Installing Ubuntu 9.10 On An External USB Hard Drive

Last week, I bought myself a new external Iomega Select Portable Hard Drive. I do not have a laptop of my own, but my employer allows me to use the one from my work at home. That’s ok as long as you want to use it for what it’s intended: to work. If you want to surf the net, or want to use it to download pictures from you camera, you’ll face some limitations. You can’t use or install a browser of application of your own choice.

That’s why I got the idea to install Ubuntu 9.10 on an external USB hard drive. It will be my own operating system and I can configure it how I want. I can even install my own applications. Actually you’re not installing them on the laptop, but on the external hard drive. You are only using the laptop’s hardware.

But as I do own a PC, running Windows XP, I didn’t want to use the entire hard drive for Ubuntu. I also wanted to have some free space to make backups. That free space needs to be NTFS formatted, and to get this done, I took me some time.

Good as I’m, I’ll tell you how I did it in a few steps, beginning with downloading the iso file of Ubuntu 9.10 from this location.

When this is done and before burning the iso on a CD, you must do a MD5 checksum to be sure the iso didn’t get corrupted while downloading. I used WinMD5sum from nullriver.com to compare the UbuntuHashes with the one of the iso.

winmd5sum

If the checksum is ok, you can burn the iso on a CD. For that I’m using ImgBurn.

When your CD is ready, remove al internal hard drives from you laptop, plug in your external hard drive and boot your laptop from the CD. Be aware your BIOS is properly configured to boot from CD.

As of then I followed the step-by-step instructions found on softpedia.

Like described in the step-by-step instructions I created 3 partitions. A swap partition of 2 GB a ext4 partition of 30 GB with mount point / and a ext4 partition with the rest of the available space with mount point /home.

Be sure to install the boot loader on your external hard drive. This is also the reason why I removed the internal drive from the laptop: less chance to screw it up!

After a while Ubuntu will be installed to your external hard drive. If everything went well, you can boot your laptop now from this external hard drive. But if you’ll plug in this drive into a Windows machine, it won’t recognize any free space as it’s not formatted in NTFS.

To do this I rebooted the laptop with the CD without having the external drive connected. Then I did choose to test Ubuntu without installing it, I plugged in the external drive and opened GParted. I unmounted the last and biggest partition, and reside it to about 30 GB. The newly free space was formatted NTFS.

Now I’m having a bootable external USB hard drive running Ubuntu, which can still be used to backup files created on my Windows XP desktop.

ubuntugolb

3 thoughts to “Installing Ubuntu 9.10 On An External USB Hard Drive”

  1. I have a company laptop as well, but I prefer not to disconnect the HDD while installing it to an external hard drive. I have about 10 times installed Ubuntu (to virtual machines, or live install) is it possible to install it with the HDD connected? (suppose I’m careful).

  2. It’s not realy mandatory to phisically remove the internal HDD. But if you don’t remove it, you have to be very carefull where you install the boot loader.

    Also to make the installation a bit more easy, you could format the fourth partition into FAT32. The only drawback of that is that you can’t work with files larger than 4GB.

  3. Thanks for your tutorial it was exactly the same i wanted to do.

    I don’t know exactly why, but the ubuntu installer did not let me, to
    mount a fat32 partion as ‘fourth’ to any mount point. Partition wizard said it’s ok but after a while during install, it put me back to partion page while saying it is not a correct mount point.
    After a few tryings i set it to ext3 and finished installing. Finally the GParted helped me to format it to ntfs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.