You can PXE boot the ESXi installer by using PXELINUX, and you can use the isolinux.cfg file as the PXE configuration file.

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. To specify the VLAN ID to be used with PXE booting, verify 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.
    The DHCP server sends the following information to your client hosts:
    • The name or IP address of your TFTP server
    • The name of your initial boot file, 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 after the kernel command to specify the location of the installation script.
    In the following example, XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX is the IP address of the server where the installation script resides.
  6. Copy the isolinux.cfg file from the ESXi installer ISO image to the /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg directory.
    The isolinux.cfg file contains the following code, where XXXXXX is the build number of the ESXi installer image:
    DEFAULT menu.c32
    MENU TITLE ESXi-6.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-6.x.x-XXXXXX-full ^Installer
    LABEL hddboot
     LOCALBOOT 0x80
     MENU LABEL ^Boot from local disk
  7. Rename the isolinux.cfg 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. Boot the machine with the network adapter.