How to easily install VMware ESXi 7.0 Update 1 onto a 32GB or larger USB flash drive

Posted by Paul Braren on Oct 18 2020 (updated on Oct 19 2020) in
  • ESXi
  • HomeLab
  • HomeServer
  • HowTo
  • Virtualization
  • This article is still undergoing minor refinement based on further testing.


    Xeon-D-1567-shows-system-sensors-properly-on-VMware-ESXi-7.0U1--TinkerTry

    This is a basic overview document of the fresh install process, highlighting the steps that I walk you right through in the accompanying video below, should work on any supported VMware ESXi server. One advantage of this USB approach is that you can easily image the drive before doing upgrades, allowing you a robust easy way to fall back should anything go wrong. This is particular important in a home lab environment where you might not have any VMware official support should things go sideways. Also handy in single-host situations, where you might not even have the strongly-recommended VMware vSphere VCSA appliance with built-in vLCM (vSphere Lifecycle Manager) which currently supports Dell, HPE, and Lenovo firmware updates. Once you're on this fresh install of 7.0 Update 1, I'd still recommend using vLCM to launch your ESXi host updates though, and if that doesn't work for you, there's always the old-standy-by single-liner ESXCLI update method.

    Note, ESXi runs in RAM, so while boot times will be slightly slower off USB, once ESXi is booted, the operational speed won't be any different than if you installed to SATA, SAS, or even NVMe SSD.

    On the Intel Xeon D-1500 systems I'm testing this fresh install procedure on, I'm delighted to say that it went well. Like, really well. The Xeon D-1500's included Intel I350 1GbE RJ45 network connections seems to work fine, and the Xeon D-1500's Intel X552/X557 10GbE RJ45 network connections seem to work fine as well. More extensive testing with native drivers, firmware, and Intel VIBs is still underway, on both my Bundle 1 Xeon D-1567, and my Bundle 2 Xeon D-1541 system. This requires a careful look at recommended firmware levels and driver VIBs, but the default inbox (native) drivers do seem to function fine. I'm not sure a separate article like this is even necessary on this now very mature Xeon D-1500 platform, and my testing on the Xeon D-2100 is also going very well as well.

    Hardware Monitor

    The days of the inaccurate RPM and temperature readings are long behind us now too for Xeon D, with everything looking good there as well, no kludgy "fixes" required. It just works.

    supermicro-superserver-sys-5028d-tn4t-on-vcg-for-vmware-vsphere-esxi-7-supported

    Some more really good news here too:

    Xeon-D-1567-shows-hardware-properly-on-VMware-ESXi-7.0U1--TinkerTry

    Following along, you will learn some stuff even if you've done this before, as I do my usual voice-over. Not a fan of Java for massive security reasons, and unfortunate that Windows 10 has broken HTML5 iKVM mounting of network shares, also due to security issues. So instead I used Rufus to create bootable media that would work for installing to the drive you just booted from, using the HTML5 iKVM to do the install.

    No HMTL5 iKVM ISO mounting for Xeon D-1500

    I got confirmation that the Supermicro X10 platform which is Xeon D-1500 based won't be getting the ability to mount ISOs from the HTML5 iKVM interface, but the X11 platform which is Xeon D-2100 based will, or already has, but it's not a platform I have on hand to test.

    vSphere-client-70u1-xeon-d-1567--TinkerTry

    Mounting the ISO over the network was very slow, so this Rufus based local disk to boot from is faster and more robust. The install and initial configuration procedure for ESXi has always been quite straight forward, but this detailed step-by-step will be extra helpful if you've never installed ESXi recently, and/or it's your first time using the HTML5 iKVM and the vSphere Host Client, which is also HTML5.

    Cautiously optimistic, but the easiest install yet!

    SuperServer Bundles owners aren't likely to be asking me questions about how to install ESXi 7.0 Update 1 on this system because it's now become quite simple, and this is great! The days of fiddling with CDs and DVDs burners are well behind us, and so are most X552/X557 woes. Only time, and a whole lot more Tinkering will tell! My Xeon D-1567 SuperServer Workstation is what I use as my primary system, used to write hundreds of articles and videos like this one, and to run vSphere, simultaneously. I've gotten GPU passthrough working well, although this persistance across reboot bug remains. All USB devices mapped to it through a combination of a Digi AnywhereUSB 2 Hub for audio devices, Silex DS-600 Hub for keyboard, mouse, and microSD reader, and direct ESXi 7.0 VM host USB device mappings for my fingerprint reader.

