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Olga Weis Olga Weis Last updated May 15, 2024

XenServer USB Passthrough - A Detailed How-to Guide

If you are one of those people who is looking for a way to enable Citrix XenServer USB support, then we’ve written this guide for a good reason.

In this article, you’ll find out about two simple ways to enable XenServer USB passthrough, and how to fix any possible issues that could come along the way.

USB passthrough to XenServer - the most versatile method

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FlexiHub is a simple yet powerful software that will help you access any kind of USB device inside Citrix XenServer without the common hypervisor restrictions.

FlexiHub has an intuitive interface and offers an advanced functionality that allows XenServer access to local USB devices.

When you find yourself in a situation when it is problematic to enable XenServer USB device passthrough, FlexiHub will help you to establish connections to real USB peripherals from your virtual machine with nothing more than a couple of mouse clicks.

Device Isolation for Multi-User Systems
Run a private FlexiHub session in a multi-user environment, with you being the only one who can access your USB and COM devices.

One of the biggest advantages of FlexiHub is that it works on Windows, Linux, Android, and Mac operating systems. This means you can easily connect USB devices from Windows to Linux, from Linux to Mac, and in other combinations.

How to pass through a USB device to XenServer

  • 1.
    Register a FlexiHub account on the official website of the software.
    FlexiHub account
  • 2.
    In your user cabinet, select the subscription plan with the required number of connections, and start your FlexiHub demo period.

    * Free 30-day demo, cancel any time.
    log in to FlexiHub
  • 3.
    The next step is to download FlexiHub and install it on both your host and guest machines.
    Install FlexiHub on the computer that will be the server
  • 4.
    After that, launch the software on both systems and log in to the account you just created.
    Log in to your account after installation
  • 5.
    Once logged in, you’ll see the list of USB devices available for XenServer USB passthrough.
    remote access to your device
  • 6.
    On the guest OS, find the required device and click "Connect".
    Connect device
If you prefer the video guides, you can watch this step-by-step walkthrough:
Here you go! Now, the device that is attached to the host computer will appear in Citrix Hypervisor like it was connected directly to the guest.
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Enable Citrix XenServer USB support in the hypervisor

Another way to make Citrix XenServer USB passthrough possible is to configure XenServer to work with locally attached USB devices.

Here’s how you can access local USBs in XenServer:

  • 1.
    Attach a USB peripheral to the host where you run XenServer with the Enterprise Edition license, and you can see the USB tab with the USB devices list in the XenCenter.
  • 2.
    To allow XenServer to pass through USB, select the USB device you need, click “Enable passthrough” and choose “Yes, enable passthrough” in the window that will appear.
    enable usb passthrough in citrix xenserver
  • 3.
    Now, shut down the virtual machine that needs access to the USB device, as the hot plug option is not available.
  • 4.
    Once done, connect the USB peripheral to the VM. To do this in XenCenter, right-click the virtual machine -> open Properties -> select USB -> click Attach -> choose the device you are going to attach -> hit Attach.
    attach usb to xenserver
  • 5.
    Launch your guest OS to access the attached USB device.
Also, note that it may be necessary to install the device driver on the guest machine for the device to work correctly.

USB devices can be detached from a virtual machine while it is running.

Use the following procedure to detach a USB device from Citrix XenServer:
  • 1.
    From within XenCenter, right-click the VM.
  • 2.
    Navigate to Properties > USB > select the USB peripheral that will be detached.
  • 3.
    Click the Detach button and then Yes on the displayed pop-up window.
    detach usb xenserver
  • 4.
    Click OK to complete the process.

If you're considering using USB pass-through with XenServer 7.5 or higher, here's what you need to know to make the most of this feature while staying aware of its limitations. USB passthrough allows you to connect physical USB devices directly to a virtual machine (VM), letting the VM use the USB device as if it were locally connected.

Essential Information:

Supported Systems: USB pass-through works with specific HVM (Hardware Virtual Machine) guest operating systems. For Windows, this includes versions from Windows 7 SP1 up to Windows Server 2016. For Linux users, RHEL 7 and Debian 8 are supported.

Edition Requirements: Make sure you have the XenServer Enterprise Edition, or you're accessing XenServer via a XenDesktop/XenApp entitlement.

Security: Only use USB devices that you trust and that operate stably in a standard Linux environment, like CentOS 7. Using unreliable USB devices might compromise your system.

Technical Restrictions:
  • Your system’s BIOS shouldn't be set to boot from USB.
  • The backend for USB pass-through needs to be qemu-upstream.
  • You can connect up to six USB devices to one VM.
Unsupported Operations: Certain operations such as taking snapshots, suspending, pool migration, or storage migration are not supported with USB pass-through. This means you can’t perform these actions when a USB device is connected to a VM.

High Availability (HA) Constraints: If HA is enabled on your pool and your VM is set to restart automatically, you won't be able to pass through USB devices. The system blocks this to ensure that the VM can restart without issues. Additionally, if the VM isn't agile enough to guarantee a restart, the option will be disabled.

Using USB pass-through effectively enhances the flexibility of VMs by enabling direct use of external hardware. Just keep these guidelines in mind to ensure a smooth, secure, and compatible setup.

XenServer USB passthrough FAQ

Citrix Hypervisor (formerly XenServer) is a complex server virtualization platform with built-in enterprise-class features that allows you to easily manage mixed operating systems, storage, and data exchange configurations.

Citrix Hypervisor provides an efficient way of building a scalable system, as it can be used on the server hardware without any underlying OS.

This hypervisor is designed to virtualize hardware components like hard drives, ports, devices, etc. making them available to guest operating systems started on it.
This error indicates you have exceeded the maximum amount of USB devices that can be passed through to a specific VM. You can have up to six USB devices attached to the VM at the same time.
This error may be due to an improper license which disables the USB tab.

The USB tab doesn’t appear on XenCenter after connecting USB devices to the XenServer host. You need to use XenServer Enterprise Edition or access XenServer through a XenDesktop/XenApp entitlement when you want to implement USB passthrough functionality.
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