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macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 18, 2008
New Zealand
Hi I am intending to get rid of aging Intel 1U server I have which is running as a ESXI box with hackintosh OS X server and Windows 2008 server, I am also intending to get rid of my 5 year old quad C2D desktop.

I plan to replace with a 12core Mac Pro 2.8Ghz with a GTX 770.
On this I will run ESXi, with OS X server, Windows 2008 server, and Windows 7 desktop.

I want to use the Windows 7 with GPU/PCIe passthrough, and USB VMDirectPath. As i want to play the occasional game. Mostly racing games, like iRacing etc with the use of a Steering wheel with Shifter, so will need 2 USB for that.

Has anyone done something similar? What is the performance like?
Anyone see an issue with this setup? I am not a full on gamer, I do like the occasional racing game.


macrumors P6
Feb 8, 2003
The Peninsula
Anyone see an issue with this setup?

Big one - ESXi driver support for a system with hardware that's way out of the x64 server sweet spot for ESXi.

Another big one - the BIOS must enable the VT-* extensions for that to work, and does the Apple BIOS in the Mac Mini Pro enable them?

Are you currently running with direct access to the graphics card with ESXi? Normally the ESXi console grabs the graphics for the console display, I didn't know that a guest could take over the card. Threads like talk about problems doing it.

On the other hand, why not run VMware Workstation (on Windows host) or Fusion (on Apple OSX host) instead of ESXi?

That gets rid of the ESXi driver issue completely, and gives you supported 3D video acceleration through the paravirtualized video driver.
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macrumors regular
Dec 16, 2010
I would say install OS-X Server on the Pro and then run VMware on top of that.

I am running my 5,1 12-core, 96gb Pro in this configuration. VMware is running it's cache of virtual servers from a pair of SSD's in bays 3 & 4 configured in RAID-0 for speed nicely.

The OS and all of my apps are running from a pair of SSD's in bays 1 & 2 configured in RAID-0 as well.

I think this route should serve you in achieving your goals.

You'll have to return and let us know which method you went with and how it worked out for you.


Nov 5, 2010
I would just run Fusion. I use if for my lab environment - 6-10 VM's running simultaneously (on a laptop) and it runs fine. Unless you are needing a lab for running ESXi with vMotion, etc then fusion is a lot easier to live with - i.e. you don't have to spend as much time managing IT when you get home.


macrumors 68030
Aug 8, 2009
USB passthrough is possible with all the VMware virtualisation products. The passthrough of other hardware (PCIe devices) is something that requires VT-d which the Mac Pro should have. However, it doesn't work as well with all devices. Videocard passthrough in ESXi is a bit problematic. People advice others to simply use normal dedicated hardware (thus no virtualisation!) for playing games and such. You can do this in VMware Fusion/Workstation but it won't work for everything (it is not that mature yet not as powerful as normal hardware).

Also, one thing to note is that you will need to use a different machine. ESXi is console/remote management only. You will need to connect to the vm's remotely which requires a different machine. Things like VNC and RDP are fine in a business environment where the ability to run 3D stuff isn't necessary. This is very problematic (read: near impossible) to do.

You either need 2 machines or 1 machine with desktop virtualisation to run the vm's. Since you want to game the best option seems to be to install Windows and use that to run the vm's and your games. If these games run in OS X you could opt to run that along with OS X Server and only run the Windows Server as a vm.

Btw, the Mac Pro 5.1 (aka the 2010 and 2012 models) is officially supported in ESXi 5.1, 5.1u1 and 5.5. The other Mac that is officially supported is the Xserve (but only up to ESXi 5.0u3). Both machines are in VMwares HCL so be sure to check that out (also for other compatible hardware). The Mac mini is unofficially supported (there is an issue with ESXi and Mac mini resulting in the Pink Screen of Death; VMware employees noticed it and fixed the problem; the fix even got pushed out in the official update). Other Macs are not supported.


macrumors 6502
Jun 20, 2007
Boston & San Jose
The latest version of Fusion has been unstable for me with a lot of VMs on my Mac Pro with 64 gb of RAM for more than 1-2 VMs. So much so that I dropped over $4000 on a Dell box last month w/ 32 GB of RAM and 8 drive RAID for ESXi so I could get some work done.

I wouldn't buy a Mac for running ESXi. Configure a Dell or HP, get something exactly right and away you go. Dell even set up RAID 6 approximately right (just set up one 2 tb volume), installed ESXi on the SD card for me, etc.

Update -- re-reading, I agree with others -- for just 2 VMs, run Fusion on the Mac and be happy. Since you mentioned ESXi, I thought you were intending to run more VMs than 2 :).


macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 18, 2008
New Zealand
Update -- re-reading, I agree with others -- for just 2 VMs, run Fusion on the Mac and be happy. Since you mentioned ESXi, I thought you were intending to run more VMs than 2 :).

Well I intend to also run Windows server and a linux VM.


macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 18, 2008
New Zealand
You'll have to return and let us know which method you went with and how it worked out for you.

HI I have ended up with a ESXi 5.5 install, Running
OS X Mavericks Server
Ubuntu Linux
Windows server 2012
Above are headless, i.e. I remote into them

Windows 7 x64
-8GB RAM Allocated (not locked)
-PCI Passthrough of ATI Sapphire 7950 3GB
-PCI Passthrough of ATI Sapphire HDMI Audio
Connected via HDMI to CAT6 transmitter
Receiver connected to HDMI 2 port splitter
1 HDMI port connected to connected to Sony TV
1 HDMI port connected to HDMI audio extractor --> HDMI to DVI --> 23" Apple Cinema HD display. (not working, currently connected to Samsung 23" LCD)
HDMI Audio extractor 2 channel connected to speakers.

-PCI Passthrough of USB Controller 1 & 3 + USB2.0
Connected via USB to CAT6 Transmitter
Receiver end is connected to a 4 port USB 2.0 Hub
1 port connected to Logitech unifying receiver for Keyboard
1 port connected to Logitech Wireless mouse (need to get unify version)
2 ports free

The current problems I have are attempting to get the:

-Apple 23" Cinema HD display to work, I cannot get a picture with either HDMI or DVI from the source, but I can get a picture displayed fine on the Sony TV and Samsung 23" monitor.
With HDMI from the ATI card, the cinema display will just show a white LED light
With DVI from the ATI card the cinema display will blink the white LED 3 short times.
Disconnecting both of the above and connecting to Sony 47" 1080P the desktop comes up fine or connecting to the Samsung 23" LCD display works fine too.

-Apple Keyboard and mouse when connected to the USB2.0 hub will show "Generic USB Hub" with exclamation mark in device manager. Which is why currently connected to Logitech keyb/mouse.

The biggie for me is I am wanting to get my 23" Cinema HD Display going, it will be used as the Win7 Desktop. The Sony TV will be used for gaming.
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