Start up advice, please

I used to run LinuxMint some time ago, until it refused to load. Since then I’ve wanted to return but was put off by the system crash. I have now have a Seagate 80gig external HD that I would like to use solely for LinuxMint (Or any other of that genre, open to sugestions!).

  1. Is this possible to have an external HD with a seperate OS on? & How does this work?
  2. I’ve downloaded x2 OS (Ubuntu & Mint) and copied them over to the Ext HD. When opened, I was asked to place a cd/dvd…
  3. Erm, i thought i had more questions.

Many thanks in advance

Ok, best bet (to make sure you don’t overwrite the internal drives bootloader) would be to disconnect the internal drive first, then install your 1 or more Linux installations to your USB hard drive… once they are installed and working, reconnect your internal hard drive, and use the BIOS to choose which drive to boot from (or the boot device selection screen, usually displayed if you hit F10 at boot time… exact key may vary)

Doing it this way, you will be able to take your USB hard drive and connect it to any PC that can boot from USB and boot to Linux (if you want)… also there is no risk of of you accidentally installing stage 2 of the GRUB bootloader on the external drive, and stage 1 on the internal drive, which would mean you cant boot either drive drive without the other one attached.

Right. I’ve just been “informed” by my wife that “messing around with HER laptop” is not an option! DOH!.
Is there another way to install and run without “messing around with HER laptop”?
I was kind of hoping that once the laptop has been booted (7) I could just attach my Linux HD and click a few things…And HEY PRESTO!
I 'm getting the feeling that is not possible!?

It can be done, but unless you are VERY careful where you put the GRUB (Linux) bootloader you may end up overwriting the Windows one, which will leave Windows unbootable without the external drive attached… and take it from me, the Win7 bootloader isn’t the easiest to reinstall, even if you DID get a Win7 disk with your laptop.
(which is why I said disconnect the internal drive, that way you couldn’t do any damage to the Windows bootloader)

If you just want a portable Linux that you can install software to, why not just put it on a persistent LiveUSB stick, you can then use the external USB hard drive as storage for both Windows and Linux.

Or use another PC to install Linux to the USB hard drive (one that you CAN remove the internal drive from during installation).

For instructions on how to create a LiveUSB (pendrive) see here:

(will work for 10.10 too, and probably Mint)

Download the ISO image file directly from Ubuntu, then continue from step 2 on the above linked page.

BTW, when you get to the screen below, make sure you select the largest “persistence” file you can fit on your USB stick.

The USB Installer pictured above might, and I stress might, also work for installing to a USB hard drive, but I guess it would need to be formatted as FAT32, not NTFS… again you would still need a persistence file… BUT you attempt this AT YOUR OWN RISK, I have never attempted this.

Another option - Would be to boot the Linux ISO image files directly from the external hard drive… See here:

Many thanks for the advice. I bit the bullet and installed Ubuntu 10.04 (I think) on both external HDD & USB memory stick. I altered the boot sequence and both appear to be working fine. I’m on the HDD as I type.
I’m enjoying it immensely. Just another question. Can you advise what security measures do I need? (Firewall, anti-virus, spyware etc?)

Once again, thankyou

For a standard “desktop” (ie. non web/mail server)… you don’t need anything, as long as you’re behind a NAT router :slight_smile:

further info on Linux security here:

Hello again

One last piece of advice, please. Well, at least for a few hours!
When I close down Ubuntu and re-start it, it seems to have forgotten all my downloads & preferences. How do I stop this from happening? Also, (I know I said one!) when I logged off (although I don’t remember ever logging on) and tried to log in it asked for a user name & password, which I never set!?

Thanking you in advance…Again

OK. I’m fairly sure the default login for an Ubuntu LiveCD and/or LiveUSB is
Username: ubuntu
(though it doesn’t normally prompt for this as it should be set to auto-login)

But, the reason you cannot save any changes to the system, is that when you created a LiveUSB, you didn’t include persistence… see where the mouse is pointing in the above picture.

Whithout setting persistence, it will behave as a read-only CDROM … changes are written to RAM and are therefore lost when you reboot… “persistence” writes them to the USB device, but only if it was included when you created the LiveUSB.

Only option is to reinstall and this time make sure you set persistence.

Or, install it “properly”… but then we’re back to you either having to be VERY careful where you put the bootloader, or removing the internal (windows) drive during installation.

Thanks for the login info, Mark. I’ll try it next time. As for the persistance, I definately selected it for the USB. I now doubt that I selected it on the HDD! Although, I don’t recall being asked for it! Probably had a brain fart. I will uninstall it and go throught it again. In the meantime, I’ll try it on the USB and see how I get on.

Mark. You’re a star. Cheers

Maybe you put too big of a persistence file on, and it wouldn’t fit ? … I’ve always used a 2GB persistence partition on a 4GB memory stick (maybe a 3GB would fit, but never tried)… if that helps.

This is NOT the ideal way to install Ubuntu to an external USB hard drive, as (amongst other things) there is a limit to the size of persistence file that “USB Creator” will create…I think.

So I would install Ubuntu to a memory stick (with persistence), then boot to that… once booted, install usb-creator-gtk (if it isn’t already installed), then use that to install the ISO image to the external hard drive.

To install usb-creator-gtk, open a terminal and enter:
sudo apt-get install usb-creator-gtk
or install it through Synaptic or the Ubuntu Software Centre.

Once installed, you will find it in the menus at - System>Administration>Startup Disk Creator
I think this lets you decide how much “reserved extra space” to set aside for saving documents and, settings (persistence partition)… just be careful you don’t select your internal drive as the target (disk to use).

More info here:

But (and I know I keep saying this) the best/easiest way to install Ubuntu/Mint on your external drive would be to find a PC where you can disconnect the internal drive prior to installation… then just load Ubuntu “properly”… ie. create an ext4 partition on the external drive the size you want for Linux, then install it to there (the rest of the drive can be partitioned as NTFS so you can still use the drive for Windows storage… Linux will still be able to see/use the NTFS partition))… then reconnect the internal drive and use the BIOS (or boot device selection screen) to select which drive to boot.

The PC you use for the installation doesn’t have to be the same PC that you intend to “normally” have the external drive attached to… unlike Window, once you install Linux to the external drive, it should be portable between PC’s… Windows would throw a driver and activation wobbly and crash unless the hardware was VERY similar… Linux on the other hand should just load the correct drivers as most are contained in the kernel/modules (well you might have to install “some” extra proprietary drivers, wireless etc. [once], and reconfigure the network configuration, but it shouldn’t crash).

Hello again.
Right. I removed Ubuntu from the external HDD and re-installed it. I set the persistence to 8GB, as my drive is 80GB. I’ve just rebooted the Laptop and all settings & additional downloads seem to be exactly where I left them! YIPPEE… So far, so good.

Thanking you immensely