The Wiert Corner – irregular stream of stuff

Jeroen W. Pluimers on .NET, C#, Delphi, databases, and personal interests

  • My work

  • My badges

  • Twitter Updates

  • My Flickr Stream

  • Pages

  • All categories

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,842 other followers

Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick (failed at first in HP XW6600, but with MBR partition table it works)

Posted by jpluimers on 2012/07/30

Installing and booting ESXi 5 from USB allows you to keep your storage exclusively for VMs and separately make backup of your boot configuration and data configuration (note you cannot put the DataStore on your USB stick).

A small stick (minimum 1 gigabyte) will suffice, and works on many systems, but at first not on my HP XW6600, despite the latest BIOS version 1.36a. You get a nice “Non-System disk or disk error” message.

Both methods I tried failed at first. I thought they failed because the BIOS on the HP has limited USB boot support. It did boot from single partition USB sticks, but seemed not to boot from multi-partition ones, no matter if they are removable or HDD (with the removable bit flipped).

The ESXi5 installer is a single partition one. The final ESXi5 installed image is a multi-partition one. That’s what got me thinking into the multi-partiton direction.

Since the problem is similar to the impossibility of booting VMware workstation VMs from USB stick, (this fails even from the BIOS), I tried Plop since Plop works for VMware Workstation. The Plop USB boot manager failed too. My final thought was to install Plop on a FAT formatted USB stick(which does boot) and continue from there to the ESXi5 one: that failed too.

Boy I was wrong: the failure was not caused by the multi-partition setup, but because of my “Google blindness”: I searched in the wrong direction with the wrong keywords, therefore not getting the right links as search results.

A VMware Communities forum threads on “No bootable device” after successful ESXI5 installation on Intel DG35EC desktop motherboard” and No boot after clean install  finally got me in the right direction:

As of ESXi5, the default partition table type is GPT (GUID Partition Table), not MBR (Master Boot Record) any more (thats why an ESXi4 install will work fine).

Booting from GPT is in the EFI standards (now in its second generation UEFI or United Extensible Firmware), allowing – among others – to boot from disks bigger than 2 terrabyte. You need a BIOS that is compatible with GPT to do so, and the HP XW6600 BIOS clearly isn’t compatible with GPT.

Not all is lost, as while installing ESXi5, you have an option – though well hidden – to force it to use MBR boot. That worked, and I will blog on the steps later.

The good news: it now works on my HP XW6600 workstations (that support both VT-x and VT-d, which means I can do PCI pass through).

How to create an ESXi5 install on a USB stick

First things first though: creating the USB stick in the first place.

There are two methods that equally work well, either of them works with both VMware ESXi5 ISO image downloads I tried:

  • VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.0.0.update01-623860.x86_64.iso
  • VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.0.0-469512.x86_64.iso

I’ve quoted the steps below, as I have been bitten by link-rot before, and the WayBack machine doesn’t index the complete internet (yet?).

Method 1: UNetBootin

The method is from EMC Community Network – ECN: Weining’s Blog: Make An ESXi5 USB Boot Drive.

This method copies all the installation files from the ISO image to a FAT32 formatted USB stick and makes the stick bootable. With that stick you can install on the machine that is going to run ESXi 5.

This is what you need for this method:

  • A USB flash drive of 1 gigabyte or 2 gigabyte (larger is possible but not needed)
  • A Windows machine
  • An internet connection

Steps:

  1. Download the ESXi5 ISO files (see above)
  2. Format your USB flash drive as FAT32.
    I had to do this the hard way (using the steps in How to Partition a USB Flash Drive | AgniPulse, as my first failed attempts had created multiple partitions and the Windows disk manament tools couldn’t get rid of them).
  3. Download and run UNetbootin.
    This tool (no install needed: it is an executable) allows you to create bootable USB media from ISO media for various *nix distributions. Since the ESXi5 installer is such a distribution, you can use this tool.
  4. Put the USB stick in your PC, and note the drive letter assigned to it
  5. Run UNetbootin
  6. Select the  (see screenshot)
    – Disk image button
    – ESXi5 installation ISO
    – USB drive letter
  7. Click OK to make the USB disk bootable and copy the installer on it
  8. Click Exit after the copy
  9. Pull your USB stick from your PC
  10. Insert your USB stick in the machine that is going to be ESXi5
  11. Boot the ESXi5 machine from USB
  12. Follow the ESXi5 installation steps (see a later blog post)

Method 2: using VMware Workstation (or Player)

There is a great Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick guide at VMwire that explains the steps.

This method works because ESXi 5 is installed and configured in two steps, the installation is done to a disk (including root password), then after a reboot the final configuration is done (hardware scanning, network config, etc).

The first part is in VMware Workstation (or Player), the part on the machine that is going to run ESXi 5.

I used this method because it is easier to make screenshots.

Another advantage is that you can clone the USB stick (using for instance WinImage) before the second part in order to make multiple copies that have the same root password. Not recommended for production though.

One note: The ESXi5 installer in VMware will complain about not having VT-d, because that is the default VMware setting. The message is harmless (as you will run the final install on the ESXi5 machine that should have VT-d).

What you need:

  • A USB flash drive of 1 gigabyte or 2 gigabyte (larger is possible but not needed)
  • A Windows machine
  • An internet connection
  • VMware Workstation
    (should work with VMware Player too)

Steps part 1:

  1. Download the ESXi5 ISO files (see above)
  2. Format your USB flash drive as FAT32.
    I had to do this the hard way (using the steps in How to Partition a USB Flash Drive | AgniPulse, as my first failed attempts had created multiple partitions and the Windows disk manament tools couldn’t get rid of them).
  3. Create a new ESXi5 bootstrap VM in VMware Workstation (or Player) with:
    – 2 gigabyte memory
    – 2 virtual CPUs (optionally with VT-d)
    – CD drive (connected to the ESXi5 ISO)
    – USB adapter
    – Display
  4. Boot the VM
  5. Put your USB stick into your PC and connect it to the VM
  6. Install ESXi5 as normal, making sure it installs to the USB stick
  7. When the install wants to reboot:
    – Turn off the VM
    – Pull your USB stick from your PC
  8. You no longer need this VM
    (unless you want to make multiple USB sticks, then restart from step 4)

Steps part 2:

  1. Insert your USB stick in the machine that is going to be ESXi5
  2. Boot the ESXi5 machine from USB
  3. Follow the ESXi5 installation steps (see a later blog post)
    Your ESXi5 license information is here.

–jeroen

4 Responses to “Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick (failed at first in HP XW6600, but with MBR partition table it works)”

  1. […] a HP XW6600, you can run ESXi 4 or run ESXi 5, but in yourder to run x64 guest VMs, you need to enable Intel VT in the BIOS […]

  2. […] Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick (failed at first in HP XW6600, but with MBR partition tab… […]

  3. […] A long time ago, I promised steps how to install VMware 5 ESXi using the MBR boot format. […]

  4. […] long while ago I blogged about Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick so I could boot ESXi from […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: