Great new ESXi 4.1 feature: USB Pass Through
Posted by Jeroen Pluimers on 2010/10/18
A great new ESXi 4.1 feature us the much simplified support of USB Pass Through.
In fact it is one of the biggest reasons I updated so quickly; I have been running it now for almost 3 months now.
The USB Pass Through feature has been in VMware workstation for a long time (if memory and search serve me right, it was introduced in VMware Workstation 3, which feels like a decade ago).
The first VMware workstation versions supported only a few USB devices, newer versions supported more and more.
The current VMware workstation and player now even support MIDI over USB.
As an alternative in ESX/ESXi, you could use USB over IP (sometimes called USB over Ethernet).
This thread points to a few devices and software solutions that work that way.
Getting those to work wasn’t always easy, as Bob K Merz explains.
ESXi 4.0 added the possibility to add an USB Host Controller to a VM, but you could not connect an USB device through the controller (which is also mentioned in the ESXi 4.0 release notes).
ESXi 4.1 now does allow you to connect an USB device through the controller.
And it is deceptively easy; as easy as VMware workstation!
Quote a few people already wrote how to do it: Christian Mohn (vNinja), Mike (PricklyTech), Roger Lund (with a video), james (peacon blog) and of course the VMware KB.
I have used it for various devices now, and these work like a charm:
- USB Audio Devices (GigaPort HD and GigaPort AG)
- USB hard disks