ESXi or Parallels on Mac Mini? (For a home use)

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Zjgolf44, Aug 22, 2013.

  1. Zjgolf44 macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2013
    What will provide better performance and ease of use with an i7 quad Mac Mini : Parallels 8 or ESXi? (running 2 virtual Windows 7 "servers" and one Mac server instance)

    I've read quite a few places that it is possible to put ESXi on a Mac Mini, but the real question is if I'd want to do that. Has anyone compared ESXi with 3 vituals versus just loading OSX Parallels 8 with a couple windows virtuals? What's the advantages of each? This is for a home "server" that has some educational sever software on one virtual, and probably some kids games on the other windows virtual.
  2. monkeybagel macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2011
    United States
    ESXi does run on the newest Mac minis from what I understand, and is designed for 24/7 use with years of uptime. It has no good local access to interact with the VMs, so you would need to administer it using a Windows computer on the network. ESXi is a wonderful product. ESXi is limited on its hardware support and would not detect the NIC on older Mac minis, but I think it would work fine for yours.

    The question would be - do you need local OS X? If you went with Parallels, you could interact with the local OS X install and possibly have no need to virtualize it. OS X is not as friendly as Windows when it comes to being in a VM as the graphics support and audio are sometimes restricted/not working. iMessage does not work, etc., due to invalid serial number or UUID reported to Apple's servers.

    If you need the VMs to be up 24/7, I am not sure how Parallels would be for that as for memory leaks, etc. It could require a reboot of the host (OS X) occasionally or the VMs if it does not release memory correctly.

    If it is going to "sit in a closet" I would go with ESXi. If it is going to be on a desk with a nice keyboard an monitor attached to it, perhaps try Parallels. I personally prefer VMware Fusion, but either should be adequate for desktop virtualization.
  3. thekingofnerds macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2013
    I agree with monkeybagel. If you're only doing Win/Linux VMs and don't need any local OS X install - go with ESXi - if you can get it running that is.

    I was thinking of going that route many months ago but held off - the comments on every guide I've looked at seem 50/50 on whether or not it'll work 100%. In my case I was doing it for business purposes - so if it wasn't 100% I didn't even want to fiddle with it.
  4. Zjgolf44, Aug 22, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2013

    Zjgolf44 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2013
    Thanks for the feedback!

    Let me know if anyone else has any experience around the performance of either setup. (i.e. how many virtuals, Mac mini CPU load, etc) Also it seems ESXi 5.1 takes care of a lot of problems when running a guest OS X, but are there still issues with audio, video, and other native hardware connections?
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Instead of trying to get ESXi running, why not use VMware's specific application for the Mac - Fusion. I use this, and found it to be a great app.
  6. monkeybagel macrumors 65816

    Jul 24, 2011
    United States
    Depending on how much RAM you assign to them. You can over provision RAM in ESXi and get by with it. (i.e. you can assign a total of 20GB of memory to VMs but only have 16GB in the machine).

    The largest drawback of the mini running ESXi, IMO, is it is a single spindle machine with a 2.5" drive. Some of these drives are not the fastest around and if the VMs compete for disk access it will slow them down. This is mitigated using multiple spindles in RAID (in which you would be going down a very unsupported path on a Mac mini) or an SSD.

    Install ESXi onto a USB Flash drive and see if it will boot on the mini and ensure the NIC can pull an IP address from the network. This will make it or break it as to whether you should look more down the ESXi path.
  7. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    OS X is difficult to virtualise. The only thing that is a big problem at the moment are the graphics. Everything else works fine. Do take notice of the license since it prohibits virtualisation of certain versions. Software such as Parallels, Virtualbox and Fusion will have technical measures to uphold the license (i.e. installing Snow Leopard client will fail, installing Snow Leopard Server will be successful).

    Before you do anything you should read up on virtualisation and the various kinds of products. ESXi is a different kind of product than Parallels is. Parallels has to be run in either Windows or OS X whereas ESXi can't be run in any OS as it is an OS of it own. The first is called "desktop virtualisation", the second (ESXi) is called a "baremetal hypervisor" (since you run it directly on the hardware aka bare metal). Both can be used to run vm's 24/7 though.

    You do want to have enough memory and invest in an ssd when you are going to use virtualisation. These products will benefit greatly, especially when you are going to run several vm's simultaneously. Do install the baremetal hypervisor (ESXi) on a usb thumbdrive and install the vm's on a different drive. This way you can reinstall or upgrade without problems (vm's won't be overridden, you only need to add them to the inventory after doing a reinstall for example; don't worry about the usb speed, ESXi will be loaded into RAM upon boot and run from there).

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