Installing ESXi on USB Flash Drive

Hi,

 Based on recommendation on this board, I have been installing ESXi on USB flash drives in the past, but never created a backup (just in case original USB flash drive goes bad over the time). So this weekend, as I was setting up a new VMware host, I wanted to create a backup flash drive.

So here is how it went:
1. I installed ESXi v6 on a first USB flash drive and rebooted the host several times successfully.
2. I created a virtual machine (installed windows 2012 server & a few apps).  Now that I have a VM, I wanted to create a backup USB flash drive.
3. I put the ESXi v6 DVD into DVDROM, inserted a blank USB flash drive and installed ESXi on it.
4. I rebooted the host successfully and I opened VSphere client,  but I did not see my Virtual machine - "Not Good".
5. So I stick my original USB into the host, restarted the server and then I saw my VM in VSphere client.

My attempt above was based on ID: 41032439
Obviously I misunderstood something here.

 Should I have tried to duplicate the original USB flash drive instead of creating another one from the scratch?
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sgleeAsked:
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Scott CSenior EngineerCommented:
Yes, because what happened is that your first install knows about your VMs and your second install doesn't.

You can use CloneZilla

http://clonezilla.org/

Or just do a search on "backup usb drive".

Here are some more ideas.

http://www.brighthub.com/computing/hardware/articles/72524.aspx

Your VMs are still there.  You could also boot with your second USB drive and add in the VMs.  But this isn't a true clone of your USB drives.  I wouldn't go this route.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
4. I rebooted the host successfully and I opened VSphere client,  but I did not see my Virtual machine - "Not Good".

When you installed ESXi the second time, be careful, you answer the prompts correctly, and select YES, to preserve VMFS datastrore, where your VMs are stored, otherwise the installer, will wipe and erase, and create a new datastore, and your VMs will be gone!

Browse the datastore, browse the VM Folder, select the VMX file, and add to inventory.

or, make sure you have a backup of the actual ESXi configuration, which you were missing....restore the configuration and your done.

see here

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2042141

We can recovery an ESXi server, in minutes, and so can you!

OR, Image the USB Flash Drive, see my EE Article, but now use USB Imaging tool from here
http://www.alexpage.de/usb-image-tool/

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

Clonezilla does not work!
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
"When you installed ESXi the second time, be careful, you answer the prompts correctly, and select YES, to preserve VMFS datastrore" ---> I don't recall seeing that prompt. But I remember seeing the prompt where I needed to choose ESXi desination between my 16GB USB flash drive and 2.7TB partition (datastore1) that I have already created in VShpere client.

Since I need to understand this process correctly, I am going to set up test host now again and go thru this process again until I successfully create 2nd USB flash drive.
This is what I will do:
(1) put ESXi v6 DVD and a USB stick on the host. Choose USB as installation destination.
(2) in VShpere client, create a Windows 7 VM and restart the host to make sure I can still see the Win7 VM afte reboot.
(3) Put ESXi v6 DVD and another USB stick on the host and pay attention to see if I see " to preserve VMFS datastrore," prompt.

 I will report back.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
if you did not see the prompt, it's possible it did not detect the existing installation or datastore, and it was erased!

Personally, I would do the following:-

1 & 2, and then remove the flash drive and CLONE it!

Done, and for assurance, backup the config!

If you really want to have a backup, hey we have many thousands of installations on USB flash drives and SD cards, in the wild since 2004, and servers fail before flash!

If a server does fail, we take a stock USB flash drive and SD card, and server is recovered in minutes!
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
'if you did not see the prompt, it's possible it did not detect the existing installation or datastore, and it was erased!"
Even though 2nd USB drive did not show any VM, when I put back the original USB, my VM showed up in VSphere client.
So nothing was lost :).
I just want to learn how to create 2nd USB that will preserve the information on existing datastore(s).
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Didn't erase the datastore then!

check you can start the VM. to check it has not been erased!
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
Andrew,
 
  I installed ESXi v6 on 1st USB flash drive and created two VMs for testing.
  I installed ESXi v6 on 2nd USB flash drive. During the installation process, I did not see "select YES, to preserve VMFS datastrore" anywhere.   Please see the screenshots.
  Also when I opened cSphere Client, my two VMs were not there.
123456789
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
very strange...

anyway, even if it detected your VMFS datastore, it would never add the VMs to the Inventory, that is always a manual step!
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
What is manual step that I try?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
see here http:#a41119044

browse datastore..... register VMs <----- you never had to do this ?
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
Add to InventoryI think I understand what you are talking about. It is adding .vmx to Inventory?
I have done it before. Let me try now.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Yes, that's correct!

see step 6, in my EE Article, if unsure!

HOW TO: Clone or Copy a virtual machine in VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESX/ESXi 4.x or ESXi 5.0
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
It worked. Both test VMs came back.

Now the question is ... if I had to add them to the inventory ... what others settings do I have to restore or remember to set again from the scratch? For example, I created Startup & Shutdown procedure for these VMs and that is gone.
So obviously you can register these VMs from datastore, but I loose the settings that I made in vSphere Client?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
All the ESXi configuration you have changed from the default!

Networking, Licenses, Time Configuration, Teaming Policy, etc
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
If that is the case, then I prefer duplicating main USB flash drive whenever there is a change in configuration.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
that would involve removing from the server!

see what I suggested in http:#a41119044

Backup and Restore the config!
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
Ok. I will try that.
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
@Andrew,
"try Image the USB Flash Drive ..http://www.alexpage.de/usb-image-tool/" ---> it worked well. Simple to operate. I wish that I could keep both source and destination USB flash drives and perform a backup in one shot instead of (1) running "Backup" and (2) doing "Restore". Restoring took a lot longer than Backing it up.
Anyway it is good to know that I can create and keep a  backup USB flash drive just in case.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
no problems.
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