Install ESX from a USB (no CDROM)

Published on Sunday, December 7, 2008

My little server doesn't have a cdrom, but I didn't want to actually run ESX from a USB (i.e. esx-on-a-stick). Here are my notes of configuring a flash disk to boot the ESX installer (so you can install it onto a local disk). For this demo, my USB is /dev/sdb

1) Install the syslinux utils to your computer (apt-get install syslinux mboot)

2) Install the MBR

sudo install-mbr /dev/sdb

3) Copy all the files from the ISO to your fat32 formated partition

4) Install syslinux

sudo syslinux /dev/sdb1

5) Move isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg, and try booting. If it doesn't work, edit syslinux.cfg says something like:

default menu.c32
menu title ESXi Boot
timeout 100

label ESXi
menu label Boot VMware ESXi
kernel mboot.c32
append vmkernel.gz --- binmod.tgz --- environ.tgz --- cim.tgz
ipappend 2

6) Unplug your USB, put it in your server, reboot, boot to USB-HDD (or select the USB disk), and install ESX to the local disk. You will likely be greeted with a sign saying "MBR FA:", where you need to press "A" and then "1".