[Guide] How to Install vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi Host

VMware vCenter Server is an official centralized VM management platform. As Windows-based installation has deprecated by VMware, you will need to install it via vCenter Server Appliance. In this article, I will show you how to install vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host step by step.


By Crystal / Updated on March 8, 2023

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vCenter Server vs ESXi | how to install

VMware vSphere has two core components - ESXi and vCenter Server.

VMware ESXi is the virtualization platform on which you can create and run virtual machines and appliances.
vCenter Server is a service that acts as a central administrator for ESXi hosts connected in a network, and allows you to pool and manage resources across multiple hosts.

If you want to install vCenter Server for ESXi management, there have been options of Windows-based installation and vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) deployment. However, back in August 2017, VMware announced that it would deprecate vCenter Server for Windows in later releases. So if you are using vSphere 6.7 or vSphere 7, then you will need to install vCSA as the definitive deployment model.

vCSA is a preconfigured Linux virtual machine, which is optimized for running vCenter Server and the associated services on Linux. Usually you can deploy it on ESXi hosts or on vCenter Server instances. Here in this article, I will illustrate how to install vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host step by step.

VMware vCenter Server Appliance Installation

Prerequisites to deploy vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host

Before you install vCenter Server Applicance on ESXi, here are some preparations that need to be done beforehand:

◇ If you want to deploy the applicance on ESXi host, make sure the ESXi host is not in lockdown or maintenance mode and is not part of a fully automated DRS cluster.

◆ If you plan to use an NTP server for time sync, verify that the NTP server is running and the time between the NTP server and the target server on which you want to deploy the appliance is synchronized.

◇ To deploy a vCenter Server 7.0 appliance, you need ESXi host 6.5 or later.

◆ You need to check the compatibility of third-party products and plug-ins that may be used for backup, antivirus, monitoring, etc. as they may need to be upgraded for ESXi compatibility.

◇ Check version compatibility with other VMware product interoperability matrices.

◆ Download the latest VMware vCenter Server Appliance ISO from VMware website.

vCenter Server Appliance

Required ports for vCenter Server

The vCenter Server system must be able to send data to each managed host and receive data from the vSphere Client. To enable migration and configuration activities between managed hosts, the source and target hosts must be able to receive data from each other over the scheduled TCP and UDP ports.

The vCenter Server is accessed through predefined TCP and UDP ports. If you are managing network components from outside the firewall, you may need to reconfigure the firewall to allow access using the appropriate ports. For a list of all ports and protocols supported in vSphere, please refer to: VMware Ports and Protocols Tool.

Additional info: software included in the vCSA package

  • Photon OS 3.0
  • The vSphere authentication services
  • PostgreSQL
  • VMware vSphere Lifecycle Manager Extension
  • VMware vCenter Lifecycle Manager

How to install vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host step by step

If all the above preparations have been made, you are ready to start installing vCSA. In this section, I will go into detail about installing vCenter Server Appliance 7 on ESXi host. The steps to install vCSA 6.7 are largely the same.

Steps to install vCenter Server Appliance 7 on ESXi host:

1. Mount the vCSA ISO image as a virtual DVD drive on your computer or any other computer that has network access to the ESXi host you will be installing VCSA on.

2. Navigate to vcsa-ui-installer\win32 directory and find installer.exe, right-click it and select Run as administrator.

Note: If you are using Linux, navigate to vcsa-ui-installer\lin64 and run installer.exe.

3. On the interface of vCenter Server Installer application, click Install to start the installation.

Install a new vCenter Server

Tip: This application can also be used to upgrade, migrate, and restore vCenter.

4. Follow the wizard, click Next to continue stage 1 vCenter Server deployment.

Stage 1 deploy vCenter Server

5. Select I accept the terms of the license agreement option, and click Next.

End user license agreement

6. Specify the vCenter Server deployment target settings.

The target is the ESXi host or vCenter Server instance on which the vCenter Server will be deployed.

vCenter Server deployment target

7. Specify the VM settings for the vCenter Server to be deployed.

Set up vCenter Server VM

8. Select the deployment size for this vCenter Server. You can refer to the official chart of resources required for different deployment sizes.

Select deployment size

9. Select the storage location for this vCenter Server. By default, to install vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host you need to install it on an existing datastore that is accessible from the target host.

You can check Show only compatible datastores option for better selection.

