Many IT professionals and others run VMware lab environments for learning, certification prep, evaluation, and other use cases. They often use commodity hardware not found on the VMware hardware compatibility list. This leads to driver issues, especially with network adapters. Community Networking Driver for ESXi provides drivers for otherwise unsupported NICs.

Community Networking Driver for ESXi is a VMware Fling that enables running unsupported network adapters in workstation-class hardware or other server models. The requirements are straightforward:

  • VMware ESXi 7.0 (x86) or newer
  • The network adapters used must match the VID/PID listed in the supported list of adapters
  • All network adapters in the community bundle are Intel adapters

The Community Networking Driver for ESXi has had continual updates since VMware Fling was introduced in 2021. The most recent release was posted on March 15, 2022, and added support for the following:

  • Support for additional Intel I225 devices with any PHY ID
  • Support for new Intel I226-K devices with any PHY ID

Installing the Community Networking Driver for ESXi ^

Using VMware Fling starts with a simple download and installation of a ZIP file from the ESXi command line. Let's look at the process.

First, download the ZIP archive from the VMware Flings site (there is no login required).

Download the Community Networking Driver for ESXi ZIP bundle from VMware Flings

Download the Community Networking Driver for ESXi ZIP bundle from VMware Flings

Next, you need to SCP the downloaded bundle to your ESXi host. In my example, I simply saved it to the root directory. Also, you might be wondering: How do I upload if I have an unsupported network adapter and no other way to connect? In this case, you will need to create a custom ESXi ISO using the VMware vSphere Image Builder. See how to use the image builder here: Create an Image Profile (vmware.com)

Copy the Community Networking Driver for ESXi bundle to your ESXi host

Copy the Community Networking Driver for ESXi bundle to your ESXi host

At this point, all that is left to do is install the bundle using the esxcli command.

esxcli software vib install -d /Net-Community-Driver_1.2.7.0-1vmw.700.1.0.15843807_19480755.zip
Installing the Community Networking Driver for ESXi from the command line

Installing the Community Networking Driver for ESXi from the command line

Finally, reboot your ESXi host to finish loading the Community Networking Driver for ESXi.

Rebooting ESXi to instantiate the Community Networking Driver for ESXi

Rebooting ESXi to instantiate the Community Networking Driver for ESXi

Final notes ^

The Community Networking Driver for ESXi VMware Fling provides an easy way to expand the drivers available for installing the ESXi hypervisor on commodity, off-the-shelf hardware, as used by labs. The installation process is straightforward and only requires downloading the file, copying it to the ESXi host (or creating a custom ESXi image using the Image Builder), and then installing the Community Networking Driver for ESXi using the command line.

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The Community Networking Driver for ESXi is closely related to another VMware Fling called the USB Network Native Driver for ESXi. This adds support for the most popular USB network adapter chipsets found on the market. These include the ASIX USB 2.0 gigabit network ASIX88178a, ASIX USB 3.0 gigabit network ASIX88179, Realtek USB 3.0 gigabit network RTL8152/RTL8153, and Aquantia AQC111U.

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1 Comment
  1. Surender Kumar 4 weeks ago

    Excellent article. I ran into the same situation a few year back when trying to run ESXi on a desktop hardware for lab setup but eventually succeeded installing network drivers using esxcli software vib install command.

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