Create a bootable VMware ESXi 5 USB stick in Windows and perform a scripted installation

Here is a simple procedure to make a bootable VMware ESXi 5 or ESXi 6 USB stick in Windows and perform a scripted unattended VMware ESXi installation. The 5 steps are:

Step 1

Be sure removing all partitions and format a FAT32 partition on the USB stick by using the following command:

Open the command prompt and enter the following commands:

diskpart (make sure you run diskpart as administrator) 
list disk (list the disk in your system including the USB) 
select disk USB number 
clean 
create partition primary 
active 
format fs=fat32 quick
assign
exit

Step 2

Download the Windows LinuxLive USB creator utility here.

Step 3

Start the Lili USB creator utility.

 

image

Follow the steps 1,2,4 and click 5 to create the USB stick. Wait till the USB creation process is finished. So now you have a bootable ESXi stick. You can stop here if you you want to install ESXi with manual installation steps.   

Step 4

Edit the BOOT.CFG file in the root of the USB stick and add ks=usb between /b.b00 and — /useropts.gz modules

The BOOT.CFG should look like this:

bootstate=0 
title=Loading ESXi installer 
kernel=/tboot.b00 
kernelopt=runweasel 
modules=/b.b00 ks=usb --- /useropts.gz --- /k.b00 --- /a.b00 --- /ata-pata.v00 --- /ata-pata.v01 --- /ata-pata.v02 --- /ata-pata.v03 --- /ata-pata.v04 --- /ata-pata.v05 --- /ata-pata.v06 --- /ata-pata.v07 --- /block-cc.v00 --- /ehci-ehc.v00 --- /s.v00 --- /weaselin.i00 --- /ima-qla4.v00 --- /ipmi-ipm.v00 --- /ipmi-ipm.v01 --- /ipmi-ipm.v02 --- /misc-cni.v00 --- /misc-dri.v00 --- /net-be2n.v00 --- /net-bnx2.v00 --- /net-bnx2.v01 --- /net-cnic.v00 --- /net-e100.v00 --- /net-e100.v01 --- /net-enic.v00 --- /net-forc.v00 --- /net-igb.v00 --- /net-ixgb.v00 --- /net-nx-n.v00 --- /net-r816.v00 --- /net-r816.v01 --- /net-s2io.v00 --- /net-sky2.v00 --- /net-tg3.v00 --- /ohci-usb.v00 --- /sata-ahc.v00 --- /sata-ata.v00 --- /sata-sat.v00 --- /sata-sat.v01 --- /sata-sat.v02 --- /sata-sat.v03 --- /scsi-aac.v00 --- /scsi-adp.v00 --- /scsi-aic.v00 --- /scsi-bnx.v00 --- /scsi-fni.v00 --- /scsi-hps.v00 --- /scsi-ips.v00 --- /scsi-lpf.v00 --- /scsi-meg.v00 --- /scsi-meg.v01 --- /scsi-meg.v02 --- /scsi-mpt.v00 --- /scsi-mpt.v01 --- /scsi-mpt.v02 --- /scsi-qla.v00 --- /scsi-qla.v01 --- /uhci-usb.v00 --- /tools.t00 --- /imgdb.tgz --- /imgpayld.tgz 
build= 
updated=0

 

Step 5

Create a Kickstart configuration file for the scripted installation in the root of the USB stick. Here is an example:

#Sample kickstart scripted installation
vmaccepteula
rootpw VMw@re
install --firstdisk --overwritevmfs
network --bootproto=static --ip=192.168.250.21 --gateway=192.168.250.1 --nameserver=192.168.250.6 --netmask=255.255.255.0 --hostname=esxi5-01.beerens.local --device=vmnic0 --addvmportgroup=0
reboot

%firstboot --interpreter=busybox
# Rename local datastore name
vim-cmd hostsvc/datastore/rename datastore1 "$(hostname -s)-local-storage-1"
# DNS names
esxcli system hostname set --fqdn=esxi5-01.beerens.local
esxcli network ip dns search add --domain=beerens.local
# DNS server addresses
esxcli network ip dns server add --server=192.168.250.6
esxcli network ip dns server add --server=192.168.250.1
# SSH and ESXi shell
vim-cmd hostsvc/enable_ssh
vim-cmd hostsvc/start_ssh
vim-cmd hostsvc/enable_esx_shell
vim-cmd hostsvc/start_esx_shell

For editing and creating the boot.cfg and ks.cfg file in Windows I use Notepad++ so NO hidden carriage returns are in the files. And the USB stick creation in ready.

