In VMware you can generally create a virtual machine with a bootable CD/DVD or an ISO image file. Though VMware allows you to connect USB devices to the guest operating system, it doesn’t allow booting and installing an operating system directly from a USB drive.
There are no options to configure in VMware to boot from a USB drive, but that doesn’t mean you cannot use a USB drive to boot and install an operating system in VMware.
Boot from a USB Drive in VMware
Note: though I’m showing it in VMware Workstation, the same procedure is applicable even when you are using VMware Player.
Since VMware doesn’t natively support booting from a USB drive, we are going to use a free software called Plop Boot Manager. This free software has built-in support for USB drivers to directly access USB devices without any help from BIOS. This allows you to boot into any operating system that you’ve installed on the USB drive.
Download Plop Boot Manager from the official website and extract it to the folder of your choice.
Now, plug in the bootable USB drive and launch VMware. Before we can boot with the USB drive, we need to boot into Plop Boot Manager. Open the File menu and select the option “New Virtual Machine.”
The above action will start a New Virtual Machine Wizard. Select the option “Typical” and click on the “Next” button.
Select the option “Installer Disc Image File (ISO)” and click on the “Browse” button.
In the browse window, navigate to the extracted Plot Boot Manager folder, select the “.ISO” file, and click on the “Open” button.
Click on the “Next” button in the main window.
Select the guest operating system as “Linux,” and select “Ubuntu” from the dropdown menu under the “Version” section. Click on the “Next” button.
Name the virtual machine and click “Next” to continue.
Depending on what operating system you are going to boot with the USB drive, select the appropriate disk size and click “Next.”
In this window click on the “Customize Hardware” button.
Select “USB Controller” on the left panel and make sure the option “Automatically connect new USB devices” is checked. Click on the “Close” button to close the hardware customization window.
In the main window click “Finish” to complete the procedure.
To start the virtual machine, click on the option “Power on this virtual machine.”
Once the virtual machine has started, the plugged-in USB drive should connect to it automatically. If not, right-click on the Removable Disk icon appearing in the bottom-right corner, and select the option “Connect (Disconnect from host).”
In the virtual machine use the arrow keys on your keyboard to select “USB” from the list of options and press “Enter.”
Within a few seconds you will be booted into the USB drive. From there you can install or try the operating system depending on your needs.
Comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences regarding using the above method to boot from a USB drive into VMware.