In trying to save some money on your home lab, you might consider booting ESXi from a USB Flash drive. I mean, all it really does anyway is load ESXi into RAM, so unless you are planning on using an internal hard drive for something else, why not just drop $6 and get a flash drive instead.
I purchased an ADATA Classic Series C008 8GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive. You can use pretty much any flash drive you want. There is no need to use USB 3.0 flash drives. I chose an 8GB over a 1-4GB because I can store the logs on the empty space of this drive (however, I’m currently storing them on a datastore in my NAS)… You have the option at least.
To create the bootable ESXi drive you will need a few things.
- Flash drive
- ESXi (your version) .ISO
- unetbootin (unetbootin-windows-583.exe) (I have been told that Rufus is fast and easy, similar to unetbootin. If unetbootin does not work for you, give Rufus a shot)
- Plug your flash drive into the computer
- run unetbootin
- in Unetbootin, select ‘DISKIMAGE’
- make sure ISO is selected in the drop down
- browse for your installer (should say VMvisor in the name)
- in TYPE: choose USB DRIVE
- make sure you have the correct drive selected
- click OK
- It will begin creating your bootable image
Once it is complete, you are ready to rock and roll!
- Place the flash drive in your ESXi host and power on the machine
- (MAKE SURE YOUR BIOS IS SETUP TO BOOT FROM USB)
- Your host should start booting up the installation
- As you can see it is loading…
- And loading….
- Go ahead and hit ‘ENTER’
- “Read” the EULA and press ‘F11’
- As you can see it sees the flash drive (obviously since it just loaded from there). We are going to go ahead and install ESXi over the top of everything. We can do this because the installer is loaded into the RAM and won’t be affected by this. hit ‘ENTER’.
- After it scans the device it will give you a confirmation box. hit ‘ENTER’
- Choose your language and hit ‘ENTER’
- Here you will create your root password. DO NOT FORGET WHAT YOUR PASSWORD IS! Hit ‘ENTER’
- Once again we will confirm the installation… hit ‘F11’
- Watch it install. This can take a few minutes…
- Upon completion your host will need to reboot. hit ‘ENTER’ to reboot.
- Once your system reboots you will be able to login to the interface and setup your host. ‘F2′ will open the following options. Go to CONFIGURE MANAGEMENT NETWORK
- Use the SPACEBAR to select (X) the NICs you will be using. hit ‘ENTER’ to save the configuration.
- Setup your static IP information
- Add in your DNS servers and a hostname (THE HOSTNAME IS THE NAME FOR THIS ESXi SERVER)
- Your ESXi Host is ready to go! head over to one of the links shown in the yellow on your host to download the vSphere client and get running!
You should now have an ESXi host that is run off of a USB flash drive and is ready for action in your new VMware environment!