How to Create VMware ESXi 8 Bootable USB Stick on Linux

How to Create VMware ESXi 8 Bootable USB Stick on Linux

We’re here to discuss how to create VMWare ESXi 8 bootable USB disk on Linux OS, breaking it all down into a step-by-step guide. This is the same process as the software Rufus can be used to create a bootable ESXi disk in Windows. The various steps for creating the bootable disk are discussed.

Introduction to VMWare

VMWare released its new version with two products: ESXi 8.0 and vCenter Server 8.0. They can be used easily in production environments. They are very beneficial for the cloud to on-premises workloads, supercharged performance, and can accelerate innovation in your business.

Even though this article applies to a Linux virtual machine and a physical machine, we will discuss the steps primarily for the VMware workstation. For this purpose, you will need an ESXi ISO image. You can download the ESXi image from the following link.

In addition, you will need the following:

  • The Syslinux package: This can be installed via the package manager in Linux. The package manager can be yum apt or rpm. This is a bootloader used by ESXi.
  • You will also need a USB drive with at least 1GB of free space

Follow the steps below to create a VMWare ESXi 9 bootable USB stick.

How to Create VMWare ESXi 8 Bootable USB Stick on Linux

Following are the steps for creating a bootable disk.

Checking if the VM has the USB controller in the hardware list

This step is applicable if you are creating the bootable disk from the VMware workstation. You can check if the USB controller is included in the hardware list. Simply go to the hardware tab, as shown in the Figure below.

hardware tab

Connect the USB device

Now we will connect the USB device. You can find the USB device option in the removable devices section, as shown in the Figure below. If it is not connected, use the option to connect it, as shown in the figure below.

Create VMware ESXi 8 Bootable USB Stick

Install Syslinux

Now install SysLinux as it is required to make the USB device bootable. For this purpose, open your Terminal and type the following command on the Terminal:

# yum install syslinux

Alternatively, you can use the apt command to install as follows:

# apt install syslinux

Create a FAT 32 partition

Now use the fdisk command to format the USB drive for ESXi as follows:

$fdisk /dev/sdc

Now perform the steps below: Press ‘d’ to delete the existing partition (if any). Then, create a primary partition by pressing ‘n’, then ‘p’, and enter (you may need to press it three times) to accept default settings. This will create a primary partition. Press ‘t’ to toggle the file system type and then press ‘c’ to set the file system type to FAT 32. Then, press ‘a’ to make the partition active. Finally, press ‘w’ to write the changes to the disk.

Tip: Besides using the fdisk command, you can also use the parted command to format the USB drive.

Format the USB drive

After the appropriate partition is created using the previous steps, now format the USB device using the following command:

$/sbin/mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n USBESXi /dev/sdc1

Here, -n is used to provide a label for the formatted device. Formatting using the above command will copy the boot loader files and ESXi binaries. 

Copy the boot loader

To make the device bootable, we should copy the mbr.bin to the USB device. MBR is the file that contains the boot code. To copy the mbr.bin file, type the following command on your Terminal:

/usr/bin/syslinux /dev/sdc1
cat /usr/share/syslinux/mbr.bin > /dev/sdc

Creating the mount points

Next, we will create two mount points. The first mount point is for the USB device, and the second is for the ESXi ISO. For this purpose, create two folders under the root folder. Then, we will use the mount command to create the mount points:

mkdir /usbdisk
mount /dev/sdc1 /usbdisk
mkdir /esxicd

Copy ESXi binaries to a USB device

In the workstation or ESXi, you can mount the ESXi image to the VM, as shown below.

Create VMware ESXi 8 Bootable USB Stick

Alternatively, if you are using a physical machine, insert the USB device containing the ESXi binaries. 

Copy the ESXi binary to the USB drive

Now copy the ESXi binary from the mounted drive to the USB drive using copy and paste via the UI as shown below:

Create VMware ESXi 8 Bootable USB Stick

Alternatively, you can use the following command:

$mount /dev/cdrom /esxicd
$cp -r /esxicd/* /usbdisk

Edit the boot configuration

We need to rename the isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg. Also, amend a single entry. You can perform these two steps using the following commands:

mv /usbdisk/isolinux.cfg /usbdisk/syslinux.cfg
vi /usbdisk/syslinux.cfg

The file syslinux.cfg will be opened. Now append the line as follows:

boot config

Testing the bootable disk

Now, you can insert the bootable disk into a USB drive and boot from it. Follow the steps to install (if needed).

This article discusses how we can create an ESXi 8 bootable USB disk on Linux. We discussed the complete steps from downloading the ISO file, installing the prerequisite, formatting the disk, and copying the bootable files. 

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