In this short tutorial you’ll learn how to create an ESXi USB Key.

Before we start you need the following tools:

  • 7-Zip
  • Winimage
  • VMware ESX 3i installer CD

After installing the tools we need to extract the *.dd file. Open the VMware-VMvisor-InstallerCD-3.5.0_UpdateX-XXXXXX.i386.iso with 7-Zip. Right click on install.tar and press Open Inside. Remember the Ctrl+PgDn shortcut.


Open usr\lib\vmware\installer. Select VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_4-153875.i386.dd.bz2 and press Ctrl+PgDn again.

Extract the VMware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_4-153875.i386.dd file.


Now we have the *.dd file and we can write it back to an USB Key.

Open WinImage and pres Disk followed by Restore Virtual Hard Disk image on physical drive…


Select the USB Key. In my case it’s a SanDisk Cruzer.


Open de *.dd file and answer Yes on the LAST WARNING.


When the wizard completes without an error. The USB Key is ready to use.



if you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7 x64 you might get an error like this:


If someone knows a solution for this problem please leave a comment. If you run this tutorial on a Windows XP machine, it will work as expected.


8 thoughts on “How To: Create an ESXi USB Key

  1. Nice article.
    Do you know how to update the stick when updates for ESX3.5 are available?


  2. I am doing this with Windows XP pro SP3, WinImage 8.10.8100, 7-Zip Portable 4.64. I am getting the following error:

    Error reading file c:\Vmware-VMvisor-big-3.5.0_Update_4-153875.1386.dd.bz2

    I have done this successfully with Update 2 and Update 3.
    I tried re-downloading the file from VMware. It also happens on the Dell-customized one and the HP-customized one. Almost makes me think VMware sabotaged this, but then it works with ESXi 4.0 OK.


    1. Never mind, I was being a dork. I accidentally skipped the last extraction and was trying to write the .bz2 file to the USB disk. I wasted two hours on this. Drrrr.

  3. For Vista/7, I think you need to clear the USB key’s partitions.
    I used diskpart, selected the correct disk using LIST DISK to find it.
    Then I used SELECT DISK x (x being the disk number for your USB key)
    Then I used CLEAN

    Be careful when using diskpart, if you don’t select the right disk you can wipeout your system!

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