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You can run the ESXi installer usually from the CD (official or customized), but also from PXE or from USB. The CD installation (still in version 5.5 the ISO fit on a CD) remain the most used option, but in some cases it’s not applicable.

For example recent servers or blade systems lacks of the CD/DVD unit and in this case the only option is use the hardware management interface (like the IOLE for HP or the iDRAC for Dell), or use alternative boot options.

PXE could be valuable in some cases, but require an infrastructure that is not so fast to be deployed. So USB remain the most reasonable option for a quick installation in those cases.

The vSphere Installation Guide provide most information, but not all, like how make your USB key bootable. For more information see:


Virtualization, Cloud and Storage Architect. Tech Field delegate. VMUG IT Co-Founder and board member. VMware VMTN Moderator and vExpert 2010-24. Dell TechCenter Rockstar 2014-15. Microsoft MVP 2014-16. Veeam Vanguard 2015-23. Nutanix NTC 2014-20. Several certifications including: VCDX-DCV, VCP-DCV/DT/Cloud, VCAP-DCA/DCD/CIA/CID/DTA/DTD, MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, CCA, NPP.