    Before you begin

    Before you begin any fresh install, you really need to review both

    1. VMware vCenter Server 7.0 Update 1 Release Notes
    2. VMware ESXi 7.0 Update 1 Release Notes

    and double-check if your backup solution and any other vSphere add-ons you plan for support vSphere 7.0 Update 1. For example, as of Oct 19 2020, Veeam and Nakivo backup solutions don't yet support 7.0U1 yet.

    Note, when 7.0 came out, folks noticed significant changes about the filesystem layout, and note there were warnings about using boot media that's less than 32GB in size:

    E354679202FC

    Good thing the bootable media included with all SuperServer Bundles since 2016 have been 32GB!

    Prerequisites

    1. a workstation or laptop with Windows 10 (imaging tools similar to Rufus exist for Mac too, see UNetbootin or UUByte ISO Editor)
    2. a supported ESXi server, such as the Supermicro SuperServer in the Xeon D-1541 based SYS-5028D-TN4T Bundle 2 featured in the video below
    3. a USB thumb drive to install to, such as the SanDisk Ultra Fit featured in the video below, included with any SuperServer Bundle
    4. at least one available hard drive or SSD, for VMware's VMFS filesystem where your VMs will live, such as an insanely fast M.2 NVMe SSD
    5. the ISO file you'll be using to install from as explained in detail here with the file you need:
      VMware-VMvisor-Installer-7.0U1-16850804.x86_64.iso, details on download methods at:
      downloadvsphere7u1

      VMware vSphere 7.0 Update 1 is now GA, here's how to download it any which way!
      - If you are using a Dell, HPE, or other major server OEM, you'll likely want to get your ESXi installation ISO from their site, as they've baked in all the driver VIBs you'll need to support their hardware, making the installation and configuration easier for you.

    Non-requisites

    If your system has that nifty IPMI/BMC management features, you don't need:

    1. a monitor attached directly to the server
    2. a keyboard attached directly to the server
    3. a mouse attached directly to the server, see also
      Little secret those new to virtualization often miss - ESXi 6.0 continues to be mostly headless, just as it was for all prior VMware hypervisor releases

    Step-by-step

    1. on a Windows system such as a laptop, insert a 32GB or larger USB flash drive, such as the Sandisk Ultra Fit 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive that still comes with Wiredzone Bundles, and use Rufus to create bootable ESXi install media using the method shown here
    2. insert your labeled, now bootable USB drive into your server
    3. use your browser to connect to your SuperServer's IPMI management features using your browser (the IP address that you point your browser to is displayed if you temporarily connect a VGA monitor, shortly after power on)
    4. update to BIOS 2.1 and IPMI 3.88
    5. use the Recommended BIOS Settings for Supermicro SuperServer SYS-5028D-TN4T, note, if you bought a Bundle from Wiredzone, this has already been done for you (except for a few systems shipped straight from Supermicro just during Sep & Oct of 2020 during a Wiredzone warehouse change), ensure UEFI USB is at the top of the boot order
    6. launch the Remote Console feature, aka, iKVM, and
    7. click the Power Control to restart the server
    8. press F11 to invoke Boot Menu (if UEFI USB isn't at the top of your boot order)
    9. from the Please select boot device menu, select DVD then press Enter
    10. proceed with a normal ESX installation
    11. from the Select a Disk to Install or Upgrade menu, choose
      SanDisk Ultra Fit (mpx.vmhba32:C0:T0:L0) (or similar)
    12. you may now hit Enter to Reboot, you're done

    Once the newly installed ESXi is booted off USB, it will show you the hostname or IP address that you can point your browser to, then type root and the password you configured during install

    Now that you're authenticated, click on the Open the VMware Host Client seen at the top left of the VMware ESXi Welcome page, which launches the new HTML5 interface of VMware's future, all the basic features needed to format a datastore and create your first VMs are there for you

    Step-by-step Video

    TinkerTry - Oct 18 2020 - How to easily install VMware ESXi 7.0 Update 1 on an Intel Xeon D Supermicro SuperServer
    Easily install and configure VMware ESXi 6.7 on a Xeon D-1541 Supermicro SuperServer SYS-5028D-TN4T

    See also at TinkerTry

    For your convenience, I've put together a list of the most closely related articles below.

    downloadvsphere7u1

    supermicro-superserver-sys-5028d-tn4t-on-vcg-for-vmware-vsphere-esxi-7-supported

    vmware-vsphere-esxi-7-gpu-passthrough-ui-bug-workaround
    easy-update-to-latest-esxi

    supermicro-superserver-bios-2-dot-0-and-ipmi-3-dot-68-released

    clone-esxi-with-usb-image-tool

    yes-xeon-d-does-run-esxi-6-5-well

    label-your-usb-drives

    rufus-takes-2-minutes-to-create-a-bootable-usb-flash-drive-for-esxi-installation