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ESXi, vSphere5

Creating (a better) vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick (HP)

In a previous post I blogged about creating a vanilla vSphere 5 ESXi USB drive using the VMware .iso file from VMware. This post shows how to create one using the HP version of vSphere ESXi (5.0_Oct_2011_ESXi_HD-USB-SDImgeInstlr_Z7550-00253.iso).

Note: (You can use any vendor customized vSphere ESXi .iso file: VMware, Dell and IBM).

The HP version comes pre-installed with all the HP CIM providers which work very well with HP servers, including the HP MicroServer. Using the HP version gives you the more details in the Hardware Status tab.

I’m going to be using a different method, recommended by Will Rodbard (thanks Will), who is a colleague of mine at VMware, you can see his comments from the previous post. In summary the steps are:

  1. Find and download the following tools:


  2. Run the HPUSBFW tool, click on the USB drive, select ‘Fat32′ and click Format
  3. Run UNETBOOTIN, select Diskimage and browse to the ESXi 5 ISO file
  4. Select the USB drive you have just formatted and click OK
  5. If you want to make more USB keys for more servers, then now is the time to create .IMG files using WinImage, then you can basically clone the image of the USB key to more USB keys. Or if you don’t wish to use WinImage then just perform steps 1 to 4 again.

Once completed your USB drive will boot into the ESXi 5 installer. Once booted, install the ESXi 5 Hypervisor to the USB drive (overwriting the installer). This will then leave you with the installed ESXi Hypervisor on the USB.

Note that using this method creates a brand new bootable USB key for use in a new installation of vSphere ESXi. You will have to go through the process of installing ESXi onto the USB key, or another disk or LUN on the target server. If you want a USB key that is already installed with ESXi which saves you from going through the installation wizard, you can use the other method in this post.


I coincidently left an older USB key in my laptop and booted. Here’s a picture of my Macbook Pro running vSphere ESXi, and it all works by the way, including networking!

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About Hugo Phan

Atlantis Computing


39 thoughts on “Creating (a better) vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick (HP)

  1. Hugo – using WinImage to copy the USB key means that the virtual MAC address is the same on all USB keys. Not always an issue but if you have more than one server on the same switch it causes all kinds of issues – had this in our test area.

    Posted by Mark Aggleton | March 20, 2012, 11:02
  2. Thanks. But this method is not working for me. I have tried with HP’s ESXs’ versions namely:
    In both the above cases, the disk is created successfully. When I reboot the system, the system boots from USB but while trying to load ubninit file, the system reboots itself

    But when I try with the stock VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.0.0-469512.x86_64.ISO from VMWare, it just works fine as expected.

    What is wrong with my approach ?

    Posted by Prashant | April 3, 2012, 15:35
  3. same here, any ideas?

    Posted by Thomas | April 24, 2012, 09:39
  4. same issue as the three posters above.

    Posted by ben | April 28, 2012, 04:28
  5. even the oct2011 one does the same thing. I wonder if we are all trying this on a HP n40l server?

    Posted by ben | April 28, 2012, 18:44
  6. Well i’m back again, but this time with good news.
    When you chose the .iso in unetbootin, the drop down (floppy/iso) changes to floppy. Change it back to .iso and even the latest hp .iso’s worked for me. I was using unetbootin-windows-575.

    Posted by ben | April 29, 2012, 03:05
  7. Hey Hugo, WillyBoy here,
    I just downloaded the newest version of the ISO from HP
    and I ran in to, what I think, may be similar issues to the other guys.
    I tried the “changing from iso-to-floppy-to-iso” trick in unetbootin with no joy. I even tried downloading the slightly older, non-update 1 image, also to no avail.

    I don’t think unetbootin liked the original HP file name as the software would become unresponsive on the first section () and then skip rapidly to the end and instead of all of the ESXi source files on the usb key there would only be the following files:


    What worked for me was renaming the iso file that I had downloaded.

    Original filename:
    New filename:

    Now Obviously I just nicked the original VMware name and replaced most of the HP file name, I think anything short would probably do.

    Hope this helps anyone else stuck with the new image

    Posted by Will | May 2, 2012, 18:13
  8. WillyBoy your spot on. I just renamed iso as “image.iso” and all worked perfectly. Thank you so much wasted the last 2 hours on this!

    Posted by alaw005 | June 6, 2012, 11:26
  9. Thanks for the article (and comments regarding renaming the ISO). I’ve been able to install a function esxi config on my Microserver, however in vsphere under configuration/health I’m not getting any hardware status. The only two items listed are processors and software. Have I missed a step as part of the install?

    Posted by justin | June 16, 2012, 02:49
    • Justin,
      Sounds like the HP CIM agents aren’t seeing the hardware correctly? I don’t think you have missed a step as it either works or doesn’t. I would go back and start from scratch.
      Wow, that wasn’t much help was it? sorry ><

      Posted by Will | July 24, 2012, 11:45
  10. Is this esxi free? I always thought the “i” edition was free, you only paid for the extra bells and whistles such as vpshere centre (or whatever it is called these days) I’m asking because I downloaded ESXi 5.1 and after installing it and getting a message that it is in evaluation mode for 60 days and I need to enter a license key.

    To download the image I had to sign up with vmware and do have a key and but when I use vsphere client to connect to my host I do not see the licensing section in Administration.

    Can someone give my guidance?? I’m OK on the basics of vmware and esx but the terminology and new names they give always confuse my brain.



    Posted by Edgar | October 13, 2012, 19:55
  11. my installed stopped at memory_size error: this host has 1.87 Gib of ram. 1.97 are needed. so I reduced video ram from 128 to 32 (lowest) and this time it stopped saying …error: this host has 1.97 Gib of ram. 1.97 needed. Ugh. guess I have to spend more money for ram. I expected to do that, but didn’t want to till I saw this puppy working.

    Posted by dbmuse | December 1, 2012, 01:58
  12. With the latest HP ESXi 5 and 5.1 images, copying the installer image onto the USB key works fine… but then installing back on to the USB stick doesnt seem to work. It installs just fine, but is then not bootable. The ESXi install repartitions the USB stick which then becomes unbootable.

    Posted by Technogenus | May 8, 2013, 02:13
  13. i tried the above and my 4G usb drive was formatted and changed to 3,93MB FAT .I need to restore my usb drive to original format.What do I do please.

    Posted by Wellscon | May 21, 2013, 09:36
  14. Thanks for the well written guide. I followed this to make a bootable USB for 5.5.0 but initially it wouldn’t boot simply giving me the ‘menu.c32: not a COM32R image’ error. After a bit of Googling following this guide (http://www.geeklee.co.uk/2013/11/07/create-and-test-esxi55-usb/) got me up and running.
    Hopefully this will be useful to someone else.

    Posted by James | January 19, 2014, 01:37
  15. I have downloaded a copy of ESXi 5.5 (.iso) and copied to my USB stick. I have placed USB stick on mainboard of my hp proliant microserver (N54L). Should the server recognise the .iso file on the USB? The initial start up recognised the cpu and RAM (16GB) but after that if just sits doing nothing with a blinking cursor.

    Where am I going wrong?



    Posted by Scott | February 2, 2014, 16:27
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  1. Pingback: Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick « VMwire - March 19, 2012

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