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Having trouble installing a piece of hardware? Want to know if that peripheral is compatible with Linux?


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Old 11-22-2006, 12:55 PM   #1
Registered: Aug 2006
Location: Texas
Distribution: Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat, openSUSE 11.4
Posts: 45

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boot SUSE from an external HDD (intel mac)

This problem actually involves several questions:

1) Is it even possible to boot linux from a firewire/usb external HDD? I've checked several sites and forums on this and got mixed answers.

2) If it is possible, will I have to change anything on my internal hard drive (i.e. boot loader, partitions, etc.), or can I just plug in the external HDD and go?

3) What kind of external drive will I need? Does it have to be firewire, as I've read in several forums, or can it be USB 2.0?

4) Can I put Windows on another partition in the same external drive and also boot it, turning my computer into a triple-boot when my external drive is plugged in?

5) Will having the boot loader on my internal drive and the kernel on an external drive cause problems if the drive isn't plugged in?

I liked linux when I installed it on the family desktop, but then I moved out and haven't had the guts to mess around with my shiny new macbook. I'd rather not screw it up and have to re-install OS X.

when replying to this thread, please keep in mind that I am quite new to linux (when I last installed it, I just sat back and let Yast do all the work), and have very little faith in any hard drive re-partitioning skills I might have.

Old 11-22-2006, 04:16 PM   #2
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Registered: Mar 2003
Location: Boise, ID
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1. It depends on your PC's BIOS. Get into BIOS and look at the options in the boot sequence menu. If you see USB listed as an option, then you can just move it to the top of the list, save your changes, and then anytime the USB drive is attached, the PC will attempt to boot from it first. If your BIOS does not support booting from USB, then you are out of luck.

2. You shouldn't need to change anything.

3. One that is compatible with both your existing PC and your budget. There's no real answer to this question.

4. Yes. I had installed Windows XP and SuSE on my laptop, but when I upgraded the laptop's hard drive, I put the original hard drive into a USB enclosure. When booting up from the USB device, I got the expected lilo menu. If you do this I'd recommend installing the boot manager to the master boot record (MBR) and installing Windows first, then Linux.

5. Assuming you install your boot manager to the MBR, you'd have one boot loader on your internal drive and one on your external. To use an analogy, suppose you have installed Linux on your machine, but then try to boot from a Live CD such as Knoppix. Assuming you've set up your BIOS to boot from the CD before the hard drive, then your system will boot from the CD. Anything that's on the hard drive is irrelevant (at least until booting finishes). In other words, if you are booting from device A, the boot process does not first attempt to read from device B, then go back to booting from A, and maybe making some sort of conditional decisions downstream. As long as a given device is bootable, and you set up your BIOS to boot from it, then whether or not there are other bootable devices also attached to the PC doesn't really matter.

The key to all of these questions really comes down to whether or not your BIOS supports booting from a USB device. If it does, you should be golden. Good luck with it.

Edit: note also that in order for your proposal to work, your system architecture must be compatible with Linux and Windows, with both are x86. If your Macbook is using an Intel chip, you should be OK

Last edited by J.W.; 11-22-2006 at 04:18 PM.
Old 11-22-2006, 10:10 PM   #3
Registered: Aug 2006
Location: Texas
Distribution: Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat, openSUSE 11.4
Posts: 45

Original Poster
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getting into BIOS

how do you get into BIOS on a mac? I know in windows, you just press F1 during the loading process. Is it the same for mac?

Update: I looked around, and all I have to do is press the option key when it's loading to choose operating systems.

Last edited by beezum88; 03-27-2007 at 10:39 AM.


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