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Installing ESXi Installable onto a USB drive or SD flash card (1020655)

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With the release of VMware vSphere 4.x, VMware has made it possible to install ESXi 4.x onto a USB or SD flash storage device directly attached to the server. For more information, see VMware support for USB/SD devices used for installing VMware ESXi 4.x (1010574).
This article provides instructions on for installing ESXi onto a USB drive or SD flash card.
Note: In the event that your original SD flash card or USB drive fails, these steps can be used in a disaster recovery capacity to get a fully functional ESXi host running as quickly as possible on a replacement USB drive or SD flash card.


Installing ESXi 4.x on a USB or SD flash card

Note: Installing ESXi 4.x onto a USB drive or SD flash card has the same minimum requirements as any other ESXi installation. For more information, see the System Requirement section from ESXi Installable and vCenter Server Setup Guide.
  1. Acquire and create an installation CD-ROM by downloading the appropriate image from the download section of the VMware website for vSphere and burn the ISO file onto CD media.
  2. Insert the ESXi 4.x Installable CD into the CD-ROM drive.
  3. Set the BIOS to boot from the CD-ROM device.

    Press the key required to activate your machine's BIOS setup. This key is often a function key or Delete. For more information, consult your hardware vendor documentation.

  4. On the Welcome screen, press Enter to continue with the installation.
  5. Read the VMware end-user license agreement and accept it by pressing F11.
  6. In the Select a Disk screen, select the disk drive you want to install ESXi 4.x on and press Enter. This screenshot illustrates how a Flash Reader appears on the Select a Disk screen.


Note: If you are installing to an SD flash card or USB drive, the local disks are not affected.

  1. Press F11 to start the installation.
  2. When the installation is complete, remove the installation CD.
  3. Press Enter to reboot the host.
  4. Set the first boot device to be the drive on which you installed ESXi in step 6.

    To set the boot device, press the key required to enter your machine's BIOS setup. This key is often a function key or Delete. For more information, consult your hardware vendor

Disaster Recovery

If you have a local datastore containing production information and have completed the installation on a replacement SD flash card or USB drive in a disaster recovery scenario, you may be required perform these additional steps:
  1. Connect to the ESXi host using the vSphere Client, or add the ESXi host to an existing vCenter Server implementation.
  2. Click on the host.
  3. Click the Configuration tab.
  4. Click Storage.
  5. Click Rescan to ensure you can see all datastores.
  6. Browse the datastore and register any virtual machines that are located on the datastores. For more information, seeRegistering or adding a virtual machine to the inventory (1006160).
Additional Information:

For installing ESXi 5.0 on a USB or SD flash card, see Installing ESXi 5.0 on a supported USB flash drive or SD flash card (2004784).

For translated versions of this article, see:

Update History

04/25/2011 - Updated for 4.1. 07/26/2012 - Added link for installing USB and flash card in ESXi 5.0

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