To get ESXi installed on your hardware using a USB stick you will first need to create a bootable USB stick with the ESXi ISO on it. This can be done from either Windows or Mac. The following the steps discuss one way to do it from a Mac.

There are multiple ways to make a bootable USB on a Mac. Etcher is a piece of software you can use if you’re not solid with command line- but I find it faster and more reliable to use the terminal.

Step 1: Insert the USB Device

Step 2: Identify the USB Device in the OS

Open a terminal window and type: diskutil list

Look for the dev/disk{x} that corresponds to the USB stick. In this example, the USB stick is mounted as /dev/disk2

Step 4: Format the USB Device

Format the drive identified in Step 3

diskutil eraseDisk MS-DOS "ESXI_7" MBR disk{x}

Step 5: Unmount the USB Device

Use the diskutil unmountDisk command to un-mount the drive

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk{x}

Step 6: Set the Volume as Active

Use fdisk in interactive mode and set the volume as active and bootable

sudo fdisk -e /dev/disk{x}
  1. Flag the first partition on the volume as active and bootable: f 1
  2. Write the changes: write
  3. Quit fdisk: quit

Step 7: Mount the ISO

Mount the ESXi ISO file using the following command:

hdiutil mount             /Path/to/iso/ESX_7.0U1c.iso

Should return something similar to…

/dev/disk3           /Volumes/ESXI-7.0U1C-17325551-STANDARD

Step 8: Copy the Data Over

Now copy everything from the ISO volume to the USB volume using the cp

sudo cp -R /Volumes/ESXI-7.0U1C-17325551-STANDARD/* /Volumes/ESXI_7

When the copy is finished it will return your prompt. If you’re as impatient as I am, you can press <CTL><T> to check the status of the copy.

Step 9: Set the Boot Partition

We will need to modify a file to set the boot partition using the following command:

cd /Volumes/ESXI_7
sed 's/APPEND -c boot.cfg/APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1/g' ISOLINUX.CFG > SYSLINUX.CFG

Verify by running cat SYSLINUX.CFG and the return should look like this:

DEFAULT menu.c32
MENU TITLE ESXi-7.0U1c-17325551-standard Boot Menu
LABEL install
KERNEL mboot.c32
APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1
MENU LABEL ESXi-7.0U1c-17325551-standard ^Installer
LABEL hddboot
MENU LABEL ^Boot from local disk

Step 10: Close the terminal, eject the USB, and use it to boot the host.

NOTE: If you don’t eject the USB or CD away from the USBpath you will get an error ejecting the disk.

Step 11: Boot your host from the USB Stick you just created.