Short and sweet: you need to create a bootable ESXi USB stick and the "normal" method was not doing it.
In my situation, I was using balenaEtcher but even if it was successful, the USB stick was not bootable. The tool did warned me when I have selected the ESXi iso.
So here we are. In order to create a bootable ESXi usb stick, you need to have:
1. ESXi iso image from vmware website (https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/evalcenter?p=free-esxi7)
2. An empty USB stick.
1. Format the USB stick as FAT or FAT32.
2. List and make the USB stick partition bootable:
fmbp16:~ root# diskutil list /dev/disk2 /dev/disk2 (external, physical): #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER 0: FDisk_partition_scheme *15.7 GB disk2 1: DOS_FAT_32 UNTITLED 15.7 GB disk2s1 fmbp16:~ root# diskutil umountDisk /dev/disk2 Unmount of all volumes on disk2 was successful
fmbp16:~ root# fdisk -e /dev/disk2 fdisk: could not open MBR file /usr/standalone/i386/boot0: No such file or directory Enter 'help' for information fdisk: 1> f 1 Partition 1 marked active. fdisk:*1> write Writing MBR at offset 0. fdisk: 1> exit
3. Copy all files and folder from ESXi iso to the USB stick:
fmbp16:~ root# cp -R /Volumes/ESXI-7.0B-16324942-STANDARD/* /Volumes/ESXi/ fmbp16:~ root#
4. Edit ISOLINUX.CFG to set the partition to boot from, as follows:
NOTE: you need to add "-p 1" at the end of APPEND line.
fmbp16:~ root# cd /Volumes/ESXi/ fmbp16:ESXi root# cat ISOLINUX.CFG | grep APPEND APPEND -c boot.cfg fmbp16:ESXi root# sed -i "" 's/APPEND -c boot.cfg/APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1/g' ISOLINUX.CFG fmbp16:ESXi root# cat ISOLINUX.CFG APPEND -c boot.cfg -p 1