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How to create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive with Linux, Windows or Mac

This article explains how to create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive with Linux, Windows, and Macs. Installing ESXi with a USB flash drive is a convenient method for physical servers that do not have remote management.

ESXi Image Download

Create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive with Linux

  1. Download ESXi Image: ESXi 8.0 (or any other version)
  2. Install syslinux using your Linux packet manager.
    # yum install syslinux
    # apt install syslinux
  3. Identify the usb flash drives device path (sdb in this example).
    An easy method to identify the device is by running dmesg shortly after plugging in the drive. Have a look for square brackets []. Alternatively, run lsblk --fs and search for iso9660 filesystems.

    # dmesg
    scsi host0: usb-storage 1-2:1.0
    scsi 0:0:0:0: Direct-Access     Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 Stick 
    sd 0:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg0 type 0
    sd 0:0:0:0: [sdb] 62652416 512-byte logical blocks: (32 GB)
    sd 0:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI removable disk
  4. Create a partition with fdisk. This will bring up the interactive tool.
    # fdisk /dev/sdb
  5. Press d to delete existing partitions
  6. Press n for new partition, followed by p for primary
  7. Press ENTER 3 times to use default settings
  8. press t to toggle the file system type
  9. press c to set the file system type to FAT32
  10. press a to make the partition active
  11. press w to write changes to disk
  12. Format the drive
    # /sbin/mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n ESX /dev/sdb1
  13. Copy the boot loader and Master Boot Record
    # /usr/bin/syslinux /dev/sdb1
    # cat /usr/share/syslinux/mbr.bin > /dev/sdb
  14. Create a mount point for the flash drive and mount it
    # mkdir /usbdisk
    # mount /dev/sdb1 /usbdisk
  15. Create a mount point for the ESXi ISO and mount it
    # mkdir /esxi
    # mount -o loop VMware-VMvisor-Installer-x.x.x-XXXXXX.x86_64.iso /esxi
  16. Copy the contents of the ISO image to the USB flash drive
    # cp -r /esxi/* /usbdisk
  17. In the /usbdisk/syslinux.cfg file, edit the APPEND -c boot.cfg line to APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1
    # sed -i 's/APPEND -c boot.cfg/APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1/g' /usbdisk/syslinux.cfg
  18. Unmount the flash drive and ESXi ISO
    # umount /usbdisk
    # umount /esxi
  19. You can now remove the flash drive and use it to install ESXi.

 

Create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive with Windows

  1. Download ESXi Image: ESXi 8.0 (or any other version)
  2. Download Rufus
  3. Connect the USB flash drive to your computer
  4. Open Rufus
  5. Select your flash drive as Device
  6. Press SELECT and open the ESXi Installer ISO
  7. Press START and wait until the process is finished.
  8. You can now remove the flash drive and use it to install ESXi.

 

Create a bootable ESXi Installer USB Flash Drive with Mac

  1. Download ESXi Image: ESXi 8.0 (or any other version)
  2. Identify the usb flash drive. You should find an external, physical disk with the size of your flash drive (disk2 in this example).
    # diskutil list
  3. Create a partition map and format the drive with FAT32.
    # diskutil eraseDisk MS-DOS "ESX" MBR disk2
  4. Unmount the flash drive
    # diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2
  5. Mark the first partition as active using fdisk. This will bring up the interactive tool.
    fdisk: 1> f 1
    fdisk: 1> write
    fdisk: 1> quit
  6. Mount the ESXi Installer ISO and copy the contents from the ISO to the USB flash drive.
  7. On the flash drive, locate the ISOLINUX.CFG file and rename it to SYSLINUX.CFG.
  8. In the syslinux.cfg file, edit the APPEND -c boot.cfg line to APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1
  9. You can now remove the flash drive and use it to install ESXi.

 

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