ESXi 3.5 Update 2 on a USB memory key

For those like me who would like to check ESXi 3.5 update 2 but don’t want to install on a local harddisk. Here’s a good pdf about how to install it on a USB memory key. It’s fairly easy and I just booted my IBM X61 laptop with ESXi.

In short:

  1. First get the following tools: 7-Zip(Free), WinImage(Demo)
  2. Download the ESXi ISO
  3. Open the ISO with 7-Zip
  4. Extract “install.tgz”
  5. Open “install.tgz” with 7-Zip
  6. Click on “install.tar”
  7. Browse to “usr\lib\vmware\installer\”
  8. Open “VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_2-103909.i386.dd.bz2”
  9. Extract “VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_2-103909.i386.dd”
  10. Open WinImage and go to Disk, click on “Restore Virtual Harddisk Image on physical drive”
  11. Select a physical drive
  12. Select “VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_2-103909.i386.dd”
  13. And click “yes” to write the DD image to the USB Disk

Done! For a more detailed procedure check the pdf above, it also includes screenshots!

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    1. says

      The following link “” has the setup details as well.

    2. Anders Gregersen says

      Did ESXi see your local storage and nic on the X61? If so what partno. does the X61 you use have? I’m looking for a laptop that works with ESXi 3.5u2 without any nfs or other storage attached

    3. Brian says

      For those looking for a WinImage alternative I successfully used “DD for Windows” found here:

      I used:

      dd bs=1M if=VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0-67921.i386.dd of=\\?\Device\Harddisk1\Partition0 –progress

      I found the path to my removable drive by using the “dd –list” command and then looking in the “NT Block Device Objects” list for the first removable media where the size was the same as my USB flash drive.

      Not as sleek as WinImage, but since this is GPL and the only time I expect to ever write a DD image file to a drive, it is much easier than registering yet another piece of software.

    4. says

      I’ve seen that you’re using an “old” link to the guide.
      I have moved it to my new site that is dedicated to virtualization.

      On the site below you can find the new version of the guide, I have tested it with the latest version of ESX 3i Update 2 and it’s still working fine.

      Here’s the direct link to the guide:

      Sorry for the inconvenience.

      Best regards,
      Remon Lam –

    5. PSL says

      I cannot boot the USB flashdisk (2GB), I get error “Panic: Cannot get disk parameters.”
      Motherboard is miniATX Gigabyte with G33 chipset (GA-G33M-DSR2. Looks as SYSLINUX problem.

    6. Chris Staudt says

      All I get is:
      Panic: Cannot get disk parameters.
      Did anybody solve this?

      Best regards,

    7. Microkid says

      Booting ESXi from a Gigabyte mobo seems to be problematic, I read this at more forums. Seems the Gigabyte mobo doesn’t emulate the USB stick as an HDD or so.

    8. jrobgood says

      I’ve seen about 500 iterations of the “how to boot ESXi from USB”, but is there a solution for booting ESXi but defining an internal SATA as the installation target?

      I wonder if there’s a way to edit the boot sector of the DDed USB stick and trick the installer into thinking it’s a CD-ROM device and thus seek an appropriate target on the host?

    9. smino says

      Wow, that boots fast! It worked for me.
      Know I need to figure out how to create images in it. I am guessing I need the VM Infrastructure client right?

    10. smino says

      How do you configure the static ip and netowrk device to come up at every boot properly configured. I find I have to set the IP and network card every boot.

      Also, does it support networking teaming and 9000 MTU?

    11. Blackz06vette says

      Had a minor issue with Winimage (failed to write to usb stick with Vista Ultimate 64 bit), but that worked fine (same USB stick) under XP pro 32 bit.

      Running nicely on an EVGA 680i motherboard, sees the NIC’s.

    12. MikeinBrighton says

      Re the Gigabyte USB boot problems. I was having the same on a GA-MA790GP-DS4H.

      What solved it for me was image backup via Acronis Trueimage Workstation, then writing back to USB. Worked like a charm!

    13. Wally Simmonds says


      How’d you get that to work? Trying to do a image backup of the USB key, but I get errors.

    14. trying_esxi says

      Yes. Worked for me on U3.

      General question – is the general idea of installing on USB memory drive for people to just try it, then install ‘for real’ on a drive or something? I ask because I know flash drives have limited read/write life cycles so how long will it run on a USB key before that’s a concern? I guess if it’s more than a few years then who cares, right?

      I used a 2.0 GB stick BTW…


    15. says

      I use it for testing on a home server, but a few of the blades out there come with what is essentially a USB stick inside the server with ESXi pre-installed.

      There’s very little disk writing going on (just config files really), so it should in theory be incredibly reliable.


    16. jpmoney says

      “quote” 19. MikeinBrighton said,
      January 23rd, 2009 at 16:40

      Re the Gigabyte USB boot problems. I was having the same on a GA-MA790GP-DS4H.

      What solved it for me was image backup via Acronis Trueimage Workstation, then writing back to USB. Worked like a charm!

      image back-up from what? From the USB itself or a working SATA with ESXi already on it?
      I get the same error Gigabyte P35DS3-R

    17. jpmoney says

      I guess all people with Gigabye mobo’s are getting this error: Panic: Cannot get disk parameters.

    18. Lorenz says

      image back-up from what? From the USB itself or a working SATA with ESXi already on it?

      has anyone got an answer to this question
      I am also getting panic message when I try and boot from USB key created following above instructions.

    19. Georgi says

      Just to add that WinImage seems to work fine under Windows Vista if you run it as administrator. Then you can use it to “Restore Virtual Harddisk Image on physical drive” and select your USB stick from the list.

    20. says

      There is great information on this blog. I like how you put things. I’ve added this blog to my Google Reader RSS subscriptions and will give you a mentioning over at my blog. I did get some errors with how quick this post loaded. Might be something to check out.

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