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How to upload files to a VMware ESX 3i Server

To upload and download files, VMware ESX Server 3i employs a data store browser rather than the Linux-like console service in ESX Server 3.5. Learn how to use and access a data store browser.

David Davis

VMware ESX Server 3.5's "stripped-down" version is VMware ESX Server 3i, which can either be embedded in your server...

hardware or installed from an ISO install file. ESX Server 3i owes some if its leanness to the absence of the Linux-like service console that provides an OS-level of access to the Virtual Machine File System. But the traditional tools and methods that you might use to upload and download files with ESX Server won't work with ESX Server 3i. In this article, I'll show you how you get files to and from the new VMware ESX Server 3i.

Traditional methods for transferring files to an ESX Server
Let's say that you have a sys-prepped virtual machine (VM) that you wanted to transfer from a VMware ESX server to your new VMware ESX Server system. Of course, if these are on the same SAN and they share the same SAN LUN, then they have access to the same VMs. There are no issues in this case because you can add files using "Add to Inventory" to get the new VM into your 3i server.

But what you want to get that VM guest into 3i and they don't share the same SAN or SAN LUN? What if you want to transfer an ISO file over to your 3i server so that you can boot an OS and create a new VM? Traditionally, you would use a Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) application to move that data. But, as you know, there is no SCP server, or any other file transfer mechanism, to transfer that data with 3i.

Upload files with the data store browser
Thankfully, we have the data store browser to get files and entire folders into ESX Server 3i. To begin uploading files using the data store browser, open the VMware Infrastructure Client, select your VMware Server 3i, and go to Summary to view the data stores.

Let's say that you want to put a Fedora Core ISO file on the local disk of the 3i server. To do this, double-click the datastore that you want to place the file on, like this:

datastore browser example: uploading Fedora Core ISO file on VMware Server 3i

This will bring up the data store browser. From there, click on the upload files or folders icon, and click to select which file you want to upload. However, let's say that you have a folder that has all the files associated with a virtual guest OS in it. You could use the folder option to transfer all these files at once. Here is what it looks like:

VMware ESX Server 3i article: using datastore browser screenshot

I chose to upload the Fedora Core Linux Install DVD ISO file. This 3.5GB file took only about five minutes to upload. This is what the status message looks like:

Fedora Core Linux Install DVD ISO file upload to VMware ESX 3i

Once uploaded, here is what it looks like:

Now that the ISO is there, I can use this file to install my Virtual Guest OS inside VMware ESX Server 3i. Or, if uploading a VMX & VMDK, I could add those to my inventory and boot the Guest VM that I uploaded. Very cool! By the way, if you want to download files, all you have to do is right-click on them, like this:

download files from VMware datastore browser

Using 3i is different than what we're used to. In the past, we would use SCP, but there are a lot of benefits to 3i's new method. For starters, once you understand what you need to do, it just seems easier to get the files over to 3i. There is no separate SCP application to install and no separate login. And, let's face it; SCP is a lot more complex than the simple data store browser upload function that I demonstrated here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Davis has served as an IT Manager for over 15 years. He has a number of certifications including CCIE #9369, MCSE, CISSP, & VCP. Additionally, David has authored over one hundred articles, a number of video training courses including VMware ESX Server & VMware Server & Workstation. David publishes Cisco Networking how-to articles & videos at his website,

This was last published in March 2008

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