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Having a CDROM available for use in a VMware ESXi server can be very useful. However, what if there is no way to get the CDROM into the host? Better yet, what if you just want to avoid the hassle of having to go back and forth inserting and pulling CDROMs?

There is a way to get the ISO onto the VMware ESXi server and make it available to a virtual machine. First, you have to put the ISO on the server itself. Secondly, you have to make the ISO available to the host. That’s it.

First step: copy the ISO to the ESXi server. You could do this with scp (if you’ve activated ssh) or by creating the ISO on the fly from the original disk. You could also use scp on the ESXi server to copy an ISO into the server without activating ssh.

The best destination would probably be a directory in the datastore you set up during installation of the ESXi server. If the datastore is datastore1, then the location for ISOs could be /vmfs/volumes/datastore1/ISO Images/. You’ll have to create the directory ISO Images yourself. Note that “datastore1” (or whatever your datastore name is) is not used by VMware ESXi, but translates to a hex string: so don’t be alarmed when you see it instead of the datastore name you expect.

Lastly, make the ISO available to the virtual machine. Using vSphere Client, you can get to the appropriate place (“Edit Settings”) in a number of ways. Right click on the virtual machine in the list of machines (either on the tree to the left, or on the list in the Virtual Machines tab) and select “Edit Settings”. Alternatively, click on the virtual machine on the left, then click on the Summary tab – and on that tab, click on “Edit Settings”.

In Edit Settings, click on the CD/DVD Drive 1 entry and then click the button for Datastore ISO File (on the right). If you click on browse – then on the drop-down menu at the top, look for “Datastores” (at the bottom). Your datastores will be shown when you click on Datastores, then the directory you created will be in the datastore you used earlier. Select the ISO you want and click Open – then OK.

Once the CDROM is chosen, you can then install from it, or use it in any way you like from the virtual machine. Don’t forget: this is just like putting a new CDROM into the machine – so whatever your OS needs to have happen, you have to do it after “putting the CDROM” into the drive.