Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Looking for a solution to use a hypervisor that allows access to the VMs that are running on itself. Basically, I would like to setup a laptop that can run 10 to 15 VMs that are already built, but to do it without using windows as the host. I have ESXi 5.0 installed and running the VMs, but I have no way to access the VM desktop directly from the Laptop. Any suggestions??

share|improve this question
Wait. You're planning on running 10-15 VM's on a laptop? – DKNUCKLES Oct 25 '11 at 18:33
Sounded like he already did, if I understood it correctly. – Bart Silverstrim Oct 25 '11 at 18:35
Kind of surprised it even installed...what laptop would meet the requirements for ESXi? – Bart Silverstrim Oct 25 '11 at 18:37
cheap xps 702 (i7) laptop, only need to run 1 max 2 simultaneously. Just need a different laptop for different customer setups. – Wirewrap Oct 25 '11 at 18:49
I'm already using Win 7 pro on a dell M4500 with i7 processor. Runs 2-3 VMs with no problems. – Wirewrap Oct 25 '11 at 18:51

Do I understand you correctly when I say that you have the bare-metal hypervisor ESXi on the laptop and running with the VM's, but you are looking to access the VM's?

You can't do it that way on the laptop. You'll need another computer from which to run the control software like VSphere and/or run remote desktop/ssh/etc. to interface with the VM's directly (RDP to a Windows VM system, for example.)

Your best bet is to get an inexpensive desktop or notebook computer, set up Windows, and connect to the ESXi system's web interface from which to download the control software. Install it, and you should be in business for monitoring and managing your ESXi system.

share|improve this answer
Yes, but I'm now recognizing that this wont work for my application. I would like have the laptop stand alone running VMs but not having to share the laptops resources with a host OS. Just don't want to buy yet another licensed OS just to run the VMs that I already have licensed. – Wirewrap Oct 25 '11 at 18:41
Then you'd have to virtualize it under a non-bare-metal virtualizer like VMWare Player or VirtualBox. Or Xen. Linux does have non-pay solutions available. But this must be quite a laptop in the first place to not have I/O absolutely crawl with 10 VM's installed, let alone getting ESXi to install in the first place. – Bart Silverstrim Oct 25 '11 at 18:44
Just seems like through all of its capability, ESXi would at least let you open the VM console locally...guess not. Any alternatives?? – Wirewrap Oct 25 '11 at 18:44
In order to run VSphere you'll require Windows, regardless. So you'll need some form of Windows in order to manage an ESXi system. – Bart Silverstrim Oct 25 '11 at 18:45
@Wirewrap - ESXi is a Datacenter product, not a Desktop product. It's meant to be run hands-off in a server room where aside from initial setup, no one ever even looks at the console of the servers. – EEAA Oct 25 '11 at 19:09

You need to access your guest OS's by installing VMWare vSphere and connecting to your ESXi host machine through there.

Once you've accessed your machines through the console on vSphere, you can set up some sort of remote administration (RDP, VNC, SSH or whatever) that you can use for the future.

share|improve this answer

From the sound of your requirements the best solution I can offer would be to run an XP / 7 based laptop running VMware Workstation or equivalent. You aren't going to get a self contained hypervisor in your existing configuration. If you really want to run an ESXi environment you can create a Workstation instance of ESXi and run your VMs within it. I've done so for testing cluster configurations on several occasions.

You are going to need a Windows laptop to manage your system adequately one way or another. The only way you are going to get both the management and managed systems on the same box is with a Windows system with Workstation.

EDIT - or possibly on a Mac.. I don't have much experience there.

share|improve this answer
Yea, thats where I headed now! Thanks. Win7 with workstation. – Wirewrap Oct 25 '11 at 19:02

I am not sure why you are getting downvoted. You can certainly install ESXi on a laptop.

See this vmware forum post for details:

share|improve this answer
It's downvoted because this is a site for professionals, not hack-it-together-any-way-you-can-and-hope-it-doesnt-explod-ers – Mark Henderson Jul 17 '13 at 3:18
Additionally; whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Mark Henderson Jul 17 '13 at 3:19
@marathon - if the question asker had done a tiny bit of research they'd know that there's no supported way that you can display the frame buffer of VMs on the host console. Basically they've done nothing to answer their own question first, which is a requirement for posting here. You've also repeated this problem by linking to an article that doesn't give them what they want either. – Chopper3 Jul 17 '13 at 7:05
First off, for the snark about "professionals", I'm a software architect at a fortune 500 company. Our developers run this ESX "hack" on their own developer machines all the time to test our distributed system. – marathon Jul 17 '13 at 19:01

Contrary to some answers here, this is actually possible with any virtualization technology that allows a vm to get direct access to hardware. But you need a different piece of hardware to each vm; a much more convenient setup is to access other vms through a single one, who have access to the io hardware. This is, for instance, exactly the behaviour that the xen project gives you, by using the concept of domain 0. But you will need hardware that support pass-trough to use esxi this way, so YMMV.

The difficulty to visualize that this is actually easy to do is caused by a lack of understanding on the basic differences between a desktop machine and a server machine physical access. A desktop will always allow physical access to users, because that is its function; a server will offer access to its published services, and physical access is rare to nonexistent after setup.

So, you can install esxi, configure any number of vms you want, and give direct access for a particular VM to the devices needed for physical interaction (graphics card and some usb root devices). Other vms inside esxi can be accessed by remote access, using this "quasi physical" VM. If you have more than one graphics card, you can get more than one machine to be physically accessed this way. See here for a very cool 4 sit game configuration using esxi :)

Note, however, that this configuration on the esxi is kind of advanced stuff (a hack really). Imagine you have a notebook, and under esxi, two VMs, one of them holding access to video, keyboard and mouse. If that machine hangs, you can't anymore access esxi through that VM, and you will need web access to fix it. If you locked web access to that VM, you will be in deep trouble...

share|improve this answer

This guy does exactly what you want but it seems a hassle.

Do tell how it goes if you try it.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to Server Fault - answers that are just a link to another site do not meet our quality standards. Please edit your answer to include sufficient information to stand on its own, or it will be removed. – voretaq7 May 29 '13 at 6:21

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.