Pressing F8 during Windows install on Vmware ESX 3.5

After scouring the Intertubes for an answer and not finding a solution, I feel this is a worthy tidbit of new technical information I should share with the rest of the world.

It’s a simple yet annoying problem.

While installing a fresh copy of Windows XP Pro on a Vmware ESX 3.5 host, I got to the usual “Licensing Agreement” page (you know the one with all the legalese). It asks for the F8 key to be pressed to “agree”.

To my surprise, pressing F8 just wouldn’t work! No combination of CTRL, ALT, shift, ascii-codes would work either, I was stuck on the agreement page!

I had seen this before with a Vmware Workstation installation.  Where, if I wanted to enter a VM’s BIOS settings I needed to use a PS/2 keyboard (in addition to my regular USB keyboard) in order to press “ESC” to enter the configuration page.  The only theory I had in mind was that maybe the USB devices weren’t loaded early enough to access the BIOS, while PS/2 support was. *shrug*

Well, back to ESX. I tried pressing F8 through both the VIC2.5 Console tab and through a separate Console window. No luck.

It turns out that the only solution to pressing F8 was to access the VIC2.5 through another workstation (using a PS/2 keyboard) and finally F8 was accepted. Weird.

Yes it’s simple yet annoying problem.

(For the record, my workstation has a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 (ver 1.0))

Update 20080814: One reader’s comment really fixes this beautifully

hey4ndrw Says:
If you have the Microsoft Wireless Natural Multimedia ergonomic keyboard, and no amount of leaning on the F8 key to select “I Agree” works when reinstalling XP, try tapping once on the F Lock button (one key to the right of F12), then pressing F8. Worked for me.