Much is made of the fact that VMWare's ESXi hypervisor is "free"

As best I can tell, you can install the hypervisor on a host for "free".

Because ESXi does not have a built in management console, you need a program, of some sort, to connect to the ESXi hosts to "manage" them. By "manage" I mean, start, stop, install, reboot and backup vms.

If you install the free ESXi on a host and connect to it via a web browser, you are prompted to download vSphere to manage the host. OK, but vSphere is, as best I can tell, not free. When you install it you are continuously reminded that you have only 60 days to evaluate vSphere.

My question is this: Is there a completely free management tool for ESXi hosts that enables one to:

  • Create VMs
  • Modify VMs settings (memory etc.)
  • Power VMs on and off
  • Backup the VM (via any means)
  • Resore a VM from a backup

Failing that, without licensing something from VMWare, is there any tool that will let you manage your hosts after the 60 day evaluation period of vSphere ends?

I have not found a straightforward explanation of this on VMWare's web site. Does anyone out there know the answer (even better if you can point me to a clear explanation on VMWare's website...)

3 Answers 3


You have to pay for vSphere with its various modules and extra features but not to use the vSphere Client to connect to a free ESXi.

I think where you may be getting the license message from is although ESXi is free, you still need to request a free license key from VMWare.

Login to your ESXi box with vSphere Client and go to Configuration -> Licensed Features -> Edit.

If you are set to evaluation mode, that is what you are getting the license warning from.

VMWare should have emailed you a license key when you signed up on their website to download ESXi. If not, you can go through the download steps again and the license key should be on one of the pages.

For me, if I go to https://www.vmware.com/products/esxi/ hit Download, login with my free VMWare account, then on the page with all of the download links, at the top of the list is my ESXi License.

The reason you are seeing the license message about vSphere is that in the Evaluation mode, some of the extra features that are only available with vSphere are enabled, once you enter a free ESXi license, those will be disabled and you won't get prompted anymore.

Also, you can use the vCenter Converter in the standalone mode (runs off of your workstation) for free with ESXi. This tool is immensely useful for moving VMs on and off of ESXi. http://www.vmware.com/products/converter/.


Yes that client tool, VMware vSphere Client, is free and runs on a Windows computer. The link is included on that webpage that your ESXi box is running. Download VMware vSphere Client and install it. You can from there do the things you want to. You can upload and download to your datastores from there, thus allowing you to backup or restore a VM that has been shutdown. And yes you can Create/Delete/Modify and power cycle your VM's from there too.


Starting with ESXi 6 vSphere Client is no longer required. vSphere is used for licensed ESXi.

For a free license (of which you may request a key that only requires you having an account) you can do all management operations (Create VMs, Modify VMs settings, Power VMs on and off. etc) from a web-based GUI.

The interface is very similar to the ESXi 5.5's vSphere Client, but with some additions.

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