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How to Recover VMs From ESXi 4 and 5

posted Jun 13, 2012, 3:35 PM by Jeremy Walker   [ updated Jun 17, 2012, 10:01 AM ]
I recently ran into a situation where a Virtual Machine was not booting with an ESXi server. It would have been simple to log into vSphere Client and check it out. However, the customer didn't have the root password. Simple again. Reset the password from the console - like any other software, right? Wrong. VMWare's knowledge base makes it clear there is no supported way to reset the password in ESXi 4 and 5. Wow. So what do I do next?

You'll be glad to know the datastores in ESXi are independent from the OS. That means you can re-install the OS and re-import the Virtual Machines from the datastores. However, there is one catch to this - THE ESXi INSTALLER WILL WIPE THE DATASTORES ON THE SAME DISK AS IT INSTALLS THE OS ON. I confirmed that ESXi 5.0.0 U1 installer will prompt you with options to preserve the existing datastore. However, I still recommend backing up the existing datastore by installing ESXi on another disk, attaching a new datastore and copying the Virtual Machine's files over.

I also recommend installing ESXi on a separate disk like a USB flash drive or a compact flash and leaving the datastores on their own independent disks. That way if you have to re-install ESXi, you don't risk losing your datastores.

Good luck!