Electronic Team uses cookies to personalize your experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our cookie policy. Click here to learn more.

VMware USB passthrough

Jan 15, 2021

The virtualization technologies offer lots of benefits when there is a need for running various operating systems at the same time. Hosting multiple guest OSes on the single machine helps you cut software-related costs but what is more, it allows you to be more flexible when it comes to managing limited IT-resources.

Still and all, despite all its advantages, virtualization also has certain drawbacks that make its use troublesome. For example, your VMware Workstation may not detect a local USB device and it will not show up in the Device Manager.

android remote access

One problem that is often encountered with virtualization apps is in enabling the software to fully and reliably forward data from serial and USB devices to the virtual environment. In some cases, you may access the devices from the virtual machine but have issues getting the peripherals to function correctly.

Another problem arises when USB devices can be redirected from the host to the guest OS but a limited number of USB ports are available to the virtual machine.

In this article, we will tell you how to get around this issue and connect any number of USB devices to VMware virtual machines easily and securely.

Try VMware USB Redirection app
14-day free trial

Software solution for VMware USB redirection

USB Redirector is a dedicated utility that allows you to direct USB traffic to a virtual machine. The software acts as a wireless connector linking your guest OS and USB peripheral devices that are attached to the local machine or any network-connected computer. The solution works seamlessly with many virtual environments.
UNG logo

USB Network Gate

Share USB over Ethernet on Windows
4.9 Rank based on 179+ users, Reviews(72)
Download 14-day trial, You can share only 1 local USB-device
 USB for Remote Desktop

How to enable VMware USB passthrough with USB Network Gate:

Install USB Network Gate on the real and virtual machine (VMware Workstation).
Share a USB device on the physical computer which will be the server. This can be the local machine or any network-attached computer.
Connect to the shared USB device from VMware guest OS which will be the client.
The virtual machine will recognize the USB device and it will be displayed in the Device Manager. The USB peripheral can now be used as if it were directly connected to the virtual machine that you are using.

Watch our VMware USB passthrough video guide:

Why is USB Network Gate the best solution to redirect USB to VMware?

  • USB Network Gate employs advanced port virtualization technology to enable the redirection of any USB device to a virtual environment. VMware USB passthrough can be easily configured with this dedicated software tool.

  • Even devices that cannot be connected to virtual machines by native methods are supported by USB Network Gate.

  • An example can be seen when attempting to use a keyboard or mouse with a bootable HID interface on VMware ESXi. Native methods are not sufficient to redirect neither these nor other peripherals such as video and audio devices which demand coordinated signal processing. The use of USB Network Gate eliminates this problem.
Try VMware USB Redirection app
14-day free trial

The powerful functionality of USB to VMware software

USB Network Gate enables any USB device to be forwarded over a local network, Ethernet, or the Internet. This allows VMware workstation USB passthrough to be enacted even when you have no USB devices physically connected to the host machine.

Simply install USB Network Gate on all networked computers with USB devices attached and these devices can be shared with your VMware virtual machine.

This unique ability provided by USB Network Gate opens new opportunities for connecting virtual environments over the network and can be instrumental in working with POS devices, industrial automation systems, and many other applications.

Try VMware USB Redirection app
14-day free trial

How to connect USB to VMware virtual machine with a native method:

  1. 1
    When a virtual machine’s window is active, peripheral devices that are attached to the host computer should be automatically connected to the guest system rather than the host. (This feature can be disabled by turning off auto connect in the USB Controller panel in the Virtual Machine Settings Editor.)
  2. 2
    If all of the virtual machine’s USB ports are occupied when the device is connected, you will be presented with a dialog box. Your options are to free a port by disconnecting one of the USB devices or to ignore the new device. If you choose to ignore the device, it is connected to the host machine.

  3. 3
    Specifying which USB devices should be connected to your virtual machine is done through the VM > Removable Devices panel.

    The maximum number of devices that can be connected at once is two. Using a hub does not impact this number, as the virtual devices are detected, not the hub.

  4. 4
    Each USB port has a menu that displays the devices that are connected to the host and available to the guest VMware. Hovering your mouse over the menu item enables you to click on the device to which you want to connect. In case a device is attached to that port, clicking on a new device releases the first peripheral and connects to the newly selected one.

    VMware USB 3 passthrough - connect new USB

Releasing a device is done by selecting a port to which it is connected and choosing None in its menu.

If the auto-connect feature was disabled when a device is attached to the host machine, you can manually connect it through the VM > Removable Devices menu.

Try USB for Remote Desktop now
14-day free trial

VMware workstation USB passthrough: manual configuration

By default, devices attached to the host machine are connected to the VM rather than the host. But if a VMware workstation USB device is not showing up, you need to redirect the USB device manually.

You may also need to do this after powering the VM off or unplugging and re-attaching the device.

VMware Workstation should retain the connection to the host machine’s USB port, but if the device does not reconnect and is still available you can redirect it manually by selecting VM > Removable Devices > Device Name > Connect, which will disconnect it from the host.

Configuring VMware ESXi USB passthrough

In order to implement the USB passthrough capabilities on an ESXi host, you should follow several simple steps.

But, before you start, take into account that VMware ESXi allows you to mount a USB device to only one virtual machine at a time.

If your local USB device is currently connected to a virtual machine, you will not be able to add it to another one until the device is disconnected from that machine.

Also, you should remember that VMware ESXi lets you connect USB devices to guest OSes only if the physical devices are attached to the host on which the virtual machines run, which is opposed to dedicated USB passthrough software capable of working with any remote devices over the network.

So, here’s what you should do to redirect USB devices to VMware ESXi guest OS:

  1. 1
    Log into your VMware vSphere Web Client and access your virtual machine Inventory.
  2. 2
    Open the list of virtual machines and select the machine that requires access to USB devices. Right-click and select the “Edit” settings.

    VMware ESXi USB passthrough: edit settings
  3. 3
    Select the “New device” menu and “Host USB device”. Select the “Add” option.

    Connect USB to VMware ESXi
  4. 4
    Now select the device to be added from the drop-down list displayed.

FAQ about USB device passthrough in VMware

VMware workstation USB passthrough refers to the method used to make USB devices attached to a physical host available to its virtual sessions. Using native passthrough functionality, the connected USB device can only be used by one virtual machine at a time and needs to be disconnected before it can be assigned to another session. In some cases, you may be able to connect the USB device but not access all of its functionality with a simple passthrough solution.
To use a webcam in VMware you need to use native passthrough capabilities or a third-party software solution. You may be impacted by reduced functionality or connectivity issues with the device not being recognized by the virtual session’s Device Manager when attempting to use the simple passthrough method. Reliable USB redirecting software makes it easier to use a webcam from within your virtual machine.
The most efficient way to use VMware with a USB device is with a USB redirector application. Electronic Team’s USB Redirector provides users with an easy method of accessing USB devices from within a virtual session. Simply install the software on the host and virtual machine allows you to access the full functionality of USB devices from within the guest session. You can even unplug a device and attach a different one and immediately use it from the VM.
Top choice

USB Network Gate

  • Rank 4.9 based on 179+ users
  • Requirements: Windows (32-bit and 64-bit): Windows 7/8/10, Windows Server 2008 R2/2012/2016/2019. 5.45MB free space.
  • Version 9.2.2372. (18 Apr, 2021). Release notes