How to install a custom graphics card to the ESXi guest hypervisor.

Posted by Veniamin Kireev on April 3, 2018

One frosty winter day, when the snow fell from the sky, and the icicles shone in the sun, I was asked to create a virtual machine for working in 3d Max. And all would be well if it were not VM on ESXi … Of course, I rolled up my sleeves, dismantled the server, stuck the video card from NVidia, into a single slot, packed everything back and started … In the magical world of my dreams everything had to tune in itself and be picked up by the system, but in the real world, I have to hard work on it …

Since version 5.5, VMware has broken something inside, and a normal GTX series video card from Nvidia required a certain understanding HowTo do this (in my case it’s NVIDIA QUADRO K600).

There is an opinion that this is connected with the appearance of a line of video cards GRID from Nvidia, created for virtualization.

Let’s start

1. The server picked up a new video card and shows the picture to it while disabling the built-in graphic. This needs to be fixed, otherwise, you will not be able to manage the server through your built-in KVM. We go in the BIOS, turn on both video cards with priority built-in. If you do not have a built-in KVM, skip the step.

2. I opened the WEB GUI ESXi 6.5, and realized that I do not have a PCI device … after that, I went to “Host / Manage / Hardware / PCI Devices” and find our video card there and … I understand that we can not mark it for “Toggle passthrough”. Download the old fat client (true for version 6.0). Open our ESXi host, go to “Configuration / Advanced settings” => Edit

localhost.localdomain VMware ESXi, 6.5.0 Directpath I/O Configuration

3. Find our video card, mark and click OK:

Mark devices for passthrough - NVIDIA

4. Open the virtual machine settings: “Options / Advanced / general / Configuration Parameters”

3dmax - Virtual Machine Properties - General

5. And we prescribe by writing the line hypervisor.cpuid.v0 = “FALSE”. We can also write this in the vmx file of the virtual machine:

Configuration Parameters

6. Next, we need to edit the file “/etc/vmware/”, for this we run the TSM-SSH service on ESXi and change our bridge mode for the link to the link:

passthrough attributes for devices

7. And after that you will see the result:

result - added graphic card

Autodesk 3ds Max 2018 window


Thus, if you need to get a virtual machine with working graphics, based on the hypervisor ESXi 5.5 and older, you do not need to buy expensive, specialized solutions GRID or TESLA, especially when you do not need to virtualize several workstations with graphics.

It is enough to make a video card into a virtual machine. It is worth noting that the performance with a video card from Radeon has not been tested.

Despite some nuances for VMware, we managed to launch a video card that was not intended for use in the ESXi hypervisor and to throw it into a virtual machine.


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