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I've got a Debian installation in an installation of ESXi that won't boot due to the deletion of a few system files that need to be restored. It would be preferable to at least access the files on the instance, if a repair is impossible.

To complicate matters, there isn't enough room on the drive to upload a full distribution to boot from with VMWare disk utility.

Any ideas on how to accomplish this?

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Is the data you need to access on the same vHard Disk as the OS? If not, you could create a different VM and attach the Data vHDD to the new VM, you could potentially do this I suppose even if they are on the same vHDD, but you stated space was an issue. – Charles Dec 16 '10 at 1:58
Yes, unfortunately I'm referring to the data in the OS installation. – Zurahn Dec 16 '10 at 2:00
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You don't have room on your datastore for a sysrescuecd iso? It's about 250-300MB. If you do, download that, boot the virtual machine from that livecd and you should be able to access your data.

If you don't have the room, burn sysrescuecd to real CD, stick that in the ESXi hosts' CD-ROM drive, connect that to your virtual machine and boot.

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Do you know where exactly I'd find either the partition to mount, or the image on the ESX installation? Booting from a disk image remotely via a stripped down Linux as well as on-site with Ubuntu, the data was AWOL. – Zurahn Dec 16 '10 at 2:34
I don't know what you mean "or the image on the ESX installation?" Assuming a fairly default VM, when you boot your VM with a live CD your disk should be at /dev/sda from inside the VM. With sysrescuecd, it doesn't automount anything. So you would have to cd to someplace like /mnt, make a directory (do NOT mount something directly on /mnt!!!) under there, then mount the correct partition (like /dev/sda1). Finding the right partition could be tough, but if you know roughly how big it was, you could do 'fdisk -l /dev/sda' and look at the various partition sizes. – kbyrd Dec 16 '10 at 2:52

One not-too-difficult idea would be to bring up another temporary (physical) linux box as an NFS server and export a volume to your ESXi server. Once that's set up, you should be able to upload a livecd of some sort to boot off of.

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You don't need to (and can't) create a VMFS filesystem on top of NFS -- ESXi supports NFS natively just fine. However, NFS is probably a great solution here. – jgoldschrafe Dec 16 '10 at 3:20
Yes, that makes sense now that I think about it. – EEAA Dec 16 '10 at 3:25

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