Dell Optiplex 9010 & VMWare ESXi 6.5

Recently work upgraded a number of staff machines to the latest Dell workstations. My manager organised for much of the surplus hardware to be made available for sale to us, should we wish to purchase it, and it was also priced very well given it was 2 – 3 year old hardware.

I was especially interested as I enjoyed working on that workstation and it always had plenty of grunt to run a few VM’s while I was working (often I’d have a Kali VM and a Debian VM running) in addition to two copies of Visual Studio with both of them debugging, but it was now out of warranty and as big organisations often do, they replaced it. I put my hand up to purchase the hardware, without instantly having a use for it, but knowing it was still fast and had been ultra reliable.

I had tried to previously install ESXi 5.5 on an older whitebox PC I had spare, between sessions in the PWK labs.

Unfortunately that was a spectacular failure!

Online I discovered I could streamline the drivers for the NIC into ESXi and that had a pretty good chance of working, but at that point it was easier to renew my PWK lab access and put my time into those labs which are designed to support the required learning for the certification, rather than mess around with ESXi itself.

Even though I have now completed OSCP, I’m not yet working in a penetration testing role which is my next major goal. I need to keep my skills up, I need to practice. And to be honest I came out of OSCP with some knowledge gaps – my Windows privesc skills are lacklustre at best, still; and I want to learn more about Active Directory. Lots more. Even once I’m in the industry, I’ll still be learning – so this lab is going to become something of a long term investment that will grow (the second chapter of this growth is in progress currently… hopefully there will be more to speak about shortly!)

Just after the sale of our old staff hardware was announced, I wondered if the Dell 9010 may even be able to run ESXi. I figured that it was a good starting point with a decent CPU and a reasonable amount of RAM, and that now that I had completed OSCP, I could dedicate a few nights to working through the PowerCLI journey to get the required drivers streamlined into the installer if needed.

A few google’s later, and someone had posted on /r/homelab that they had a Dell Optiplex 9010 which they had installed ESXi on – but the best part – ESXi6 and above worked out of the box! That sold it for me, and for the money it was a no brainer. I grabbed it.

Now that the box was in my possession, I decided to try it!

After trying to futz about with the VMWare guide to setting up a ESXi USB boot disk and becoming frustrated (some of the documentation seems intentionally difficult to follow) I discovered that ‘unetbootin‘ can do the job much easier. That’s absolutely true.

Select the .iso, select the target USB stick, click go!

It was literally that easy.