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Using VMware Horizon Client for USB Redirection

Jun 4, 2021

Every VMware workstation user eventually comes across the problem of a VM just refusing to see USB peripherals that aren’t USB memory sticks. The only way around is setting up VMware USB passthrough using either a purpose-built app or a dedicated VMware feature (much unlike the PCI devices that can be redirected straight from the vSphere client’s menu).

In today's article, we’re going to find out some more about USB redirection in VMware, setting a USB controller in the passthrough mode, and maybe find a more affordable analog to VMware Horizon.

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What is the VMware USB redirection feature?

One of the features of the Horizon Client, formerly known as VMware View USB redirection, that allows access to removable devices plugged into your local machine’s USB ports from the guest operating systems of VMs running in VMware ESXi, VMware vSphere, or other virtualization environments. Unlike task-specific apps, it can’t be used to redirect an XHCi controller so that every newly attached USB device gets straight to the guest OS or set a USB controller in the passthrough mode. It’s for adding a USB device to the specific virtual VMware workstation only.

For all its merits, this feature is by no means a one-stop solution, as it’s hardly usable for HID hardware due to major lags caused by network latency and won’t be any good at all if you need to redirect a webcam, a USB audio device, a scanner, or a USB hub. And you can’t use it to redirect a USB Ethernet device unless you want your VM to lose all network connectivity (try enabling DirectPath I/O passthrough for PCI devices on your ESXi host instead).

So, basically, it’s a valid option only if you're adding a USB storage to your VM or need to use a USB memory stick there. And that's a huge disappointment, especially given the several-thousand-dollar price of the VMware Horizon Client.

A budget-oriented tool for USB passthrough

USB Network Gate is a universal software tool you can use to redirect all the removable devices plugged into your host machine’s USB ports to your VMware ESXi or VMware vSphere virtual machines.
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
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Here’s what makes USB Network Gate so great for VMware USB redirection:

Versatility: UNG works for any USB-based physical device and across all operating systems.

Usability: UNG is very easy to install and use, and you won’t have to manually enable the USB arbitrator feature (or even know what a USB arbitrator is).

Fleetness: redirect a USB hub or an XHCi controller, so any physical device plugged into it will be instantly available for connection for any of your ESXi VMs.

Just install USB Network Gate on your host and guest systems and you won’t have any problems with accessing a USB peripheral from within a VM session ever again.

Connecting hardware USB peripherals to a VM with Horizon Client

vmware horizon client icon

The Horizon Client’s USB redirection feature has some limitations you need to know about before you’re going to use it:

❌ Don’t use this feature for audio and video peripherals or any other devices that require good bandwidth capacity for correct operation.

❌ Don’t enable autoconnection if you have a touch screen device attached to your host or it’s going to play havoc with your VM’s controls.

❌ Once you redirect a device to a VM, you won’t be able to access it from the host.

❌ The USB Redirection component must be installed, or you won’t be able to use this feature at all.

❌ If the device you’re redirecting needs a specific driver, you’ll have to install it on both your host and all the VMs that are going to connect the device.

❌ If you manually redirect Android-based devices, they won’t work until you restart the VM.

❌ Don’t try to redirect a scanner using this feature, that’s what the scanner redirection feature is for.

Try VMware USB Redirection app
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Ok, here is what you’ll need to configure Horizon Client to automatically connect a USB device to a VM:
Launch Horizon Client and connect to a VM’s guest system.
Click Connect USB Device on the menu, and then select either Autoconnect USB Devices when Inserted or Autoconnect USB Devices at Startup.
Attach the USB device you want to redirect to your host’s USB port.

Sometimes that auto connection feature just won’t work. In that case, you can try to redirect the device manually. Here how it’s done:

  1. Attach the USB device you want to redirect to your host’s USB port.

  2. Run the Horizon Client and click Connect USB Device on the menu.

  3. Find the device you want to redirect on the list and click on its name.

  4. Wait up to 20-30 seconds.

  5. If no device appears on your VM’s desktop or you're not prompted to install any drivers, unplug the device from the host and try repeating the procedure all over again.

It’s not uncommon for this feature to not work even if the peripheral you’re sharing meets all requirements and you’ve done everything correctly. In this scenario, you can dig deeper and try troubleshooting USB redirection problems, or get the application-specific software solution, e.g. USB Network Gate - it’s totally up to you.

Top choice

USB Network Gate

  • Rank 4.9 based on 179+ users
  • Requirements: OS: Windows 7 SP1/8/8.1/10/11; Windows Server 2008 R2/2012/2012 R2/2016/2019/2022
    Architectures: x86, x64, ARM64
    . 9.25MB free space.
  • Version 10.0.2450. (15 Jan, 2022). Release notes