How to enable ssh with ESXi 3.5

ESX is a well-known bare metal hypervisor from VMware that runs directly on a host machine without underlying operating system support. ESXi is a free version of ESX, and while ESXi has a less number of features than ESX, the free hypervisor is good enough for various experimental purposes. In particular, ESXi 3.5 is a 32-bit hypervisor that can be installed on 32-bit processors. Most existing hypervisors such as Xen, XenServer, KVM, ESX/ESXi 4.* are all 64-bit hypervisors requiring 64-bit processors.

The default installation of ESXi 3.5 does not have SSH enabled. So if you would like to SSH to an ESXi-installed host, you need to enabled SSH first. With VMware ESXi, there is so-called "Tech Support Mode" which is a command-line interface where you diagnose and troubleshoot ESXi hosts, much like in single-user mode of Linux hosts. You can enable SSH via this Tech Support Mode. Here is how to enable SSH with ESXi 3.5.

First, press Alt+F1 at the ESXi console.

Then, type "unsupported" and enter at the console. Note that the text you type in does not show up in the console. So don't get confused.

At the subsequent password prompt, enter the password for the ESXi host's root. Now you are entering the Tech Support Mode.

Open up /etc/inetd.conf with vi command, and uncomment the line starting with "ssh".

Finally, you need to restart the inetd service, and there are two ways to do it.

For ESXi 3.5 U1:

$ /sbin/services.sh restart

For ESXi 3.5 U2 and higher:

$ kill -hup $(pidof inetd)

If you want to enable SSH service on ESXi 5.1/5.5 and higher, refer to this guideline.


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Dan Nanni is the founder and also a regular contributor of Xmodulo.com. He is a Linux/FOSS enthusiast who loves to get his hands dirty with his Linux box. He likes to procrastinate when he is supposed to be busy and productive. When he is otherwise free, he likes to watch movies and shop for the coolest gadgets.

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