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Create a bootable USB drive with ESXi

Updated: Mar 9

The following guide uses the Free Edition of ESXi to create a USB bootable installer.

Download the Free ESXi ISO

You can download the free version of ESXi (or VMware vSphere Hypervisor as it is officially called) from the links below:

You will need to have an account already, or you can create one for free. The webform does require you to enter company details so you should enter these as appropriate

Once registered, you will be able to access the Free ESXi resources, including documentation and downloads etc. Here's the homepage once you have logged in. In this example i'm choosing to download version 8.0 of the vSphere Hypervisor

Click on License and download, and click the option to download the ISO file. Here i have the option of downloading ESXi 8.0U2 (639MB in size). Note the license key is accessible via this screen too, although i have obscured my key in my screenshot for obvious reasons.

Download Rufus

Download the latest version of Rufus (currently version 4.3 at time of writing) from the website

In my example, i'll be downloading the Standard x64 version

Creating the bootable USB ESXi installer

Launch rufus and you will be presented with the screen shown below. Note the 8GB USB stick i'll be using in this example, is detected in my screenshot in the Device field.

  1. Click Select to browse to your ISO and select it to populate the Boot Selection field.

  2. Ensure the partition scheme is set to MBR and Target System is set to BIOS or UEFI

  3. Enter a suitable name if required (or leave the default name) and Click Start

  4. You may see the error below, if you do click yes, if you don't, great, move onto the next step.

Rufus warns you all data on the device will be destroyed, click Ok

Rufus begins creation of the bootable USB ESXi drive

After a couple of minutes, the creation should complete successfully, and you now have a bootable USB ESXi installer 😊

Simply plug it into the machine you intend to install it on, and configure the machine to boot from the USB device. That's it, hope this helps you out!

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