If you need to run ESXi on a computer that doesn’t have an optical drive, such as an HP Microserver or Mac Mini, creating a bootable ESXi USB drive is the best way to install VMware’s virtualization software onto that system. This guide will show you how to do it in Windows, which also works on all versions of Windows Server 2008 and later. If you want instructions for installing ESXi on Linux instead, check out How to Create a Bootable VMware ESXi USB Drive in Linux. Just make sure your server can boot from USB before trying this!
Step 1 – Gather the Requirements
Before we start, there are a few things you will need. You’ll need the following: A computer with an 8GB or larger capacity (preferably 10GB or more), 32-bit machine or 64-bit machine running Windows 7,8, 8.1,10 or Server 2012. In order to create the bootable USB stick you will also need the VMware Player 6.0 build 25724 (or later) and the VMDK file that you want copied onto your thumb drive.
Step 2 – Download ESXi
Download the latest version of VMware ESXi and find the file you downloaded. Open the folder containing this file. Find the bittorrent file with your download’s name and rename it to: vmware-esxi-x86_64-*.*-*.bittorrent
Step 3 – Create the Bootable Media
Open the Diskpart utility on your computer. Type diskpart and press enter. Select your USB drive from the list and type clean. Press Enter again. From the main menu of Diskpart, type create partition primary. Then, type format fs=ntfs quick label=VMware vmkusb then press Enter again. It will take a while for formatting to complete, just let it do its thing. Once formatting is done, type assign letter=v. Now you have created a VM bootable drive!
Step 4 – Start the Installation Process
Start the installation process by inserting the VMware ESXi ISO into your PC’s CD or DVD drive and rebooting your computer. This will trigger a boot from the disc. You will be prompted to choose an installation language. Select your desired language and click OK. Click Next when you are ready to continue with the installation. Click on Install when you’re given this choice and enter your password for your system if it prompts you for one during the next step of setup.
Step 5 – Configure your Network Adapter
- Enter your Virtual Network Connection name, more on this later.
- Select the type of Ethernet device that you want to install. e.g. E1000 or VMXNET3
- Click on Next and confirm your settings with Yes
This step is most important when selecting a Virtual Network Connection (VNC) name as it will be referenced throughout the installation process for selecting IP address ranges and creating networks for virtual machines. This also determines which mode you will use for connecting to the operating system – Basic or Advanced; as shown below
Step 6 – Select Your Keyboard Layout and Console Settings
Press Enter. You’ll see a screen with a list of keyboard layouts you can select. On the left, it will say Keyboard Selection, while on the right it will list all of the available languages and country types. Scroll down and find your location, then press spacebar until that language is highlighted and then hit Enter again. Finally, select your country type.
Step 7 – Enter all Post-Install Configuration Settings
After choosing your password for the root account, you will need to do some configuration. You can run vSphereClient from the Windows Start Menu. In vSphereClient, click on Hosts and Clusters. Then right-click on your new VM host and select the settings option. Choose Miscellaneous Settings, then scroll down until you see the following section
Step 9 – Power On The Virtual Machine
With the VM powered on, click Start > Program Files (x86) > VMware > VMware vSphere Client (or drag the Windows 8 app from your desktop). Click File and then Virtual Machines. Right-click the desired VM, select Power > Shut Down Guest OS. Select Yes to confirm that you want to shutdown guest operating system when prompted. If you want to make changes first, select No, shut down later.
Select Edit Virtual Machine Settings on the toolbar and uncheck Enable Unity mode at startup.