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Changing the boot order of a virtual machine using vmx options (2011654)

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This article provides steps to change the boot device without using the virtual machine's BIOS and its limitation to 8 visible devices.


In ESXi/ESX, choose the boot device using the advanced virtual machine options bios.bootOrder and bios.hddOrder.

Note: These settings override the boot order that you might have set in the virtual machine's BIOS previously.

The virtual machine's boot order can be set to any virtual NIC via ethernetX, where X is the number of the device. For example, ethernet0 or ethernet5. It can also be set to hdd, cdrom, or floppy. If set to cdrom or floppy there are multiple devices, the virtual machine tries them sequentially until it finds one to boot from. If bios.bootOrder is set to hdd, you also have to define bios.hddOrder and set a device (for example, scsi0:3 or ide1:0) to boot from.

You can also configure a list of devices. Ensure to put the list into quotation marks and separate the devices with commas.
For example:
  • bios.bootOrder = "ethernet5,ethernet2,hdd,cdrom,floppy"
  • bios.hddOrder = "scsi2:2,scsi0:1,ide1:0"
In this example, the virtual machine tries to boot with ethernet5. If there is nothing to boot from, try ethernet2. If that fails, try from the disks (hdd) defined in hddOrder, then all CD-ROMs, and finally from all floppies.
Note: Unlike BIOS, you can choose from all available NICs and disks, but there is a maximum of 5 NICs and 8 disks that can be used in a boot order list. If you move a bootOrder/hddOrder configured virtual machine to a host that is not running on ESXi/ESX 4.1 or newer, it might not use the boot order you expect it to upon the next restart.

To configure bootOrder for a virtual machine on ESX/ESXi 4.1 using the vSphere Client:
  1. Shut down the virtual machine.
  2. Click the virtual machine in the Inventory.
  3. Click the Summary tab for that virtual machine, then click Edit Settings.
  4. In the Virtual Machine Properties dialog, click the Options tab.
  5. Under Advanced, click General.
  6. Click Configuration Parameters.
  7. Click Add Row.
  8. Create two new rows.

    • Enter bios.bootOrder to the Name column and the devices in the Value column.
    • Enter bios.hddOrder to the Name column and the devices in the Value column.

  9. Click OK to save the changes.

To configure bootOrder for a virtual machine on ESXi 5 and later, you have to either use the API and the bootOrder property introduced in the vSphere API 5.0 or edit the .vmx file directly.

For more information on the bootOrder property in the vSphere API 5.0, see VirtualMachineBootOptions.

For more information on editing configuration files directly, see Editing configuration files in VMware ESXi and ESX (1017022) and Editing files on an ESX host using vi or nano (1020302).

Note: The virtual machine needs to be powered off and unregistered (removed from the vCenter Server/ESXi inventory) for the .vmx file to be edited safely.

When you make changes to the virtual machine configuration file, register it back with the vCenter Server/ESXi inventory following Registering a virtual machine with the vSphere Web Client (2032904).

Additional Information

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See Also

Update History

09/02/2013 - Added steps for ESXi 5.x 09/02/2013 - Added ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 to Product Versions.

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