Despite all the dividends virtualization technologies can offer to your business, accessing USB in a virtual machine running on a VMware workstation may be problematic. If your ESXi VM can’t detect a local USB device, fails to get it to function correctly, or your ESXi server doesn’t have any free USB ports left, the USB passthrough feature will come to your aid.
From this article, you’ll find out how to connect USB to VMware virtual machines easily and securely and finally answer the long-standing question: How do I get VMware to recognize my USB?
If purchasing a proper software tool is not an option, you can try setting up USB redirection to VMware with standard features.
But before you start, please be aware of these restrictions:
❌ This method won’t work for any peripheral that’s not plugged into the host’s USB port (though it can be used for redirecting some PCI devices).
❌ The USB arbitrator service must be enabled (manually).
❌Chances are high that it won’t work for a USB 3.0 XHCi controller or any USB peripheral other than a storage device or USB memory stick.
❌ The maximum number of devices that can be connected at the same time is two.
So, finally, here’s your answer to the question, ‘How do I access USB on VMware with native methods?’:
To unmount the device, select a port to which it is connected and choose None in its menu.
If you still can’t access the USB device from your VM’s guest system, you may also need to power the VM off, then unplug the device and re-attach it back again.
The Workstation should retain the connection to the host machine’s USB port, but if not, go to the VM > Removable Devices > (Device Name) and select Connect from the menu.
Starting from vSphere 5.0, you can configure pass through of USB devices using an AnywhereUSB concentrator. Those are 2-, 8- and 24-port USB hubs with support of the RealPort USB technology that allows you to automatically redirect USB devices plugged into the concentrator to all the virtual VMware workstations across your local network.
This method’s restrictions are:
❌ A very limited list of supported USB devices.
❌ The maximum speed is USB 1.1.
❌ It’s a Windows-only solution that will not work on any other platform.
❌ You can only connect up to 2, 8, or 24 devices simultaneously, depending on the number of USB ports of your concentrator.
Here is how you make this method work:
Note: If the warning message indicating that the drivers have not yet passed Windows logo testing appears, click Continue Anyway.
If after this step ESXi USB passthrough is still not working, go back to step 1 and try doing it all over again. Or consider getting a proper software tool (e.g. USB Network Gate to tackle any pass-through-related problems once and for all.
Here’s why USB Network is Gate the best solution for VMware workstation USB passthrough:
✅ With USB Network Gate’s advanced port virtualization technology, you can redirect USB peripherals to the virtual environment without any limitations in the type of hardware or operating systems you’re redirecting them from.
✅ It’s much less expensive than the infamous VMware Horizon Client.
✅ Unlike the native methods only good for redirecting PCI devices and USB memory sticks, USB Network Gate can set into the passthrough mode any USB-based peripherals, i.a. a keyboard with a bootable HID interface, a webcam, POS device, an industrial automation system, a USB hub, or a USB 3.0 XHCi controller.
✅ UNG is so easy to use adding a USB to an ESXi VM won’t require manually changing any settings or dealing with the USB arbitrator service.
USB passthrough is a technology that redirects all the data to and from the real USB device connected to a host machine to a virtual USB device connected to your VM. This allows you to access and operate a USB on your VMware workstation as if it was directly connected to it.
VMware’s built-in USB pass through feature may limit the functionality of some USB devices and, for others, won’t work at all. This is why the easiest way to do that is by using a USB redirection app.
USB Redirector (aka USB Network Gate) is a special-purpose utility that acts as a wireless connector linking your USB devices to VMware machines. It works both for the local USB ports and devices and for the ones attached to any network-connected computer. The solution works seamlessly with VMware vSphere, VMware ESXi, many other virtual environments, and all popular operating systems.
Here are the three components you need to connect a USB drive to a VMware virtual machine:
Note: to use USB 3.0, VM hardware must be version 8 or higher.
You can use the VMware USB passthrough feature to connect up to 20 physical devices with a USB interface and USB port to each VM or ESXi host. When you add a virtual USB controller, ensure you have installed a VMware USB driver on your guest OS.
To safely remove a virtual USB controller from your VM, start by removing all USB devices connected to it.