VMware ESXi Will Not Work on Imaged Disk

I am pretty new to VMware ESXi and was testing it on an SSD drive for a week or two.
That was easy enough. Had no issues and actually found it pretty easy to setup.

I had only 2 VMs...
- a trial of Windows Server 2016 Essentials
- an install of Ubuntu Linux v18.04LTS

I decided I would try to see what the performance was like on a conventional HDD so I imaged the SSD to HDD and was surprised that I had issues with the HDD after reinstalling. VMware would boot but it had problems with the VMs. It seems that the datastore does not show up (there is no storage) but I do not know why - or how to get it "back". The disc partition shows exactly as it should and everything appears to be intact.

If I try to browse for datastores I get an "unexpected" error and the VMware browser session must restart.
If I try to create a datastore (I read somewhere that there would be an option to create or retain existing data) I cannot selection the partition (only free space).
See images - hopefully they help.

How can I get the image to be functional with the original datastore?

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I'm afraid imaging is not supported, and therefore the issues which you are observing is of no surprise.

Re-installation of ESXi is the supported method.

When you image, the partitions get messed up.

The best thing to do, is to install ESXi on a USB flash drive or SD card, and then create full datastores on SSD and HDD for comparisons.

ESXi is designed as embedded to do this. Installing all on SSD or HDD is wasted for ESXi.

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DanielTAuthor Commented:
Well - told you I was new. LOL
Your recommendations are appreciated!

I was puzzled however that the image was intact including all partitions, that VMware would run but that the datastore was not recognized even though the partition was also cloned. Is this a built-in protection of some sort that is tied to hardware? (ie: the drive)
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
No protection that I know off... imaging is not supported, not imaged correctly.
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DanielTAuthor Commented:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your help.
I have installed ESXi on SD and used a local HDD for datastore.

There is one VM that resides on the original SSD I installed ESXi on (that prompted the attempt to image and try on conventional SSD). I wanted to export and move it to the HDD above but in ESXi running from SSD I cannot seem to get an external USB storage device (Flash drive or extHDD) to mount so that I can do that. So it seems I cannot move/copy the VM from the SSD (which will not be used for ESXi Hypervisor) to the HDD that will be used as the datastore.

Hope this makes sense.
I can post another question as well - I realize you have already answered the original question here.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Please post a new question, and myself or other Experts will be glad to help.
DanielTAuthor Commented:
Thanks Andrew!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
np have a good day
DanielTAuthor Commented:
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