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    HOWTO:  Installing ESX Server from a USB flash drive

    Paul Lalonde Master

      After Mike Laverick posted his experience with ESX Server and USB flash disks in another thread, I decided to figure out how to make it work.

      Here's a quick rundown on setting up a USB flash disk (ie. pen drive, flash key, etc.) to install ESX Server.


      \- You will need at least a 1 GB USB flash disk.

      \- You must have


      the ESX 3.x CD-ROM and ISO image handy.

      \- You will need an ISO image extraction tool such as WinISO, MagicISO, or even WinRAR.

      \- You'll need SYSLINUX, a Linux boot loader for removable media. Get it here:


      \- These instructions are based on a Windows PC for simplicity. If you're a Linux guru, then you can obviously do this under Linux. You'd need to know how to mount .ISO images in order to extract files, etc.

      Steps Required:

      1. Plug in your USB flash disk and format it under Windows. Use the FAT filesystem (not FAT32, although it would probably work).

      2. From Windows Explorer, find the


      file in the


      directory on the ESX 3.x CD-ROM. Copy


      into a temporary directory on your hard drive.

      3. Using your ISO extraction program of choice, extract the contents of the


      file to your USB flash drive. On my PC, it's the



      4. Delete the




      files from the USB flash disk.

      5. Rename the


      file on the USB flash disk to


      6. Using WordPad (not Notepad), open the


      file and add the keyword usbto the end of every line that begins with


      . Here's what the file should look like when you're done:

      default esx

      prompt 1

      timeout 600

      display boot.msg

      F1 boot.msg

      F7 snake.msg

      label debug

      kernel vmlinuz

      append initrd=initrd.img noapic nomediacheck debug usb

      label esx

      kernel vmlinuz

      append initrd=initrd.img usb

      label text

      kernel vmlinuz

      append initrd=initrd.img text usb

      label expert

      kernel vmlinuz

      append expert initrd=initrd.img usb

      label ks

      kernel vmlinuz

      append ks initrd=initrd.img usb

      label lowres

      kernel vmlinuz

      append initrd=initrd.img lowres usb

      7. Now, extract the


      .zip file into another temporary directory on your hard drive.

      8. Open up a command prompt and use the


      command to navigate into the


      directory. For example:


      cd C:\temp\syslinux-3.36\win32</p>


      9. Now, run the syslinux program to apply the boot loader and boot sector to the USB flash drive:</p>


      syslinux -s e:

      ( On my PC, my USB flash drive is mounted as drive E: )

      10. Finally, copy the ESX 3.x ISO image onto the flash drive:

      +copy c:\iso\esx-3.0.1-32039.iso e:\ +

      11. Confirm that your USB flash drive contains the following files:









      12. You're all set! Unplug the USB flash drive, configure the BIOS on your server to boot from USB accordingly, and boot 'er up!

      13. The ESX installer will detect the USB device and whatever SCSI / disk controllers you have. When the installer asks you what the installation source will be, choose

      Hard Disk


      14. You will need to choose the right disk device (ie. /dev/sda, /dev/sdb) that corresponds to your USB flash disk. Chances are it will be /dev/sdb.

      15. Finally, the installer will ask you what directory to find the ESX installation CD image in. Just use / and it will find the .ISO image for you.

      16. The rest is history!

      Please let me know how this works for you and if you run into any glitches. This is going to save me a lot of time since I don't have CD-ROM drives in all of my servers!!


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