Choosing a network adapter for your virtual machine
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Choosing a network adapter for your virtual machine


Article ID: 321259


Updated On:


VMware VMware vCenter Server VMware vSphere ESXi


Network adapter choices depend on the version number and the guest operating system running on the virtual machine. This article discusses the different network adapter options available for virtual machines.

This article does not provide troubleshooting of VM network issues. For more information on troubleshooting VM network issues, see Troubleshooting virtual machine network connection issues (1003893).


VMware ESXi 3.5.x Installable
VMware vCenter Server 6.0.x
VMware ESXi 4.1.x Embedded
VMware vSphere ESXi 6.0
VMware VirtualCenter 2.5.x
VMware vSphere ESXi 5.5
VMware vCenter Server 4.0.x
VMware ESX 4.1.x
VMware vCenter Server 5.0.x
VMware ESXi 3.5.x Embedded
VMware ESX Server 2.5.x
VMware ESXi 4.0.x Installable
VMware vSphere ESXi 5.0
VMware vCenter Server 4.1.x
VMware ESX Server 3.0.x
VMware ESXi 4.0.x Embedded
VMware ESXi 4.1.x Installable
VMware ESX 4.0.x
VMware GSX Server 3.x (Windows)
VMware ESX Server 3.5.x
VMware vCenter Server 5.5.x
VMware vSphere ESXi 5.1
VMware vCenter Server 5.1.x
VMware GSX Server 3.x (Linux)
VMware vCenter Server 6.5.x
VMware VirtualCenter 2.0.x
VMware vSphere ESXi 6.5
VMware vSphere 6.7.x


Available Network Adapters

The type of network adapters that are available depend on the following factors:
  • The virtual machine compatibility, which depends on the host that created or most recently updated it.
  • Whether the virtual machine compatibility has been updated to the latest version for the current host.
  • The guest operating system.
Supported NICs currently differ between an on-premises environment and VMware Cloud on AWS. The following NIC types are supported in an on-premises deployment:

Emulated version of the Intel 82574 Gigabit Ethernet NIC. E1000E is the default adapter for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

Emulated version of the Intel 82545EM Gigabit Ethernet NIC, with drivers available in most newer guest operating systems, including Windows XP and later and Linux versions 2.4.19 and later.

Identifies itself as a Vlance adapter when a virtual machine boots, but initializes itself and functions as either a Vlance or a VMXNET adapter, depending on which driver initializes it. With VMware Tools installed, the VMXNET driver changes the Vlance adapter to the higher performance VMXNET adapter.

Emulated version of the AMD 79C970 PCnet32 LANCE NIC, an older 10 Mbps NIC with drivers available in 32-bit legacy guest operating systems. A virtual machine configured with this network adapter can use its network immediately.

Optimized for performance in a virtual machine and has no physical counterpart. Because operating system vendors do not provide built-in drivers for this card, you must install VMware Tools to have a driver for the VMXNET network adapter available.

VMXNET 2 (Enhanced)
Based on the VMXNET adapter but provides high-performance features commonly used on modern networks, such as jumbo frames and hardware offloads. VMXNET 2 (Enhanced) is available only for some guest operating systems on ESX/ ESXi 3.5 and later.

A paravirtualized NIC designed for performance. VMXNET 3 offers all the features available in VMXNET 2 and adds several new features, such as multiqueue support (also known as Receive Side Scaling in Windows), IPv6 offloads, and MSI/MSI-X interrupt delivery. VMXNET 3 is not related to VMXNET or VMXNET 2.

A paravirtualized NIC that supports remote direct memory access (RDMA) between virtual machines through the OFED verbs API. All virtual machines must have a PVRDMA device and should be connected to a distributed switch. PVRDMA supports VMware vSphere vMotion and snapshot technology. It is available in virtual machines with hardware version 13 and guest operating system Linux kernel 4.6 and later.

SR-IOV passthrough
Representation of a virtual function (VF) on a physical NIC with SR-IOV support. The virtual machine and the physical adapter exchange data without using the VMkernel as an intermediary. This adapter type is suitable for virtual machines where latency might cause failure or that require more CPU resources.
SR-IOV passthrough is available in ESXi 6.0 and later for guest operating systems Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and later, and Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP2. An operating system release might contain a default VF driver for certain NICs, while for others you must download and install it from a location provided by the vendor of the NIC or of the host.

For information about assigning an SR-IOV passthrough network adapter or a PRVDMA to a virtual machine, see the vSphere Networking documentation. For network adapter compatibility considerations, see the VMware Compatibility Guide.

Legacy Network Adapters and ESXi Virtual Hardware Versions
The default network adapter types for all legacy virtual machines depend on the adapters available and compatible to the guest operating system and the version of virtual hardware on which the virtual machine was created.

If you do not upgrade a virtual machine to use a virtual hardware version, your adapter settings remain unchanged. If you upgrade your virtual machine to take advantage of newer virtual hardware, your default adapter settings will likely change to be compatible with the guest operating system and upgraded host hardware.

To verify the network adapters that are available to your supported guest operating system for a particular version of vSphere ESXi, see the VMware Compatibility Guide.

Additional Information

For translated versions of this article, see: