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Creating a bootable USB installer for ESXi and use it to create a bootable ESXi installation

Posted by jpluimers on 2019/03/05

VMware and USB sticks have two aspects:

  1. Creating an installable USB stick
  2. Boot from it and install on another USB stick

Some motherboard and servers offer an internal USB socket to plug in the second stick.

If not, search for “usb 3” motherboard header adapter “usb a”.

Getting the ISO installer on a USB stick to install from

  1. Download Rufus (I’ve used the portable version from)
  2. Run Rufus, select ISO image type
  3. Choose the image (the button on the right of the image type), in my case VMware-VMvisor-Installer-201701001-4887370.x86_64.iso from https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/evalcenter?p=free-esxi6 which Rufus recognises as ESXI-6.5.0-20170104001-STANDARD:
  4. Confirm the menu file replacement (note they forgot to translate the Ja button to Yes and Nee to No):

    ---------------------------
    Replace menu.c32?
    ---------------------------
    This ISO image seems to use an obsolete version of 'menu.c32'.
    Boot menus may not display properly because of this.
    
    A newer version can be downloaded by Rufus to fix this issue:
    - Choose 'Yes' to connect to the internet and download the file
    - Choose 'No' to leave the existing ISO file unmodified
    If you don't know what to do, you should select 'Yes'.
    
    Note: The new file will be downloaded in the current directory and once a 'menu.c32' exists there, it will be reused automatically.
    ---------------------------
    Ja Nee
    ---------------------------
  5. If you get this, then just choose No in the previous dialog:

    ---------------------------
    File download
    ---------------------------
    Unknown internet error 0x00002F0D
    ---------------------------
    OK
    ---------------------------
  6. Confirm erasure of the USB device data (here the Cancel button is still Dutch Annuleren:

    ---------------------------
    Rufus
    ---------------------------
    WARNING: ALL DATA ON DEVICE 'NO_LABEL (F:) [4.1GB]' WILL BE DESTROYED.
    To continue with this operation, click OK. To quit click CANCEL.
    ---------------------------
    OK Annuleren
    ---------------------------

Installing from the USB based installer onto another target USB stick

Yes, you need a second USB to install onto. Which means that it’s best if the two sticks are different models or different brands so it is easier to set them apart.

  1. Insert both sticks in your machine
  2. Power on the  machine and go into BIOS settings
  3. Boot from the first

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