My currrent ESXi 4.0.0 system runs from an SD card and has some VMs set up on two 1 TB drives running in a Raid level 1 configuration on a Dell PowerEdge R710. I've been asked to make the system use a hard disk in place of the SD card.

I've tried to copy the entire SD card to a third hard drive (trying both dd from an Ubuntu live disc or Clonezilla, which gave the same results). With the hard disk configured in the Raid controller as Raid level 0, ESXi loads and starts to boot up. About 40% of the way in, the error message "Failed to find boot partition" is displayed.

Taking another route, a fresh install from a free VMware trial disc doesn't seem to have that error but I do have to reconfigure everything. Not only do I get the notification that I'm on a trial license, but the existing VMs aren't visible when I connect via the client. Is there some way to import them that isn't readily apparent to a novice user?

How do I run the system from a hard disk rather than the SD card, keeping my existing VMs as unchanged as possible?

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    May I ask why it's decided to move from SD card to conventional disks? It's usually the other way around.. :) – pauska Nov 21 '11 at 21:52
  • Management doesn't like removable media. Y'know, because it's removable. Probably someone somewhere managed to get a virus on a company system thus a policy was made. – BitBiter Nov 22 '11 at 15:46
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    Removing hot-pluggable harddrives is alot easier than removing a SD card inside a server :-) Did you try to tell them that? – pauska Nov 22 '11 at 15:47
  • Heh. To be fair, I'm not likely to put a hard drive into my laptop because it's oh-so-convenient to move a file. – BitBiter Nov 22 '11 at 17:58

You won't be able to move to running off of an SD card to the disk arrangement you've described without some disruption to the virtual machines presently on disk. May I ask why you're no longer interested in using the SD for ESXi? Many people seem to be moving in the direction of using SD cards/USB keys instead of dedicated disks for VMWare.

The fresh installation approach should allow you to import the existing datastore containing your VMs. Going to: Configuration -> Storage -> Add Storage within the vSphere client should allow you to mount the old VMFS volume from the RAID 1 pair.

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Following that, you will need to browse the datastore and reimport your virtual machines by adding them into your VM inventory.

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    You beat me to the "why would you ever want to do this". The only reason I can think of is if you are doing scripted installs – Jim B Nov 21 '11 at 21:36
  • The reasons are entirely non-technical. Bureaucracy several levels above me has deemed the use of memory cards as a security risk. Explaining the nearly permanent nature of this "removable media" and the industry practices? Unfruitful. At least it's easier to start with a fresh install by swapping removable hard drives rather than opening up the server. Not that upgrades to the SD card are frequent, or even likely at all. But in theory that could come in handy at some point. – BitBiter Nov 21 '11 at 21:56
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    o_O this is why we don't let senior managers into the server rooms unescorted. – Rob Moir Nov 21 '11 at 22:11

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