Installation VMware ESXi 5.0 from a USB-Stick

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VMware ESXi 5.0 can be installed in several ways. An Installation from a USB flash drive is an option especially for systems without a CD/DVD drive and is furthermore faster than a CD installation. In this article we will show you how to prepare a USB flash drive as an installtion medium for VMware ESXi 5.0. The following steps will be performed on a Linux system.

USB flash drive setup as an installation option for VMware ESXi 5.0

The creation of a bootable ESXi Flashdrive requires Syslinux 3.86, or manually copying the menu.c32 file. If instead syslinux 4.* was used without copying the menu.c32 file, the error menu.c32: not a COM32R image occurs.
In the following example the USB flash drive uses the /dev/sdb device name. You may have to change the device name on your system. Pay close attention to your exact input, because specifying an incorrect device name can lead to data loss.

To use a USB flash drive as an installation source for VMware ESXi 5.0 the following steps must be run as a root user:

  1. USB flash drive partitioning
    fdisk /dev/sdb
    d (to remove all existing partitions)
    n (to generate a new partition)
    p (select a primary partition)
    1 (selection of 1st partition, followed by pressing the enter key twice to confirm the suggested sizes)
    t (to change to partition type)
    c (to select the partition type W95 FAT32 (LBA))
    a (to set the active partition)
    1 (selection of the 1st partition as the active partition)
    p (to check the configuration)
    w (to write the partitions table)
  2. Formatting the USB flash drive:
    /sbin/mkfs.vfat -F 32 -n USB /dev/sdb1
  3. Installing syslinux on the USB flash drive (Use Syslinux version 3.86, which you download from,[1] or copy the menu.c32 file later on the flash drive when using Syslinux Version 4.*[2]):
    (Note: The first command is run on /dev/sdb1, the second on /dev/sdb)
    syslinux-3.86/linux/syslinux /dev/sdb1
    cat syslinux-3.86/mbr/mbr.bin > /dev/sdb
  4. Loading the USB flash drive
    mkdir /mnt/usbdisk
    mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt/usbdisk
  5. Loading the ESXi Installer Images (You can also use individual created images)
    mkdir /mnt/esxi-cdrom
    mount -o loop /pfad/VMware-VMvisor-Installer-5.x.x-XXXXXX.x86_64.iso /mnt/esxi-cdrom
  6. Copying the contents of the USB stick:
    cp -r /mnt/esxi-cdrom/* /mnt/usbdisk/
  7. Renaming a file isolinux.cfg nach syslinux.cfg
    mv /mnt/usbdisk/isolinux.cfg /mnt/usbdisk/syslinux.cfg
  8. Changing the file syslinux.cfg:
    Modifying a line APPEND -c boot.cfg
    on APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1
  9. Removing the USB Stick
    umount /mnt/usbdisk
  10. Removing the ESXi Installer Images
    umount /mnt/esxi-cdrom


  1. Syslinux Download, Syslinux Download (Mirror)
  2. VMware ESXi 5.1 64 bit produces a Menu.c32: not a COM32R image (

Additional Information

Foto Werner Fischer.jpg

Author: Werner Fischer

Werner Fischer, working in the Web Operations & Knowledge Transfer team at Thomas-Krenn, completed his studies of Computer and Media Security at FH Hagenberg in Austria. He is a regular speaker at many conferences like LinuxTag, OSMC, OSDC, LinuxCon, and author for various IT magazines. In his spare time he enjoys playing the piano and training for a good result at the annual Linz marathon relay.

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