What's the best way to move a VMware ESXi 4.1 installation from a harddrive to a usb memory?

I'm planning to install a fresh VMware ESXi on the usb key, boot it up, and then somehow transfer the configuration from the harddrive, is that possible? Do I have to reconfigure all my guests? I'm sure there's a neat trick here!

I'm not very experienced with VMware, and this is a lab environment, so I'm here to learn.


To my understanding, the method is pretty straight-forward.

No vSphere server method (i.e. stand-alone):

  1. Manually grab config you need (IP address, any hardware-config details like VLAN, NTP configs if any) via vSphere client.
  2. Configure BIOS to boot from USB before HD.
  3. Boot to USB.
  4. Connect to the ESXi instance via vSphere client
  5. Add in the config grabbed in step 1 as appropriate
  6. Perform a Rescan Devices from Storage Adapters to locate any VMFS volumes.
  7. Browse the newly discovered Data Stores.
  8. When you find .vmx files, right click and select "Import into inventory"

vSphere method with vMotion:

  1. Migrate all VMs off of the ESXi server.
  2. Manually grab any special config you need (VLAN config being most important, NTP)
  3. In vSphere, Disconnect the host, then delete it.
  4. Configure BIOS to boot from USB before HD.
  5. Boot to USB.
  6. In vSphere, Add Host, and pick the hostname and login info for the USB-ESXi you created.
  7. Manually enter the config grabbed in step 2 as appropriate.
  8. Rescan your storage adapters for VMFS volumes.
  9. Migrate a VM to this server to make sure it works.

vSphere method without vMotion (uncommon, but could happen):

  1. Manually grab any special config you need (VLAN config being most important, NTP)
  2. Turn off all VMs on the machine.
  3. Follow steps 3-8 of the "with vMotion" checklist.
  4. Follow steps 7-8 of the "no vSphere" method.

Note: When you disconnect the host, associated VMs will go into 'Orphan'. It is possible that when you do the Rescan Devices they'll all come back and there will be no need to do step 4.

  • 1
    I would also disconnect the hard drives before installation of ESXi - especially if it is done using an automation script. You could accidentally end up with a wiped datastore otherwise. – the-wabbit May 21 '11 at 13:32
  • @syneticon-dj Goood point! – sysadmin1138 May 21 '11 at 14:07
  • Once I get my new hardware ill try this. I didnt know there was such a thing as "Rescan Devices from Storage Adapters", I think that was what I was looking for! Ill get back here when im done. Or have more questions =) – MatteS May 26 '11 at 9:37
  • Seems like you could just backup and restore the configuration and save the need to reconfigure after the install. kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/… – Steve Hiner Jul 14 '16 at 17:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.