One of the new features of vSphere/ESX 4.1 is the ability to pass-through up to 20 USB devices from the ESX host to a VM or VMs.
It is really simple to setup and test.
I am using a Server 2008 R2 VM as a test in this case.
Right click on the VM and select edit settings.
Add a USB Controller and then click OK and exit the edit settings screen.
Edit settings on the VM again and add a USB device.
At this point the wizard will show you any visible/compatible device you have plugged into the underlying ESX 4.1 host
A device HCL is here on VMwares support site: http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1021345
You cannot multi-select devices at this stage – add them one by one.
There is an option to allow vMotion of the VM while the USB device is connected.
VMware documentation states: “You can migrate a virtual machine to another ESX/ESXi host in the same datacenter and maintain the USB
passthrough device connections to the original host.”
I tested vMotion with a USB mass storage device attached and it does indeed work across ESX hosts as promised.
In the screen below I have now added two pass-through USB devices to my VM (A Kingston USB drive and a Safenet/Raindow dongle)
Inside the Windows VM – looking at device manager – the devices have appeared.
Both devices work correctly as intended.
I have tested numerous brands of USB mass storage devices (Kingston, Sandisk, Lexar, Imation) as well a couple of of security dongles and they all work well.
Also, please check out the USB pass-through section in the Virtual Machine Administration Guide PDF that is part of the vSphere 4.1 documentation.