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Server-side Hyper-V USB Passthrough of Local Resources

Olga Weis Olga Weis Sep 10, 2021

Hyper-V or VMware ESX is a perfect match for anyone who wants to set up a USB Passthrough in Windows or other popular operating systems, like Linux. You can create virtualization servers that host multiple virtual machines isolated from each other but sharing their local resources. By virtualizing processors, memory, PnP devices, printers, USB dongle keys, etc., you can significantly improve resource usage and energy efficiency while reducing the operational and maintenance costs of servers. On top of that, virtual machines and management APIs offer more flexibility for accessing and operating USB over Ethernet, balancing workload, and provisioning systems.

If you are using a hypervisor out of the box, redirecting USB peripherals to a VM can be tricky. In fact, nine times out of ten, you won’t see any local USB that is not a storage device. To eliminate this problem once and for all, it’s advised to get a dedicated USB redirector app, e.g., USB Network Gate, designed specifically for device redirection over Ethernet via RDP. Install usb_network_gate.exe on your machines, and you’ll be able to set USB passthrough for any device, even for a USB hub.

And for those willing to give native methods a try before turning to a third-party solution, we’ve prepared a little demonstration of the process of USB device redirection:

Step 1:

As our start point, we will attach a 32GB USB flash drive to a Hyper-V server and designate it as Drive E. As you can see, the host operating system immediately recognizes our drive as a Local Disk (system storage device):

attach your device to a Hyper-V server

Since a USB device can be only connected to one operating system at a time, we’ll have to disconnect it from the host OS now to make it available to the guest systems. And that’s a task for the next step.

Step 2:

Open the host machine’s Run prompt and execute the DISKMGMT.MSC command to start the Disk Management console. Find your USB device there and right-click on the disk (aim for the actual disk, not the drive letter or volume name).

Choose the Offline option to disconnect the device from the host:

disconnect the device from the host

Note: If the Offline option is grayed out, the passthrough for this device is unavailable. Sadly, this happens a lot when it comes to small-capacity storage devices.

Step 3:

Open the Hyper-V Manager and select the VM that requires access to the device. Right-click on it and click Settings on the shortcut menu.

Step 4:

In the Settings window, scroll down the local devices in the left-hand menu until you find the SCSI Controller. Now to set up USB redirection to a Hyper-V or VMware workstation, click + to expand the submenu, choose Hard Drive, and click the Add button. Now do to the right-hand tab, pick the Physical Hard Disk option and use the drop-down menu to select your USB storage device:

settings window

Once you click OK, the Virtual Machine will immediately recognize the USB device. If not, you may need to use the VM’s Disk Management Console to add a drive letter. As you can see, it's very similar to redirecting storage devices or other local resources to a VMware workstation. In the same way, you can use this built-in USB redirector to set up a passthrough for a USB dongle.

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