How to Boot From Bootable USB Drive in VMware (Simple & Easy)

Need to boot into or create a VM via a USB drive in VMware? It is easier than you think. Here’re the steps to boot from USB in VMware.

I personally use VMware on a daily basis for various things like testing new software and Windows updates, custom Windows settings, registry edits, group policy changes, etc. A couple of the main reasons I use VMware over VirtualBox is that it performs a bit better, has better support for graphics in a Windows VM, and the user interface is a bit pleasing too. In VMware, you can install almost any operating system. All you need is an ISO. Once you have it, simply add that ISO to VM and VMware will take care of all the rest.

However, if you have a bootable USB drive, there is no clear cut way to boot from USB in VMware. Now, I know most of you might never face the situation where you need to boot from a USB drive in VMware, but trust me I’ve seen this situation arise a couple of times.

If you are ever in this situation, though there is no straightforward way, we can bend the rules a bit and boot from a bootable USB drive. It doesn’t matter what operating system is in the USB drive. Without further ado, let me show you the way to do it.

Preparation

Before moving forward, I assume that you already have a bootable USB drive. Also, for compatibility’s sake, USB 2.0 is preferred. However, even if you have a USB 3.0 or higher drive, it shouldn’t matter that much in most cases.

Note: The below steps are the same even if you are using VMware Player.

Boot from Bootable USB Drive in VMware

As VMware doesn’t support booting from USB directly, we need to do a little bit of magic. That is, we use a lightweight boot manager in VMware to boot into the USB drive. Though sounds complicated, it is pretty easy. Just follow the steps as-is.

1. First, plug-in the bootable USB drive into your system. We are going to use it further down.

2. Now, download the latest version of the Plop Boot Manager from the official site. After downloading, open the ZIP file and drag and drop the ISO file inside it to your desktop.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-extract-iso

2. After extracting the ISO file, open the VMware application by searching for it in the start menu. After opening VMware, select the “File → New Virtual Machine” option to create a new virtual machine.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-new-vm

3. VMware opens the VM creation wizard. Here, select the “Typical” radio option and click “Next“.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-typical

4. Now, select the “Installer disk image file” radio option, click the “Browse” button, select the extracted ISO file, and click on the “Open” button. Click “Next” to continue.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-select-iso

5. We now need to select the operating system type. Select the “Linux” radio option and then “Ubuntu” from the drop-down menu.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-os-type

6. Name the virtual machine anything you want and click “Next“.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-vm-name

7. Let the default settings be as-is and click “Next“.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-set-space

8. Click “Finish“. This finishes the VM creation process.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-finish-wizard

9. In the main window, select the virtual machine and click on the “Power on” option to turn on the virtual machine.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-power-on-vm

10. As soon as you start the VM, it will boot into the Plop ISO. You will see a welcome screen something like below.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-plop-boot-manager-ui

12. Now, go to “VM → Removable Device → Your USB drive → Connect“. This action will connect the inserted USB drive to your virtual machine. You might see a warning message, click on the “Ok” button to continue.

If you did not insert the bootable USB drive as instructed on step 1, you will not see your USB drive in the removable device list.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-connect-usb
Boot-from-usb-vmware-click-ok

13. Once the USB drive is connected, go into the VM, select the “USB” option with your arrow keys and press Enter.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-select-usb-option

14. As soon as you do that, if everything goes well, you will boot into the USB drive. For example, I booted into Ubuntu without any problems.

Boot-from-usb-vmware-done-booting

That is it. I hope that helps. If you are stuck or need some help, comment below and I will try to help as much as possible. If you like this article, do check out how to boot into BIOS/UEFI in VMware and how to share a folder in VMware.

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