An easy way to test the ESXi 5 USB stick and the scripted installation  is using VMware Workstation. See my post “Boot from USB in VMware Workstation” found here.

 

William Lam’s blog has real good information about Kickstart scripts found here.

17 thoughts on “Create a bootable VMware ESXi 5 USB stick in Windows and perform a scripted installation

  1. Thanks for the nice instruction. i have managed to create the bootable USB but the ESXi installer gives me error below when it loading tools.t00. Any ideal

    “Error loading / tools.t00
    Fatal error:33 (Inconsistent data).

    I look forward to hearing from you

    thanks,
    Abbey

  2. If you’re evaluating at home, another option is to use VMware player with USB redirection and the ESXi 5 ISO.

    Create a new virtual machine with a 4 GB HD or smaller.

    Connect the ISO

    Connect the USB device

    Boot the virtual machine and install ESXi to the USB drive.

    During the process you get some errors about supported hardware, these can be ignored.

    When it’s finished you can remove the USB drive and boot you’re system from this drive. Configure the management network and you should be ready to go.

    I used this method to upgrade my ESX4 system. All I had to do afterwards is import the guests.

  3. Thanks for the instruction they are perfect but when i run the newly created esxi 5.0 usb stick i get an error which states the following.

    i am selecting the interactive installation method from the esxi menu.

    install method not set

    neither the install nor the upgrade userchoice was not set.

    after i see this error the system reboots and makes the attempt again to install.

    thanks,

    cesar

  4. @Cesar: if you do not edit the boot.cfg with the “ks=usb” option and select a interactive installation it will work

  5. @Held: I’m also having the issue with “neither the install nor the upgrade userchoice was not set”. I verified that boot.cfg was modified with “ks=usb”.

    Any ideas?

  6. Hi,

    Hope someone can help with this…
    First I tried the Scripted setup, didn’t work, froze after a while.
    Then I remade the USB-stick (1GB) and didn’t make any changes to the boot.cfg or ks.cfg and went for a Interactive Installation.
    Starts but after a few seconds I get an error:
    “Error loading /net-bnx2.v00
    Fatal error: 6 (Buffer too small)”

    What is this buffer and how can I fix it?

    BR, Mike

  7. Mike – I got this error but on a different file. tried a different usb (2GB) and worked now i am getting the Neither the install nor the upgrade userchoice was set…. Any ideas?

  8. I got this to work as an interactive install by skipping the ks=usb item, and adding -p 1 to the APPEND line in the syslinux.cfg. This is what the ESXi instructions said to do. The first run I did get an error loading s.v00 or something, but then I rebooted and it worked.

  9. I also had to do what Eris says. ks=usb didn’t work for me (gave me message that install/upgrade userchoice wasn’t set), so I removed that and added “-p 1” to the end of the APPEND line after the -c boot.cfg. This allowed it to install perfectly fine.

    Thanks for the Lili USB creator tip. Worked great.

  10. with VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.0.0.update01-623860.x86_64.iso you i an error :
    [Errno 2] No such file or directory: ‘/tardisks/scsi-rst.v00’

  11. hi,

    please could you explain what is these .b00 files? i cannot find anywhere documented these a.b00, b.b00, etc, and this is so confused to me.

    thanks so much!

  12. This worked great for me first try! Thanks for the information.

    Server IBM x3650 7979 installed using IBM distro of ESXi5.1U2. Did not use unattended mode as I only have 1 server with this older hardware config (everything else I run is M3/M4 generation)

    Thanks!!!

  13. not working for ESXi 5.5. tried pretty much every combination of configuration possible including suggestions from comments above it just won’t pickup the ks.cfg script it prompts for installation as per normal

  14. my bad… was using a different USB creator that didn’t inject the interactive install option lol… 🙂

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