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How to Backup an ESXi installation on an USB Flash Drive or SD card, for security or redundancy.

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
MVE^2, Expert of the Year 2017-2011, Scribe 2016-2012, Author of the Year 2017-6,2013-2012 VMware vExpert 2018-2011 27 years of experience.
How to Backup ESXi installation on a USB flash drive or SD card.

Requirements

1. A valid ESXi installation on a USB flash drive or SD card.
2. A copy of Winimage for Windows.
3. A Windows computer.
4. Optional Blank DVD for making backup.
5. Optional USB flash drive or SD card for flash backup.

1. Download Winimage from the Internet


Using your internet browser, Internet Explorer or Mozilla, download a copy of Winimage from http://www.winimage.com/download.htm.

WinImage is a shareware product. You may copy, distribute, and try it for free, but if you use for longer than the evaluation period, you must register. You will receive a valid license, a registration code and the latest release.

2. Install Winimage


Install Winimage as per the vendors instructions on your Windows computer you need to backup the USB flash drive or SD card.

3. Insert the ESXi USB flash drive or in USB port on computer


Insert the ESXi USB flash drive or SD card inserted in a card reader into the computer you have installed Winimage on.

4. Start Winimage


 Winimage Startup
Start Winimage from the Start Menu on your Windows computer.

5. From the disk menu


 Create Virtual Hard Disk
From the disk menu, in Winimage, select Creating Virtual Hard Disk Image from Physical Drive.

6. Select the USB flash drive or SD card


See picture below

Select a physical drive in the list
Select the USB flash drive or SD card, from the list, in this example, I'm using a Flash LUXIO USB flash drive.

7. Select Create Fixed Size Virtual Hard Disk


 Select usb flash drive
Select the Fixed Size Virtual Hard Disk, ensure there is a dot in this selection. This ensures that the saved backup image is exactly the same size as the flash drive, you are copying example 2GB for a 2GB USB flash drive, 4GB fort a 4GB flash drive.

8. Click OK


Click OK

9. Specify a disk location and select Save


 Select save location
Once you have specified a location, a progress bar will continue on screen showing the progress of the copy.

 Progress Bar

10. Partiton to connect to


When prompted to connect to partition, click okay and Exit Winimage

11. The USB flash drive or SD contents will be saved as a complete image.


The contents will be saved to disk.

12. Complete.


The operation is complete and you can exist Winimage, and Safely remove your USB flash drives or SD cards, from the computer, by selecting the Safely remove hardware icon, in the system Smart tray.

13. Backup to DVD


If you image size is less than the size of a DVD (4.5GB), I also backup the USB/SD card installation image to a DVD, and if you have a spare USB flash drive, it doesn't hurt writing the contens to another USB flash drive or SD card. (and make sure you label with date, time, and version and build of ESX, and what server it is for!)

Thank you for reading my article, please leave valuable feedback.
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13 Comments

Expert Comment

by:sedberg1
What about backing up a VMWare ESXi 5 free live server?  I'm no talking about the VMs but the actual hypervisor and its configuration?  I have a plan in place for backing up the VMs themselves to a NAS.  But the ESXi server itself, not so much.  If the server fails, I have a backup server in place in case my first server goes down.  But my plan would be too install ESXi 5 on the second server, configure the IPs and other settings on the ESXi 5 server, copy the VMs over from the NAS, and then power them on.  It's a long process though.

Is there an easier way to set this up?  Unfortunately, we're not going to invest in VSphere Essentials.  I know it's relatively cheap, but so's my company :-(
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LVL 130

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
This procedure will also work for ESXi 5.0.
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Expert Comment

by:johnnyt29
Does it work / is it safe to "Create dynamically expanding virtual hard disk" (step 7) to be able to copy the image onto a smaller USB drive (and use less space in the process)?
0
Acronis True Image 2019 just released!

Create a reliable backup. Make sure you always have dependable copies of your data so you can restore your entire system or individual files.

LVL 130

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
I would recommend, using the full size image, and copy to like for like USB or SD cards, e.g. 2GB to 2GB, 4GB to 4GB.

dynamically expanding images, is a Winimage function, just use Winimage as an easy to use imaging tool.

if you need to shrink the image for storage, use WinZip, WinRAR or 7zip.
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Expert Comment

by:johnnyt29
My ESXi 5.0 USB thumb drive shows up as "USB Mass Storage Device" but doesn't get a letter assigned and is not seen by WinImage. I can see it in Windows Disk Management but can't right click and "Change Path and Drive Letter" for it. See attached screenshot.
Any suggestions?
thumbdrive.png
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LVL 130

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
I would suggest asking a question, and the Experts can help you work through your issue.
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Expert Comment

by:johnnyt29
okay, how do I get file explorer and Winimage to see my USB thumb drive so that I can complete steps 6-13 indicated in this article
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Expert Comment

by:johnnyt29
Okay, let's try again.My ESXi 5.0 USB thumb drive shows up as "USB Mass Storage Device" but doesn't get a letter assigned and is not seen by WinImage. I can see it in Windows Disk Management but can't right click and "Change Drive Letter" for it. See attached screenshot for the second of the two ways I've tried it. (this time from the top windows, selecting volume "ESXi"

How do I get file explorer and Winimage to see my ESXi loaded USB thumb drive so that I can complete steps 6-13 indicated in this article?
Not-drive-letter.png
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Expert Comment

by:johnnyt29
found a USB drive image tool that actually works. See http://www.alexpage.de/usb-image-tool/
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Expert Comment

by:SAJJITER
WinImage can't write/restore to target USB key. So,
I used another USB key to restore the http://www.alexpage.de/usb-image-tool/  backup of my 'New_Esxi_Server' boot key.

I formated the duplicate target key before proceeding, it was my 'Old_ESXi_Server' boot key.

It seemed to work: Server ESXi booted, but had kept the name of 'Old_ESXi_Server' ... !

How can this be ?

I didn't rename the server booting with this 'duplicate' to check if I could reconnect it in vCenter.

Any thoughts ?
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:Frosty555
How frequently do you need to do this backup for it to remain current? Is this something you can do once shortly after installing ESXi for the first time, and then rest easy? Or is this something you have to do repeatedly every time you change the configuration of your server (e.g. add a new VM, or edit a setting on the host)?
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LVL 130

Author Comment

by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)
Please post an EE Question.
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:Frosty555
I would have though that this question would be a relevant follow-up question that anybody reading this article would want to know - after all, your backup is worthless unless you have confidence in the restoration.

In any case, here's the question:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/VMWare/Q_28239655.html
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