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Linux on external hardrive

Okay, this week when i get my paycheque from work, (which is thrusday) i'm going to go and buy a 500 gig external Hardrive... or maybe even a 250 gig one... depends on whether i get the maxtor, or the western digital one.

Anyways, uh, i'm guessing it's possible, but has anyone ever installed a distro of linux on an external hardrive.

If you can do this, does it mean when you take your drive places, that you could plug it into any machine and boot from the hardrive.. For example, say i installed debian onto an external hardrive, when i go back to school could i take the drive with me , plug it in and boot into debian from there? I'm assuming yes... but i just want to see if anyone's done something like this for a certain reason:

I have my laptop, which is mine and i have linux/windows on currently. i have my PC, which my dad buys parts for, and doesnt want me having linux on this one (there was an exception : if i buy another hardrive with my own money lol just no partitioning) . Then i got my other pc which i can put linux on... but i dont want to cuz i need space for other stuff.

So having said that, it would be useful if i could do this because:

-I could wipe my current linux installation from my laptop
-I could use linux on my PC at my dads house without him freaking rofl.

And then i also have a ton of space left for other files.

So , to repeat the question, can i install linux to an external drive?
Is it the same as installing to an internal one?
Does linux detect the drive during the setup?
Is there anything special i need to do , to install it to an external drive?
Quick answers:

So , to repeat the question, can i install linux to an external drive?
- Yes

Is it the same as installing to an internal one?
- Yes (but slower)

Does linux detect the drive during the setup?
- Yes (unless you're using some ancient version or a version which is for some reason crippled)

Is there anything special i need to do, to install it to an external drive?
- No. But if you're running setup from a Live OS then you'll need to stop the running OS accessing the drive during install (this is noted in the guide I link to later).

I've never tried this myself but I know others who have. You'll probably want to keep your SWAP partition on a local drive to get performance as it's only small anyway.

If you install your bootloader (Grub on debian) on the MBR or on a local drive then obviously your Linux options will fail if the drive isn't connected or the drives aren't mounted in the same order (inserting a pen drive for example may break things at boot).

If you install the boot loader to the usb drive then you'll need to make sure that your motherboard supports booting from a USB device. Should the drive not be connected then the bios should try another drive (much like booting or not booting from a cd) if you set it up sensibly.

Here's a guide for doing it in ubuntu (to which debian will be effectively the same):

I'm not convinced that the pulling cables part is necessary though. You should be able to select the drive if you select your install drive manually! I'm pretty sure whoever wrote that just wanted to get the option on the GUI. Can't be sure though.
Installing linux on the external drive is almost same as installing on external one. But, remember to put grub on MBR of the external disk.
When you want to use linux from the external disk, set USB as the first boot device, some older computers may not support this though.
If you set booting from USB, it will be same as booting from internal hard disk. One thing that might cause a problem is naming of the drives as the USB disk may not be primary disk during install but during booting it will always be /dev/sda1 since it's the first boot device. So, best would be to set USB as second boot device after CD/DVD drive while installing.
aight sweet thanks Smile
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