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Access USB device in VMware

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Virtualization provides many benefits that extend the capabilities of an enterprise’s hardware resources. One area where it does not offer an advantage is when attempting to access USB in virtual machines. It can be difficult to gain full functionality over USB devices from within a virtual session.

Redirecting USB data transmission from the host to the guest operating system is one possible solution but has limitations, such as the availability of USB interfaces on the VM.

This article will demonstrate some methods to get around this limitation and allow you to use USB in VMware sessions.

An advanced solution for VMware USB redirection

USB over Ethernet software enables USB traffic to be redirected to VMware. The application serves as a wireless connector that links USB devices connected to a host machine with guest operating systems.
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USB Network Gate

Share USB in VMware
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USB Network Gate

Follow these steps to use USB Network Gate to implement VMware USB passthrough:

  1. Install USB Network Gate on both the computer attached to the USB device to be shared and the VMware Workstation.

  2. Share a USB device from the physical machine which will act as the server in the redirection scheme. The server can be the local host or any computer that is accessible through the network.

  3. Connect the VMware session, which is considered the client, to the shared USB device.

  4. The shared USB peripheral will appear in the virtual machine’s Device Manage after it is recognized by the OS. At this point, it can be used with the same functionality as if it had a direct physical connection to the virtual session.

USB Network Gate is more effective at sharing devices with VMware sessions than native methods. Without the help of the application, connecting a VMware ESXi session to a keyboard or mouse is impossible. The same is true for HID interfaces and video or audio devices that require coordinated signal processing. These problems are not an issue when using USB Network Gate.

The other overwhelming advantage of using USB Network Gate is that it removes the need for a peripheral USB device to be physically connected to the host computer. With USB Network Gate installed on the host and guest operating systems, you can enable VMware USB connectivity with any peripheral that is attached to a network-connected computer. This extends the utility of your USB devices by enabling them to be used by virtual sessions throughout an enterprise.

A native method for connecting USB devices to a VMware virtual machine

Peripheral devices attached to the host are automatically connected to the guest operating system if the VM’s window is active. This default can be disabled in the Virtual Machine Settings Editor. Just turn off the auto-connect feature in the USB controller panel.

VMware virtual machine

In cases where a device is connected but the VM’s USB interfaces are all in use, a dialog box will be displayed. You can either ignore the new device or access it by disconnecting one of the currently attached USB peripherals and freeing a port. If you ignore it, the device is connected to the host computer.

You use the VM > Removable Devices panel to define which USB devices will be attached to the virtual session. The maximum number that can be connected simultaneously is two peripherals, and using a hub does not affect this limitation. The devices themselves are detected rather than the hub.

In the virtual session, a menu is available for each USB port that indicates which devices are attached to the host and available to VMware. You can hover your mouse over the menu and select the peripheral with which you wish to connect. If a device is already attached to a port, you can release it by clicking on a new device which will then be connected to the interface.

If you simply want to release a device, you can do that by selecting its ports and choosing None in the menu options.

When the auto-connect feature is not active, a manual connection is implemented by going to the VM > Removable Devices menu.

VMware workstation USB passthrough

As mentioned previously, USB devices physically attached to the host are connected to the virtual session by default. If this does not occur as expected, you might need to redirect it manually to the VMware Workstation. This may also be necessary if the VM is powered off or the device is unplugged and reattached.

Here is what is required to configure a VMware Workstation with USB passthrough capability.

Manual redirection is accomplished by choosing VM > Removable Devices > Device Name > Connect, which disconnects it from the host computer and makes it available to the VM Workstation session.

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