Can’t Mount A USB Device On ESX/ESXi Server

You may want to mount a USB device (Key or media) on an ESX server to export or import files (e.g. vmdk). The problem is the USB devices shows up with “lsusb” but is not mounted properly.

The reason for this behaviour is that the ESX/ESXi 4.1 is designed for passthrough to any virtual machine on the system. As such, the usbarbitrator service will always claim external devices plug into the host using the passthrough technology to make it available for the virtual machines. To resolve this issue, the usbarbitrator must be stopped first before the external device can successfully be mounted. In the following steps, I will explain how it’s been done:


  • SSH server must be running on the host (ESX/ESXi)
  • PuTTY or the console of another UNIX/Linux system 

1.) Stop the usbarbitrator service by running this command

/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator stop

2.) Disconnect and reconnect the usb device. The device might be automatically mounted under

/vmfs/volumes/NO NAME/ (just navigate here to export or import your files)

**) If not automatically mounted, use the following commands to find out where the device is connected to (e.g. /dev/sda1)

fdisk -l
tail /var/log/messages

To mount the device, first create a folder

mkdir /ExtUSB

mount the device with

mount -t ext3 /dev/sda1 /ExtUSB/

3.) After using the device, run the following command to start the usbarbitrator service

/etc/init.d/usbarbitrator start

We are done!

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