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Loading Linux from external hard-disk drive..

Posted on 2003-10-30
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
Hi guys..
   I'm trying to  learn Linux. I have laptop running XP Pro and i'm thinking of buying an external (USB) hard drive and loading Linux in it.
Will this external HD act just like a partition ??
Can this external drive act as a bootable drive ??
These external hd's cost nearly $100..  just want to know before i actually buy one.
Is the BIOS going to recognise this external HDD.

Thanks :)
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Question by:queryanalyzer
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6 Comments
 
LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:rid
ID: 9655658
Don't hold your breath trying this method... I'd say your chances are slim, at best.
If you want to learn, I'd suggest looking for Knoppix. It is a Linux distribution that boots and runs off a CD directly - no
installation required. Very useful for trial purposes.
/RID
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LVL 3

Assisted Solution

by:guynumber5764
guynumber5764 earned 25 total points
ID: 9655660
By all reports you can mount it as a data partition but the current distros do not support USB in the boot loader.  That means Linux has to be up and running before the drive can be mounted.

http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/archive/8/2003/02/3/45831

Of course this is Linux so that functionality may have been added since last week.

Some alternative options:

1) Free up a few GB on your existing HD and install the OS there.  I 'm pretty sure you could shoehorn the entire system into 5GB total.  The trick here is re-partitioning on the fly.

2) Buy a 2nd laptop drive for Linux (or a bigger one to hold both).  Laptop drives are extremely easy to remove and replace (usually just one screw to remove the bay cover) .

3) Use a CD distro like Knoppix to start with.

4) There may be a Linux distro that lives entirely under Windows.  Not what I would recommend, esp for learning.

Best of luck.
E.
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LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:Huseyin1
ID: 9656497
Hi

yes the external HDD will act like a partiton and no you cant boot from an external USB HDD. You system shoul;d have no problems seeing the USB HDD, just boot up and connect it up.

H
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LVL 32

Assisted Solution

by:jhance
jhance earned 25 total points
ID: 9657277
>>and no you cant boot from an external USB HDD

Actually, that is NOT true in general.  In most cases TODAY, the motherbaord/BIOS cannot boot from USB.  But there are ALREADY motherboards on the market that DO boot from their INTERNAL USB 2.0 ports.  Intel is one such manufacturer.  Here is an article discussion this:

http://www.intel.com/update/departments/desktop/dt05011.pdf

With respect to your situation, the real answer is PROBABLY NOT, but MAYBE. You need to check to see if:

1) USB 2.0 is supported by your motherboad INTERNALLY.  Only USB2.0 ports are being supported in this way.

2) The BIOS on your MB has the USB boot option.  Some do, some don't.  Sometimes an UPDATED BIOS will support this.

3) Your external USB harddrive is "standard" for USB 2.0.  This is "key" as it may be hard to tell for sure.  If your MB has such BIOS support, they wil likely have a list of vendors/models of USB drives that are KNOWN to work.  Either that or the "smoke test" you give it will be the real situation.
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LVL 2

Accepted Solution

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scully00000 earned 25 total points
ID: 9657563
Actually, some USB drive enclosures and laptops CAN boot. Mine certainly can - when my HDD started dying, I bought a new drive, put it in the USB enclosure and booted from it. HOWEVER, I would not recommend taking this for granted. By far the best option (IMHO) is to use Knoppix, TOpogiliunux (http://topologi-linux.sourceforge.net/ installation.php) or Vmware (http://www.vmware.com). Alternatively, if you buy a USB HDD enclosure, you can then use a program such as BootMagic (from symantec, I think) to boot the USB partition once BootMagic has booted from the laptop drive.

If you need any clarification, just ask.

Cheers
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

by:jhance
ID: 9657582
Please note that being able to boot from USB PRIMARILY depends on the PC (laptop or desktop, doesn't matter) rather than the external drive.  Booting from the USB port MUST be supported by the hardware and its BIOS.

Of course I already covered this in my comment...
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