Create VMWare ESX usb installer with SysLinux 6 or later under Linux

Last Modified: Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:19:01 +0000 ; Created: Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:10:48 +0000

VMWare's KB gives instructions for creating a usb installer using Linux, but fails to warn you that only Syslinux version 3.28 works. Modern distros come with 6.03 which won't work.

Instead of extracting the ISO I found a better way using Syslinux MEMDISK.

Credit to SteveB05 for the great idea and example.

  1. Create a USB with a FAT32 partition
  2. Mark partition with active boot flag on
  3. Format mkfs.vfat
  4. syslinux --install /dev/sdX
  5. dd conv=notrunc bs=440 count=1 if=/usr/lib/syslinux/mbr/mbr.bin of=/dev/sdX
  6. Mount the USB drive and copy the VMware ISO (no extract)
  7. Create a syslinux.cfg as per below with the correct version in the filename
  8. cp /usr/lib/syslinux/memdisk LOC_OF_MOUNTED_DRIVE
LABEL Universal Image
KERNEL memdisk
INITRD /VMware-VMvisor-Installer-201701001-4887370.x86_64.iso
MENU LABEL VMware-VMvisor-Installer-201701001-4887370.x86_64.iso ^Universal Image