You can use a TFTP server to PXE boot the ESXi installer, using PXELINUX and a PXE configuration file.

About this task

See also About Installation and Upgrade Scripts and About the boot.cfg File


Verify that your environment has the following components:

Use a native VLAN in most cases. If you want to specify the VLAN ID to be used with PXE booting, check that your NIC supports VLAN ID specification.


  1. Create the /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg directory on your TFTP server.
  2. On the Linux machine, install PXELINUX.

    PXELINUX is included in the SYSLINUX package. Extract the files, locate the pxelinux.0 file and copy it to the /tftpboot directory on your TFTP server.

  3. Configure the DHCP server to send the following information to each client host:
    • The name or IP address of your TFTP server.

    • The name of your initial boot file. This is pxelinux.0.

  4. Copy the contents of the ESXi installer image to the /var/lib/tftpboot directory on the TFTP server.
  5. (Optional) For a scripted installation, in the boot.cfg file, add the kernelopt option on the line following the kernel command, to specify the location of the installation script.

    Use the following code as a model, where XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX is the IP address of the server where the installation script resides, and esxi_ksFiles is the directory containing the ks.cfg file.

  6. Create a PXE configuration file.

    This file defines how the host boots when no operating system is present. The PXE configuration file references the boot files. Use the following code as a model, where XXXXXX is the build number of the ESXi installer image.

    DEFAULT menu.c32
    MENU TITLE ESXi-5.x.x-XXXXXX-full Boot Menu
    NOHALT 1
    PROMPT 0
    TIMEOUT 80
    LABEL install
      KERNEL mboot.c32
       APPEND -c location of boot.cfg
    MENU LABEL ESXi-5.x.x-XXXXXX-full ^Installer
    LABEL hddboot
     LOCALBOOT 0x80
     MENU LABEL ^Boot from local disk
  7. Name the file with the MAC address of the target host machine: 01-mac_address_of_target_ESXi_host.

    For example, 01-23-45-67-89-0a-bc.

  8. Save the PXE configuration file in /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg on the TFTP server.
  9. Boot the machine with the network adapter.