Installing VMware ESXi on a haswell and Z87 (4th generation) CPU

The problem

A couple of days ago, I got a package containing a new motherboard, a CPU and some RAM.
It was supposed to be used for an upgrade on one of my VMware ESXi servers, since I was running low on resources.
The package contained:

So, everything looked fine, and I was excited since this was actually my first build with a haswell (4th generation i5) CPU!
Before I ordered the hardware, I googled around to find some answers on Z87 ESXi compatibility, but was not able to find anything, so I was at the same time kind of nervous..

I took out the old parts from the server, and put in the new motherboard, CPU and memory and booted it up into bios.

i then set some settings i wanted (boot order, fan control and so on) and rebooted the server onto the VMware ESXi 5.1-update1 installer I just had burned to a CD only to discover that something was horribly wrong.

I tried multiple times, but I could never get past the “Initializing IOV” message, it just froze/got stuck/hung every time at this point. (See picture of it below)

initializing iovinitializing iov

So I began to get worried that the hardware i got might not be supported.
I googled around but found only people who were saying that they got this working on haswell CPU’s without any problems.

I then tried to make a bios update from v 1.1 to v 1.3, but this did not do any difference.
Then I started looking into compatibility with the hardware (which I also did before i ordered it) and found the following I haven’t noticed before:

The solution/reason

On a i5-4670K (With the “K” at the end), the “VT-D” (Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O) feature was not available.
On a i5-4670 (Without any letters at the end) the “VT-D” feature IS available.

I then googled around a bit more, about this feature that was missing from the CPU I got, and found some results saying that this feature is needed by VMware to run.
After scratching my hair out for an hour or two on this problem, trying different things I decided to order the CPU without the “K” at the end.

The package arrived today, so after work I popped in the new CPU (the model without the “K” at the end) and booted up the VMware ESXi CD, and BAM.. it went straight through the install! No problems, no warnings, no errors or anything.

Everything just worked. Even the onboard Realtek Gigabit Network adapter!

What does the “K” mean?

The K model CPU’s are the ones that are “Unlocked”. This means you can overclock it as much as you like, until it becomes unstable. There are no limits on overclocking.

On the none-K model CPU’s, there is a limit on how much you can overclock it, thereby it’s a little bit cheaper since the hardware overclockers and gamers don’t want this model, but the K model instead.

Else, the speed of the two models at default is the same.


What have we learned from this? and what do I want to tell you by writing this post? – If you want to make your own VMware ESXi server, keep away from the i3, i5, i7 CPU’s with the “K” at the end of the model! That’s all.
And that I can highly recommend the hardware I used, specially the Z87 motherboard, it can’t do anything fancy, and supports up to 32GB of RAM.

10 thoughts on “Installing VMware ESXi on a haswell and Z87 (4th generation) CPU

  1. virtual visor

    Hi, Thanks for sharing this. I did a similar build sometime back. Using a b85 chipset that can support 32 GB memory will be a cost effective method, which I too realised after buying the z87m-d3h motherboard. These z87 boards are good for those who like to use onboard sata controllers.

    1. Steffan Post author

      Thank you for the comment, feel free to subscribe to new posts using the subscribe form at the top right, I’m sure I will make more post later that you would like to read!

  2. Thomas Lund

    I am building my first PC/Server on which I want to run ESXi. I came across your post and the components I have selected – yet not ordered – were the exact same as yours….including the i5-4670K. So this has now been changed to i5-4670 instead. Thank you. It seems that you saved me from getting stucked with this issue.

  3. user

    Has anyone gotten ESXi to recognize the Z87 onboard RAID? I set 4 drives in RAID 5. When I get to the storage devices screen I see all four drives plain as day instead of the single volume.

  4. Tony

    I’m in the process of building a Hackintosh to be used for running Vmware Fusion with many vm’s running. I know the 4770 K isn’t working with a direct install with ESXi as the host OS. Will the K version work if the Mac OS (Mavericks) is the host OS on a K, funning VM’s in Fusion? Or, should I avoid the K completely? Or.. is the hardware virtualiztion still used for guest VM’sThanks.

    1. Steffan Post author

      I have never tried VMware Fusion. But after using my google-fu I found that Fusion does not support VT-D and thereby it should not be needed.
      But I can not in any way confirm this so don’t trust me on this one. I would be happy if anyone could deny or confirm if it would work by throwing a comment here.


    1. As soon as you see the ESXi boot screen, you will see Press Shift+O on the bottom right. This takes you to a command line at the bottom left of the screen.
    2. Back space and clear the line if anything is there.
    3. Add “noIOMMU” to the command line.
    4. Press
    ESXi will continue to load but it will skip Initializing the IOV step.

    1. Steffan Post author

      But will this not just break stuff later? I think I read somewhere that ESXi does not run good without VT-D, which must be why the creators of ESXi told it to stop if it can’t find it?.. there must be a reason for why it stops, so I don’t think just skipping that part will do any good (except if it’s just a test environment)


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