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If you can connect both hard drives at the same time and can force the BIOS to boot from the extra one, you could definitely install Linux to the extra drive and clone it to a new partition on your permanent drive. Be careful if you have to resize partitions though. NTFS doesn't react well to being resized sometimes.
To answer a more general question: in Linux you CAN take a drive out of one machine and put it in another. Unlike Windows, the hardware is detected and drivers are loaded at boot time rather than during the install. It also doesn't have the anti-piracy measures that Windows does whereby it tags itself to the hardware and if it changes too much then it refuses to work.