Making a Bootable ESXi USB Drive

The Quick and The Not So Quick

Today, I set out to do what I thought would be a simple and relatively quick task.

VMware USB

VMware USB Drive

As an aside, have you ever noticed that the “quick and easy” tasks seem to take the most time?

Anyway, I have an old Dell workstation with dual Intel Xeon E5520’s and 36GB of RAM that runs VMware. I use for testing and labbing. It’s currently running VMware 5.1 and my evaluation has expired. For a long time… It’s always bugging me about that and I can’t switch it to the free ESXi because it has more than 32GB of RAM. That limitation was removed with VMware 5.5, so I’m finally getting around to upgrading this machine.

I really wanted to install off USB and skip the optical drive, so I grabbed a 1GB USB drive that VMware gave me years ago (conveniently already labelled “VMware”) and copied the files from the ISO to it.

Yeah, not good enough. So I formatted the USB and tried to write an MBR to it. On my Mac. Running Mavericks (OSX 10.9).

Did you know that Mavericks appears to have removed the MBR? This is the error I received from fdisk:

$ fdisk -e /dev/disk3
fdisk: could not open MBR file /usr/standalone/i386/boot0: No such file or directory
Enter 'help' for information

Well, that’s inconvenient.  The I went on to try UNetbootin, which normally has been reliable, but not this time. Still no booting.

Rebooting this machine repeatedly to see if this USB boot is starting to get annoying.

Enter Rufus

While Googling for what I was missing, I found Rufus. Rufus worked great the first time and I was able to do my upgrade and move on. The only drawback is it’s for Windows, but I ran it in a Windows VM and it was fine. Rufus is a single .exe file and when you run it you get this screen:


Listen to this dude Rufus, he knows what he’s talking about.

Click the little disc icon near “Create a bootable disk using”, choose your VMware ISO image, and you’re off and running.

You might get a prompt regarding your “menu.c32” being out of date. Let it update it and then it will create your bootable USB.

Next time, I’ll start with Rufus!


VMware VCA (x3) and SolarWinds SCP

One week last December, I picked up four certifications. It’s not as impressive as it may initially sound. The certifications were the three VMware Certified Associate certifications (that were available at the time) and the other was the SolarWinds Certified Professional.

VMware Certified Associate

VCA DCV LogoLast year VMware (re-)introduced a new entry level certification called the VMware Certified Associate. There are three flavors of this certification available and one planned. The current specializations are Data Center Virtualization (DCV), Workforce Mobility (WM, apparently the new name for desktop virtualization), and Cloud. The planned certification is Network Virtualization (NV), which will cover VMware NSX.

Now, you may be wondering how this new cert fits into the hierarchy of VMware certifications. This is the best description I’ve seen:

At least as far as the VCA goes, I’d say this is accurate. These certifications do not test your technical hands on skills with the products, but it does test if you understand what components are available and what they do at a high level. For example, do you understand the difference between VMware Fault Tolerance and VMware High Availability? Do you know anything about what VMware Horizon View does, beyond “it does VDI?” Can you describe what the vCloud Connector does?

Unlike the VCP certification, there is no requirement to take a class to achieve this certification. However, VMware does provide free online training for these certs. The courses are about 3 hours long and are exactly what you need to know to pass the exams. I didn’t have to pay a lot of attention for the DCV course, but I did find it useful for filling in some gaps. The WM and Cloud exams did require more attention to be paid to them, since I didn’t have any experience with either. By the way, if you are playing CloudCred, you can also pick up a bunch of points while you study by completing tasks for the VCA badge.

The exams are delivered as online tests through Pearson Vue. You will need to create a new profile for VMware at and then you will need to get each exam authorized through If you’ve taken any other Cisco or VMware exams, the web interface should be familiar and it’s like taking any other exam, except you can do it anywhere and there is no proctor.

That said, I’m not sure how valuable these certifications really are. They may be useful for those involved in sales, or maybe for those who are just getting started. I don’t expect to see employers looking for engineers with these certifications. They just don’t say anything about someone’s technical prowess. So, you might wonder why I took them? I took them because VMware was offering a promotion to take the exam at no charge to promote the certification. Currently these exams are $120 each.

SolarWinds Certified Professional

SCP LogoThe Solarwinds Certified Professional (SCP) is a certification that I had considered for a while. While I was working on the VCA exams, I looked into the SCP and decided to register for the exam. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Solarwinds is working to integrate the certification into their thwack community site, but while they are working to integrate it, they are allowing the exam to be taken for free. Another free cert! (As far as I know, it is still free as of this writing.) This is exam is also delivered online and is not a proctored exam.

Solarwinds also provides some study materials in the form of a study guide and some videos. If you have experience with network monitoring, this exam shouldn’t be a problem, especially since I believe you get three attempts. The exam is mostly about network monitoring, so you should expect questions about ping, SNMP, OIDs, and topics along those lines. The exam isn’t focussed on Solarwinds products, but it does expect you to know something of Solarwinds Orion.

I started to read the study guide, but quickly realized that maybe I should just take the exam, which I did, and I passed on the first attempt. The only thing that I found surprising was that some of the questions were pretty dated. For example, asking questions related to Windows Server 2003. There were a few questions that I didn’t care for their wording, but overall, I thought the exam content was fair. It doesn’t have an emphasis on Solarwinds products and seems to have a pretty reasonable coverage of network monitoring topics.

I would say that this exam is worthwhile for the cost, and if you are experienced, should be a breeze. If you aren’t experienced, then studying for it will give you some useful knowledge.