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I think the biggest problem you'll run into is getting the drive recognized from Mac's EFI (equivilent to a BIOS sort of). You may be able to trick the bootloader (depending on which one you use) into just booting the non-existent drive, but that seems like it's probably fairly advanced. An external USB drive might be a lot more friendly with external drive booting because more and more BIOS (and because of the lack of documented info on EFI I assume EFI is similarly encumbered in this area) support USB booting.