How to set the default boot partition with ESXi on a Mac

After I started testing with ESXi 5.5 (read first post here), I couldn’t get the Mac Pro to boot from the USB key as the ESXi OS wasn’t being seen in System Preferences -> Startup Disk.  The way to get around this is to:

  • Reboot the Mac and upon hearing the Mac startup ‘chime’ press and hold the ‘option’ key (also called the alt key, which is between the command key and control key on Apple keyboards).  After a few seconds you should see a grey background with a mouse cursor.  You will then be presented with the bootable partitions attached to the computer, like this:
mac bootloader - mac repair london

The Mac boot loader, showing bootable systems attached to the computer

  • Press the left / right keys or use the mouse to select the OS you would like to boot from.  If you press the arrow the system will boot, but only for one boot or restart.
  • To make this option the default behaviour, press and hold the control key and you will see the straight arrow turn into a circular one, as in the image below.  Keep pressing control and then hit the arrow, the system will boot AND will boot into the same OS from now on, or until changed either in the boot loader again or from System Preferences -> Startup Disk.
permanent booting - mac repair london

After pressing control, the circular arrow appears, enabling permanent booting into the ESXi OS

  • A little tip when rebooting the ESXi server – remember to shut down all guest VMs and enter ESXi’s maintenance mode before rebooting through the controller application/web interface – we noticed the server booting and hanging toa  black or grey screen when this wasn’t done and the server was rebooted incorrectly!




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'How to set the default boot partition with ESXi on a Mac' have 2 comments

  1. 13/08/2015 @ 6:25 pm Bhanu

    What if i want to change the boot back to Mac? The alt or C key doesn’t work for me anymore and ESXI boots by default. Is there a way to remove/unistall Esxi and go back to mac?


  2. 09/03/2016 @ 8:58 am James Spong

    Yeah absolutely – if you have installed ESXi onto a USB key then just remove the USB key and the Mac will boot into the next OS which will probably be your original Mac OS.


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