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!


Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded USB Stick

A very quick post on how to create an image that contains vSphere 5 ESXi Embedded with which you can use to quickly create USB sticks that have the ESXi hypervisor installed.  This is not the same as creating a bootable USB key that contains the installation files to install ESXi from the USB stick.  For this method please refer to this post.

Use this in your lab environment, I wouldn’t recommend doing this in production environments.

In previous versions of vSphere ESXi, it was relatively straight forward to create a bootable USB key which already contained the ESXi hypervizor.  This was done by extracting the files from the ISO and then using ‘dd’ to image the directory structure to the USB stick.  With vSphere ESXi 5 however, this technique is no longer possible.  There is a workaround however.  ESXi is installed and configured in two steps, the installation is done to a disk with a vanilla installation of ESXi without configuration.  The server is then rebooted and the configuration of ESXi continues with the creation of the management network vmk0 or vmk1 (depending on your setup), hostname, DNS etc.

For this to work, we do not perform the second part, which is the configuration, but take an image of the USB key directly after the installation of the vanilla installation of ESXi without configuration.  This enables us to image this vanilla installation onto as many USB sticks, i.e., servers as we like without clashes in virtual MAC addresses and the like.

What you will need: VMware Workstation, 1 USB stick, the ESXi Installable ISO file VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.0.0-469512.x86_64.iso, WinImage.

Quick steps

  1. Create a new ESX virtual machine in VMware Workstation with CD-ROM drive, USB adapter, 2Gb RAM and 2vCPUs.
  2. Mount the ESXi Installable ISO file to the CD Drive.
  3. Insert the USB stick to your workstation (the same one that runs VMware Workstation).
  4. Boot the VM and connect the USB stick to the VM.
  5. Install ESXi as normal, making sure that you install onto the USB stick, when installation is complete, disconnect the USB stick from the VM and do not reboot the VM, just turn it off.  You no longer need this VM.
  6. With the USB stick still connected to your workstation, open up Winimage.
  7. Go to Disk | Creating Virtual Hard Disk image from physical drive and select the USB stick that you installed ESXi on.
  8. Select a location where to save your image and change the file type to Image file (*.ima).
  9. WinImage will now make a backup on your newly installed USB stick.

Creating vSphere 5 ESXi embedded bootable USB sticks

  1. Now that you have an ESXi image, you can use this to build lots of USB sticks which are ready for ESXi deployment.
  2. Insert a new USB stick into a spare USB port.
  3. Launch WinImage and navigate to Disk | Restore Virtual Hard Disk image on physical drive.
  4. Select the USB stick and click on OK.
  5. Navigate to the image file that you created previously.  WinImage will now restore the backed up image to your new USB stick.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

Configure ESXi

Once the stick is ready, just insert into a spare USB port on your server and ESXi will boot into the configuration screen ready for you to configure management network details.

You may need to log onto the local console once ESXi has finished booting and launch the ‘Restore Network Settings’.  This will reset the vmk0 or vmk1 (depending on your setup) interface.

Disaster Recovery just got "sESXi"

Notes on using vRanger Pro & ESXi for Disaster Recovery

Just succesffully proved vRanger Pro to restore backups taken from Production (ESX 3.5, vRanger Pro on physical with VCB) to infrastructure in DR (ESXi 3.5, vRanger Pro on a VM, non VCB). All this from provisioning DR Infrastructure (ESXi Servers, Storage, vCenter VM) within 1 hour. Silver tier recovery just got “sESXi”!

Infrastructure at Production

  • ESX 3.5 Update 2 on BL460C
  • Storage on 400Gb LUNs presented by IBM SVC
  • VC 2.5 Update 2 VM
  • vRanger & VCB 1.5 & vRanger Pro VCB Plugin 3.0 on Physical DL380 G5 Server
  • VM backups on TSM and replicated to DR

Infrastructure at DR

  • ESXi Update 3 USB on DL360 G5
  • Local Storage
  • VC 2.5 Update 4 VM
  • vRanger & VCB 1.5 & vRanger Pro VCB Plugin 3.0 on W2K3 SP2 VM + .Net Framework 2.0 SP1

Important points to note

If you are running vRanger in a virtual machine to restore workloads backed up by vRanger installed on a physical host, with either traditional LAN based backup or VCB based backup. It is important that the software is installed in the correct order and all the necessary software is installed to enable vRanger to restore both types of backup. If the physical vRanger server performed a backup of a workload using the VCB framework, then you will not be able to restore that workload using another vRanger server unless the VCB framework is also installed. For example, you wish to perform a restore at a DR site.

The correct installation order is

  • Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0 SP1
  • vRanger Pro
  • vRanger Pro VCB Integration module
  • vRanger Pro file-level plugin
  • VMware VCB Framework


  • Install software in the correct order
  • Create the same directory structure for the VM at the DR site as it is at Production. E.g, if the vRanger working directory is D:\vRanger_Backups at Production, then keep the same directory structure for the vRanger server at DR.
  • This will enable you to first restore the vRanger database (esxRanger.mdb), which then populates the Restore table saving valuable time and effort because you will no longer need to use “Restore from Info”
  • If restoring a vRanger backup that was taken using the VCB framework, then the vRanger server at DR will also need to have the VCB framework installed.