USB NICs on ESXi hosts

Quick post here, I wanted to use a USB based NIC to allow one of my hosts to be able to host the firewall used for internet access, this would allow for host upgrades without downtime.

My first concern was the USB bus on the host, being a bit older, I double checked and sad days it was only USB 2.0. Checking my internet speed, it turns out it’s 300 mbps, and USB 2.0 is 480 mbps, so while I may only be able to use less then half of the full speed of the gig NIC, it was still within spec of the backend, and thus won’t be a bottle neck.

Now when I plugged in the USB nic, I sadly was not presented with a new NIC option on the host.

When I googled this I found an awesome post by non-other than one of my online hero’s Willam Lam. Which he states the following:

“With the release of ESXi 7.0, a USB CDCE (Communication Device Class Ethernet) driver was added to enable support for hardware platforms that now leverages a Virtual EEM (Ethernet Emulation Module) for their out-of-band (OOB) management interface, which was the primary motivation for this enhancement.

One interesting and beneficial side effect of this enhancement is that for any USB network adapters that conforms to the CDCE specification, they would automatically get claimed by ESXi and show up as an available network interface demonstrated in my homelab with the screenshot below.”

Then shows a snippet of running a command:

esxcfg-nics -l

Which for me listed the same results as the UI:

Considering I’m running the latest built of 7.x, I guess the device not “conform to the CDCE specification”.

A bit further in the post he shows running:


When ran shows the device is seen by the host:

Let’s try to install the Flings USB Driver, see if it works.

“This Fling supports the most popular USB network adapter chipsets found in the market. The ASIX USB 2.0 gigabit network ASIX88178a, ASIX USB 3.0 gigabit network ASIX88179, Realtek USB 3.0 gigabit network RTL8152/RTL8153 and Aquantia AQC111U.”

Step 1 – Download the ZIP file for the specific version of your ESXi host and upload to ESXi host using SCP or Datastore Browser. Done

Luck the error message was clickable, and it provided a helpful hint to navigate to the host as it maybe due to certificate not trusted, and sure enough that was the case.

Step 2 – Place the ESXi host into Maintenance Mode using the vSphere UI or CLI (e.g. esxcli system maintenanceMode set -e true)

Some reason the command line wasn’t returning from the command above, and I had to enable Maintenance mode via the UI. Done.

Step 3 – Install the ESXi Offline Bundle (6.5/6.7) or Component (7.0)

For (7.0+) – Run the following command on ESXi Shell to install ESXi Component:

esxcli software component apply -d /path/to/the component zip

For (6.5/6.7) – Run the following command on ESXi Shell to install ESXi Offline Bundle:

esxcli software vib install -d /path/to/the offline bundle zip

and my results:

Ohhh FFS… Google!!!!!! HELP!!!! Only one hit…

only only 2 responses close to an answer are… “Ok I can confirm that if you create a 7u1 ISO and upgrade to that first, you can then add the latest fling module to it. Key bit of info that is not in the installation instructions” and “Workaround: Update the ESXi host to 7.0 Update 1. Retry the driver installation.”

Uhhhh I thought I just updated my hosts to the latest patches… what am I running?

“7.0.3, 21686933″… checking the source Flings page, oh… it’s a dropdown menu… *facepalm*

I downloaded the ESXi 8 version, let me try the 703 one…

Reboot! and?

Ehhh it worked, I can now bind it to a vSwitch. I hope this helps someone :). I’m also wondering if this will burn me on future ESXi updates/upgrade. I’ll post any updates if it does.

Using A USB Device as a Datastore on VMware ESXi

USB datastore

Attach USB device in Windows -> DiskPart -> Select Disk -> Clean

To see USB device on host, stop arbitrator service, save to config, reboot

Now the hard parts, normally even following guide to see USB stick on host mount 4 gig volume, I had 16 gig cruiser to use.


Perform a lspci -v to get all the USB UHCI and EHCI controllers to show up.
This shows up for example as:

partedUtil mklabel ${DEVICE} msdos
END_SECTOR=$(eval expr $(partedUtil getptbl ${DEVICE} | tail -1 | awk '{print $1 " \\* " $2 " \\* " $3}') - 1)
/sbin/partedUtil "setptbl" "${DEVICE}" "gpt" "1 2048 ${END_SECTOR} AA31E02A400F11DB9590000C2911D1B8 0"
/sbin/vmkfstools -C vmfs5 -b 1m -S $(hostname -s)-local-datastore ${DEVICE}:1

That easy 😉

USB 3.0 Support on Windows 7 Guest VM

In Short, it’s not supported. If you’re running Workstation 9 or above, there’s this trick.

Now this guy goes into the real nitty gritty, and I love that! I however was working with ESXi 5.5 u3b. Now VMware did the same thing with the ESXi hypervisor and introduced USB 3.0 support via the xHCI controller. However the exact same limitation apply.

1) Drivers of USB 3.0 Host Controller are not provided by VMware Tools.

2) VMware USB 3.0 Host Controller will work only if your Virtual Machine OS has Native USB 3.o Support. Examples of such OS are – Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Linux Kernel 2.6.31 and above.

He goes on to say he’s screwed, but I’ve found the older EHCI +UHCI controller works for USB 1.1 and 2 devices I haven’t fully tested all case scenarios however. .For a Windows Server 2016 VM, on a HP Gen9 server with ESXi 5.5. My findings were as follows:

  1. Installed xHCI usb controller, via VM settings.
  2. Guest OS picked up hardware change and installed driver without issue.
  3. Plugged in USB 2.0 device, showed up in Host, as USB device became available to add to VM via VM settings, so added device.
  4. Guest OS didn’t see the USB device connected.
  5. Removed device via VM settings, then disconnected from host.
  6. Connected USB 3.0 Stick into host, added to VM via VM settings.
  7. Device was seen on Guest VM, and performance was equal to that of the sticks specs. (18~20 MB/s write, 100+MB/s Read)

I wasn’t sure why the USB 2.0 Device didn’t show up, so I simply removed the xHCI USB controller, and instead installed the EHCI +UHCI. Re-Connected the USB 2.0 devices and added it to the VM, this time the device did show up. I can’t remember the exact performance counters. I’ll update this post when I do some better analysis. My plan is to script some I/O tests using diskspd and PowerShell. Stay tuned. 😀

I’m also going to see if I can connect the same USB device via hardware pass-through instead of utilizing the USB controllers and Devices VM settings options. I’ve manly done this with RDM’s and storage controllers with storage type VM’s (FreeNas mostly).

As for the main point of this post… I figured the main link I posted and this one here as well form the VMware forms that I’d be able to get a way to make the xCHI controller work on the Windows 7 VM guest. The answer is basically grab the Intel xCHI drivers for Windows 7/2008R2 from Intel and install it manually, not via the setup.exe.

To my dismay I couldn’t get it to work, the wizard simply couldn’t locate the device (since the hardware IDs didn’t match) and installing the otherwise the device wouldn’t start.

I even decided to try and use double driver (extracts drivers) against a newer guest OS. This also failed. I simply couldn’t get it to work.