Select datastore

10. Configure network settings for this vCenter Server.

Configure network settings

11. Review the settings before starting the vCenter Server deployment. Click Finish to initialize stage 1 deployment.

Initializing stage 1

12. Click Next to continue stage 2 vCenter Server setup.

Stage 2 set up vCenter Server

13. Set the time Synchronize mode. Click Next to continue.

vCenter Server configuration

14. Select to Create a new SSO domain, or Join an existing SSO domain, provide relevant credentials and then click Next.

SSO Configuration

15. Check Join the VMware’s Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) option and click Next.

Configure CEIP

16. Review the settings and click OK to initialize the setup. When the installation is complete, you can click Close to finish the install process.

Ready to complete

How to license vCenter after installation

After installing vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host, you must request a new vCenter license key within 60 days. If you've purchased vCenter Server, log in to your licensing portal -> Select your license and log in to the vSphere Web Client using the SSO administrator login.

Steps to license vCenter 7 after installing it on ESXi:

1. Connect to the installed vCenter using the IP or FQDN of the vCenter. You can then access vSphere by selecting LAUNCH VSPHERE CLIENT (HTML5).

2. In the VMware Single Single-On page, enter the user name and password you specified during the installation and click LOGIN. Then it will display VMware vSphere Web Client page.

login VMware SSO

3. Click the Menu to expand the drop down menu, then click Administration, and select Licensing -> Licenses -> Add New Licenses.

4. Enter your vCenter Server license key here -> Edit its name -> Click Finish to confirm and return to the VMware vSphere Web Client page.

enter license keys

Backup VMware ESXi VMs to prevent data loss

vCenter Server provides a centralized and extensible platform for managing virtual infrastructure. Using vCenter Server you can centrally manage multiple virtual machines, automate ESXi host configuration, manage patches, etc.

However, vCenter Server does not provide the feature of virtual machine backup. Using a dedicated backup tool is the most commonly accepted way to protect VM data, and is by far the most convenient.

Here I introduce you to a VMware backup software -- AOMEI Cyber Backup. It offers you the following benefits.

Agentless Backup: create complete and independent image-level backup for VMware ESXi and Hyper-V VMs.
 Support Free ESXi: support both paid and free versions of VMware ESXi.
Batch VM Backup: batch backup large numbers of VMs managed by vCenter Server, or multiple VMs on a standalone ESXi host.
Multiple Storage Destinations: backup to local or network share destinations.
Automated Execution: create backup schedules to automate virtual machine protection.
Role Assignment: allows one administrator to create sub-accounts with limited privileges.

AOMEI Cyber Backup supports VMware ESXi 6.0 and later versions. Next, I will show you how to backup VMware ESXi VMs with AOMEI Cyber Backup in 3 simple steps. You can click the following button to download the 30-day free trial.

Download Free TrialVMware ESXi & Hyper-V
Secure Download

*You can choose to install this VM backup software on either Windows or Linux system.

How to backup VMware ESXi VMs (3 easy steps)

1. Bind Devices: Access to AOMEI Cyber Backup web client, navigate to Source Device > VMware > + Add VMware Device to Add vCenter or Standalone ESXi host. And then click > Bind Device.

Add VMware ESXi host

2. Create Backup Task: Navigate to Backup Task > + Create New Task, and then set Task Name, Backup Type, Device, Target, Schedule, and Cleanup.

  • Device: batch select large numbers of VMs managed by vCenter Server for centralized backup.

Select virtual machines vCenter

  • Target: select to back up to a local path, or to a network path.
  • Schedule (optional): perform full, differential, or incremental backup, and automate execution according to the frequency you specified.

Backup schedule type

  • Cleanup (optional): automatically delete the old backup copies that exceed the retention period you specified.

backup cleanup

3. Run Backup: Click Start Backup and select Add the schedule and start backup now, or Add the schedule only.

Start Backup

Created backup tasks will be listed and monitored separately, for restoring, progress checking and schedule changing.

When restoring, you can also restore to new location to create a new VM in the same or another datastore/host directly from the backup, saving the trouble of re-configuring the new VM.

Restore to new location


VMware vCenter Server is an advanced server management software that provides a centralized platform for controlling vSphere environments. A single vCenter Server can manage thousands of VMs.

Starting from vSphere 6.7, VMware has deprecated vCenter Server for Windows, thus you will need to install vCenter Server using vCenter Server Appliance. In this article I showed how to install vCenter Server Appliance on ESXi host.

Except for VM management, VM data protection is also of great importance. You can try the software AOMEI Cyber Backup to help you develop a good VMware backup schedule.

Crystal · Editor
Crystal is an editor from AOMEI Technology. She mainly writes articles about virtual machine. She is a positive young lady likes to share articles with peolpe. Off work she loves travelling and cooking which is wonderful for life.