCs now. If i hit these thermal issues during the first weeks, i will rma it.

        Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

    • I just remembered one more detail which might be relevant – I had no stability issues with my NUCs, but while they’re in the lab they’re kept at 18-20 degrees Celsius.

      However, I did experience some black screens/hangs when I took one of them out, installed Windows on it, and kept it next to my TV as a media player. In temperatures exceeding 30 degrees.

      It wouldn’t be the first time that the NUC series has issues with overheating…

  21. Is it possible to work with VLAN (802.1q)?

    I plan to configure a NUC with VMware ESX for some tests.
    So it would be perfect, if it is possible to put the VMs in different networks, over the same Ethernet-Port.

  22. Hey guys,

    Does anyone know why ESXI 6.0 can’t find my disk to install…
    INtel NUC Skull

    It can only find the USB Disk as Storage Device…
    The NUC is setup with RAID0
    any help would be much appreciated

  23. Hi, just wondering if any solution was found so you could use the SD card slot. I would like to install esxi onto that.

    Thanks, Keith

  24. Hi,

    I am looking for a New nuc, should i go with the i3 or i5 (32gb ram). I will use the nuc for Microsoft test (ad, sql config mgr..) cisco virl… Do u really need the i5?


  25. Hi

    I just want to say thanks to all of you. After weeks and weeks lookig for the best compromise for a VM Homelab thanks to your suggestions i have my new NUC(NUC6i5SYH) homelab up and runnig. Buy->unpack->bios update->Esxi 6.0u2: Zero issues. Really a good HW.

  26. Hi,

    I’m trying to load ESX 5.5 (5.5.0.update03-3116895) on a new NUC6i3SYH but I get the Purple Screen of death :(

    This is the error code:
    Exception l3 in world 33179:jumpstart @ 0x418030addca6

    I’ve the NUC with 2 x 16GB Crucial RAM and a Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD (no M.2 SSD installed).

    Does anybody know what’s going on?

    I’ve also tried with the ESX 6.0.u2 with no luck…

    Thank you.


Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>