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Create Your Own ESXi 4 Bootable USB Stick

Created: 27 Jul 2009 • Updated: 31 Aug 2010 | 3 comments
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erikw's picture
+4 4 Votes
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In one of my previous articles (How To: Create Your Own Bootable ESX 3i USB Stick) I explained how to make a USb stick that can be used to boot ESXi 3.

Several of the members of Symantec Connect asked me if it is possible to do this with Vmware ESXi 4. In this article I'm going to explain you how to do this.

First off all you have to download the software needed. Click on the link and download ESXi 4.

First you have to open the download with an unzip program like 7-zip. Unzip the whole disk. Then Open "image.tgz" with 7-Zip

  • Go to "\image.tgz.temptar\usr\lib\vmware\installer\VMware-VMvisor-big-164009-x86_64.dd.bz2\"
  • Extract "VMware-VMvisor-big-164009-x86_64.dd" and copy this to a folder like d:\DD
  • Extract and place the content in the folder that you created like in this example d:\dd\
  • Start cmd.exe
  • Run the following command: dd -list

imagebrowser image

Now you see all your disks and other media.

Search your usb stick.

In the example above it is listed as \\?\Device\HarddiskVolume6

As soon as you have found your usb stick then use the following command:

dd bs=1M if=VMware-VMvisor-big-164009-x86_64.dd of=\\?\Device\HarddiskVolume6

The bold piece in the command needs to be replaced with the correct disk on your environment.

After you finished, you will have a full working USB boot stick that boots into ESXi 4.

One of the biggest changes between VMware ESXi 3 and ESXi 4 is the hardware compatibility list. You will see that you can use a lot of different hardware configurations with this disk. If you run it on a laptop with Sata disks the stick will give you full ability to use this disk as local storage.

NOTE: If ESXi is completely booted from the USB stick and you have one or more red lines telling you of VTD errors or IRQ errors, you can ignore them. These errors are stating that your hardware is not supported. In most cases it will just work without any problems.

In ESX you have the ability to go to a command line interface. In ESXi you will not have this ability because VMware says that the command line interface is not available. You can use a remote command line interface instead.

But you also can do the same as in Vmware ESX. In Vmware ES you press alt F1 to go to the command line interface. Do the same in ESXi. You will see that it is then asking for a username and a password.

Type the username, usually root and then the password you have chosen. You will not see anything happening on the screen until you press enter to confirm.

Then you will have the command line interface. It will say that you are working in unsupported mode.

If you have a Virtual infrastructure client or even a Virtual center server running you can connect them direct to the VMware ESXi server. It will give you more abilities to manage your virtual machines.

Now the only thing I'm still missing is the ability to start a Windows 2003 server from the command line interface. That would give VMware ESX and/or VMware ESXi a huge advantage so that you could boot ESXi form the usb stick on your laptop and it then would boot a Windows machine.

With this Windows machine you then could use the Vmware Virtual infrastructure client to manage your ESX install.

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vasati's picture

Hi Erik!

Actually you could. There is a command in /usr/bin/vim-cmd. You could manage your virtual machines.

vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms
then vim-cmd vmsvc/power.on [Vmid] from the previous output.
And you could do much more.


Attila Vas

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Ghent's picture

I used the ESX 3i article you previously posted to setup ESXi 4 on my USB stick. I extracted the Image.tgz (instead of the Install.tgz), found the .bz2 file, extracted that, then used WinImage to image my USB stick.
But I like these instructions better because you need fewer applications to setup your USB stick.

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Ghent's picture

Is it just me? Or did the Create Your Own ESXi 4 Bootable USB Stick article disappear? Everytime I try to see the USB article, I seem to go to this one about evaluating different virtual solutions.

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