VMWare Sphere 5 Boot Delay

Update: This will also work for 5.1 and 5.5.

Note, this is a WhiteBox setup so not all parts are officially supported by VMWare. Specs below…

  • i7 2600K
  • Gigabyte P67A-UD4 B3
  • 8GB DDR3-1866hz 9-9-9
  • 1TB Samsung F3 drives
  • Intel Gigabit Network card

Now, the issue here is that after a clean install of VMWare Sphere 5, boot-up would take at least 5-9 min to complete from a clean power-on. Compared to an upgrade from VMWare Sphere 4.1U1 which will load all the necessary drivers right away after a restart/power-on. It seems like its not detecting the HDD at all at first glance but soon found its way. Further tests, experiments and research yielded that this is a side-effect on how VMWare handled their installation process in VMWare Sphere 5 compared to 4.1U1. In 4.1U1, it uses the MBR for the boot process by default, while in 5.0 it uses GPT. You can fixed this if you force the installer to use MBR during the installation phase.

A developer from VMWare confirmed this and posted a way to fix this. You can find the thread here.

To quote him…

By default ESXi 5.0 uses GPT based partitions tables and not MBR like it did previously. This allows you to have disks which are greater than 2TB in size, but some systems are incompatible with it (possibly including yours) or need to have the correct BIOS setting.

You can try changing your BIOS to see if it’s compatible with EFI or will work in “legacy/compatibility mode”. Alternatively you can reinstall and use the “formatwithmbr” setting at the boot prompt which will cause the partitions to be set up the way they were in ESX 4.x. Just add it in the same way you would to tell the machine to do a scripted install.

To make things short, as written by wdbarker….

the boot prompt appears after you hit Shift-O during the boot process. You will see runweasel already in the boot prompt. Right arrow to the end, add a space and formatwithmbr and press enter. The prompt will look like: runweasel formatwithmbr

So, there you go. Hope this helps.

This was in collaboration with a friend of mine (Earlz) for setting up the box and helping me debug.

8 Replies to “VMWare Sphere 5 Boot Delay”

  1. Dude.. excellant.. u jst saved my life…….. thanks ..more tips like this for the home user …..

    i have
    i3 3.0Ghz
    500GB *ATA hdd
    intel dhj66w desktop motherboard..not part of vmware compatibility list ..

    everything loaded fine… but when irestart esxi 5 would not recoginise my hdd.. will boot only from cd… but its still installed on the hdd.. evrything works fine.. except got to have installer cd to boot…

    applying this patch.. works like a charm

    super thanks

  2. This post just saved my life 🙂
    I had exactly the same issue on an HP BL490c G7 blade!
    after setting the partition table to mbr instead of gpt it’s magically working and booting!

  3. Thank You!

    I had seen the same issue several times since ESXi 5 come out, and did not find any solution after many hours googling.

  4. does the “formatwithmbr” make me lose my data?
    I have a raid5 volume that has GPT and it’s not booting…
    if I go with that “mbr” option, will it wipe my volume? I have 5 VMs there that me developers can’t afford to lose. Thanks.

  5. Hi gabriele!

    From my previous testing it should not BUT I had a separate partition for my VMs so it was not touched.

    I don’t know your setup so I cannot say what will be its behavior. I would suggest testing on a test server with temp/disposable VMs with the same setup and see.


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