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VMware ESXi 5.5 and external USB hard drive detection issue

Posted on 2014-09-19
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We have a virtual server (Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard) running on a VMware virtual Host ESXi 5.5. There are 5 external Hard disks that are used to backup the customer data. these are Toshiba STOR.E BASICS - 2.5" - 1TB,  (Part number hdtb110ek3ba). 4 of the 5 drive work okay when attaching to the Virtual host, one of them is not connecting. however, when I plug each of the drives in a PC, they are all detected and work okay. They are formatted the same and the only difference s the label of each drive (Mon-Fri).

When we connect the suspect drive into the Virtual Host, we don't have an option "USB Device" when we add hardware in the edit settings of the Virtual Machine. However for the other USB drives, or other Toshiba drives, we do get the option to add "USB Device".

Thank you in advance for any assistance
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Question by:swan_solutions
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 500 total points
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Firstly, just check my EE Article if you are doing it correctly (I'm sure you are!)

HOW TO: Add and Connect a USB Device to a Virtual Machine, hosted on VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESX 4.1 ESXi 4.1, ESXi 5.0

Secondly, VMware added the USB functionality to support the addition of USB Dongles or Security Keys to virtual machines, it's VMware Admins which have assumed "oh let me add a USB External Hard DIsk to backup the VM"

This method you are using is a method used to backup physical machines, this does not take advantage of backing up virtual environments, it's also very slow, and often as you've found not supported or does not work!

Not all USB devices are compatible....

onto your issues....at hand.....

do you have access to the console or remotely via SSH to look at the logs, to see if the host server is detecting the external disk. (/var/logs/usb.log and /var/log/vmkernel.log)

Other options are to

1. Use a different backup technology, e.g. NAS based backup (via the network) using Veeam Backup and Replication or other Third Party Product.

2. Add the USB controller in the Host, to the VM, via VM Direct Path I/O.
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by:swan_solutions
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Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your reply. I've read your EE Article and have used it when setting up USB devices in the past. It has been very helpful and I have referred it to my colleagues.

We know that some USB devices are not compatible with virtual environments and that's why we have used these drives, as we have used them on other servers. It's strange on this particular server one of the five identical drives does not work, but works on client PCs in the organisation.

We don't have access to SSH on the Virtual Host. I've tried it with PuTTY but I expect that the SSH port/service is not running,

We're going to Setup the USB Controller on the Host to pass-through to the virtual host using Direct Path i/O. I will let you now the results after we've reboot the host later tonight.
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
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Adding USB controller via VM Direct Path I/O is faster than USB Passthrough!
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by:swan_solutions
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Thanks for that info. Is it 'better' practice to use Direct Path I/O for USB, and other interface cards?
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
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It's not recommended, for anything, as it has caveats, e.g. memory reservations,  lack of vMotion.

also be careful if you use USB for ESXi OS install, and don't get the wrong USB controller.
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by:swan_solutions
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Thanks for the heads up.

We've only used the USB controller for the USB External Drives for the Backup (Backup Exec 2012). So it should not be a problem :)
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
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No problems
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by:swan_solutions
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In order to get around this problem, we eventually decided to connect the USB drives to a network PC. This is not the solution we were looking for, but connecting the USB drives directly to the  server has proved too problematic to pursue. We will no longer be using USB as a viable backup option
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