ESXi Laptop

ESXi Server Build from an EliteBook 8570w

I recently got the itch to build a new machine – not for gaming, rather for virtualization. I have a gaming rig already: an ASUS ROG GL551 (i7 6700HQ, 32GB RAM, and 2x SSD) that runs all the titles I like to play. My goal was to build a hypervisor for ESXi that wouldn’t break the bank. I was aiming for a system that had a hyperthreaded quad-core, 32 GB of RAM, and two storage drives with decent capacity, and multiple NIC’s.

My first hunch was to go out on eBay and buy an old workstation or server and use that. I found an old server that might have done the trick: a HP ProLiant DL380 G6 and even ordered it. But the server arrived without some of the advertised components, so that guy went back. After sending the server back, I began to ponder, would it be possible to build one out of a laptop and supplement it with some new or used parts? I sold off my last desktop years ago and have been using only laptops for some time now, so I have a bin with laptop parts.

I made an inventory of what I did have on hand that might be useful.

  • HP EliteBook 8570w Chassis
  • HP EliteBook 8570w Motherboard with 2 Memory Slots
  • NVIDIA Quadro K2000M
  • Intel i7 3630QM
  • 16GB (2×8) PC3-12800 DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB 5400RPM 2.5” HDD
  • 3TB 7200RPM 3.5” HDD
  • 128GB M.2 SSD
  • 2x USB3 1GB Ethernet Adapters
  • 1 USB/eSATA Drive Enclosure

After some digging, I learned that the i7 3630QM could support up to a maximum of 32GB of RAM. I also learned that HP did make a trim of the 8570w that could support 32GB of RAM so long as the CPU supported it and the motherboard had 4 RAM slots.

The first order of business was to verify if ESXi would even install on an 8570w. ESXi is not designed to run on laptops or even most consumer grade components — but that doesn’t mean that it won’t run, only that it’s not supported. In any case, I pieced together a system with the parts and sure enough, ESXi installed without a hitch and I was able to create a couple of VM’s without any problems.

Next, I found a used motherboard with 4 RAM slots on eBay for $45 and bought it. Unfortunately, it was broken when I got it, so again, that went back to the seller. I found another one for about $50 and bought it, and it was in prime condition. While I was at it, I bought 2 more 8GB SODIMMS too. I installed the motherboard with the 4 RAM slots and 32 GB of RAM and it worked perfectly.

With this now installed, I needed storage. I already had a couple of HDD’s that would do the trick, but I need 1 more to get me up to the storage threshold I wanted. I bought a 4TB internal drive and an optical drive to HDD caddy and installed the 2TB HDD, 4TB HDD, and 128GB M.2 SSD inside the box. So now I had a laptop with an i7 Quad Core, 32GB of RAM, NVIDIA Quadro K2000M, and 3 internal drives for a total of 6.1TB of storage… not too shabby by any estimation. 😊

With the base system built, I added some external devices to round it out. The next thing I did was buy an eSATA cable to go with my drive enclosure and I installed my 3TB HDD in the enclosure and plugged it in to the machines eSATA port, bringing the total storage to 9.1TB. Using the eSATA port freed up the USB3 ports so I could use the USB NIC’s that I had. Combined with the onboard 1GBs port, the machine now had 3x 1GBs ports and was ready to rock. After installing ESXi 6.7 on the box, I was able to add drivers for the USB NIC’s because ESXi doesn’t out of the box support these, thanks to VirtualGhetto. Now I had what I started out to build: a machine that I could use for virtualization.

So the final build looks like this:

  • HP EliteBook 8570w Chassis
  • HP EliteBook 8570w Motherboard with 4 Memory Slots
  • Intel i7 3630QM
  • NVIDIA Quadro K2000M
  • 32GB (4×8) PC3-12800 DDR3 RAM
  • 2TB 5400RPM 2.5” HDD
  • 3TB 7200RPM 3.5” HDD (eSATA)
  • 4TB 7200RPM 2.5” HDD
  • 128GB M.2 SSD
  • 3x 1GBs Ethernet ports
VMWare
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