Custom ESXi 8 ISO with Image Builder. How to add USB Network Native Driver to the image?

Sometimes there are situations that standard ESXi image is not suitable for your environment. Good example are some NUC servers with officially unsupported network cards. The workaround is to use USB to Ethernet adapter. But it’s not all. You need to apply VMware Fling USB Network Native Driver.
Of course, you can easily install it from ESXi shell with esxcli command. Here, I can show you another way, how to cobine existing standard ESXi image with additional package. As a ‘merge tool’ we will use Image Builder.

1. Requriements:

Remember, if you want to create custom ESXi8 image you need to use vSphere 8, not vSphere 7.
In my case, this is a nested vSphere 8 environment powered on vSphere 7 cluster.

2. vSphere Image Builder preparation

At first, we need to enable Image Builder in the vCenter. By defualt is disabled.
Image Builder is build in tool which, we can use to create an ESXi installation image with additional updates and/or patches.

  1. Login to the vCenter 8. Press menu button on the left side and choose Auto Deploy.
    If you don’t have enabled it, press Enable Image Builder and wait.
    After a while, Image Builder is ready.

2. On the right side click Import. Type Name, Browse downloaded VMware ESXi 8 zip file and upload it.

3. Now, there are visible 2 supported ESXi image profiles:
ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-standard -> image with all patches
ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-no-tools -> image with all patches without VMware Tools
If you choose Software Packages, there is a list with all included packages inside image. At this moment, there are 111 items (ESXi-8.0.0-20513097-standard). In the next session, we will use it this one.

4. Repeat step 2 and Import second file – USB Network Native Driver for ESXi

5. There are 2 ZIP files uploaded as a Software Depot:
– VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) Offline Bundle -> ESXi-8 depot (ZIP)
– VMware Fling USB Network Native Driver for ESXi -> Fling-NIC-driver (ZIP)

6. Next step is to create new Software Depot. Click NEW on to right side (near the Import button).
There are 2 options – Online depot or Custom Depot.
Online depot means, you want to connect to the VMware online repository and see all images. After that, download it. If you want to use it, type any Name and (:
Custom depot – simply, you want to create local empty depot which are a destination, to place newly created custom image(s).

7. Now there are visible 3 objects (Software Depots): 2 ZIP files and 1 Custom depot.

3. Creating a new custom ISO image

In this step, we’re on the straight way to create dedicated customized ESXi 8 ISO.

1. Change Software Depot to ESXi8-Depot (ZIP), choose ESXi-8.0.0-2051309-standard image and CLONE option.

2. On the next screen type Name of the image and be sure, to choose dedicated Software depot (ESXi8-NUC). Click Next button.

3. In the 2nd step there are visible included software packages. On the second page there is untick (by default) vmkusb-nic-fling from Fling-NIC-driver software depot. To add it to the new image, tick it like in the screenshoot.

4. Look at summary and Finish procedure.

5. Choose ESXi8-NUC software depot and look at progress. Wait until you see number of the included Software Packages (112). After that, click Export button. Choose ISO option na click OK. After a while, Export button change to Download.
Now, download ISO and burn with Rufus or similar application.

6. When you log in to the ESXi, you should see custom name of the Image profile section.

Image builder is a powerfull tool to create and customize ESXi images. It’s very helpful if you need to add/delete packages to the base ISO. If you are looking for graphical alternative to PowerShell with PowerCLI, this is a good choice.

In the next post, I will show for what purpose we preapre this custom image. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Hi, I’m Mateusz Romaniuk and welcome to my blog dedicated to virtualization technology. I’m a VMware/Tanzu Administrator in T-Mobile Poland. My mainly responsibilities are to manage and develop virtual enterprise infrastructure.