How To NetBoot A VMWare Fusion & ESXi Hosted VM


For a number of years, OS X VMWare Fusion VM’s either hosted locally or on ESXi have supported NetBoot. Rich Trouton has covered this before here & here.

(Incidentally whilst this post refers to VMWare OS X VM’s, you can also NetBoot Parallels OS X VM’s & Kyle Bareis has a post on NetBooting VM’s created with that here.)

On occasion, the odd question still pops up on how to do this. So I’m posting this in the hope of rebroadcasting the message for any that have missed it.

Model Identifier

In a previous blog post I have mentioned some about NetBoot’s Enabled/Disabled Identifiers arrays in the NBImageInfo.plist.

If you use that function to limiting clients booting to a NetBoot set then you’ll need a add a new identifier for booting a VM.

This identifier can be found on your OS X’s VM within the VM’s “System Report” found by pressing the Apple Logo to the top left of the VM, then clicking “About This Mac” > “System Report.”

The default information shown should look like the below:

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 11.21.48

There you can see that the “Model Identifier” is: VMware7,1.

You can then add this “Model Identifier” to the NBI’s NBImageInfo.plist’s “EnabledSystemIdentifiers” array & the OS X VM will then be offered the NBI from the NetBoot Server.

VMWare OS X VM EFI Differences Compared To Normal OS X Clients

VMWare OS X VM’s use a different EFI to regular OS X clients, these differences mean that when NetBooting you:

  1. Cannot choose a “Startup Disk” in the “Startup Disk” preference pane, then click “Restart…” to boot into that NetBoot.
    Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 10.21.53
  2. Cannot boot into “BootPicker” to choose a startup volume.
  3. Cannot boot to any NetBoot except the default one.

NetBooting the VM

With the correct NetBoot set enabled & set as default (NetBoot server allowing) & the VM’s “Model Identifier” added to the NBI’s NBImageInfo.plist (if required), we can then start the NetBoot process.

To NetBoot the VM do the following:

  1. Verify that the NetBoot set is being offered to the VM within the “Startup Disk” preference pane, (not strictly needed but a quick check that can save you some time).
  2. Restart the NBI.
  3. Press the “N” key when the grey screen with the “vmware” logo showing.
  4. Release the “N” key when shown text similar to the below to the top left of the screen:
  5. You should shortly see the spinning globe to show that the OS X VM is trying to NetBoot, shortly after which the VM should boot into the chosen NetBoot.

I have recorded the above below, (& shortened the sequence), to show the process.

Happy Virtual NetBooting!!


3 thoughts on “How To NetBoot A VMWare Fusion & ESXi Hosted VM

  1. Colin Corbin

    Hi Ben,

    I have never been able to successfully netboot a VMware Fusion 7 or 8 OSX

    I have followed your instructions as per this article and set the .nbi to be the default.

    It is served from a NetSUSLP 4.0 appliance, which works for physical devices without issue.

    However, when attempting to netboot a VM, I see the standard spinning earth for approx 20 seconds, then the VM abruptly shuts down.

    I would really appreciate it if you could advise me where to start diagnosing the problem, for example, which log files to look at on the NetSUS and on the client.

    I can hopefully resolve this with some guidance from you, but I’m just not quite sure where to begin.

    Please let me know if you need any further info, screenshots, logs, whatever…


    Colin Corbin

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