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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).


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Old 04-07-2004, 10:18 AM   #1
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Mounting root filesystem from an external USB hard drive?

Here's my challenge: I need to boot a notebook PC (specifically an IBM T23 or a Compaq Evo) from a USB hard drive into Linux (probably using Fedora or SuSE). My goal is to have a bootable CD or DVD that will boot the machine but mount an external USB hard drive to be used as the primary drive. (So, for example, all of the file systems - except, perhaps, /boot - would be from the USB drive.)

What would be involved in doing this? Part of the challenge is that the IBM T23 only supports USB1, so the drive would be connected via a PCMCIA USB 2.0 controller. Any thoughts/recommendations are greatly appreciated!

Chris Hart
hartct at
Old 04-07-2004, 11:53 AM   #2
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Make sure all the parts of linux needed to use the drive, are part of the kernel and are not modules. ( you can't load modules off a drive that linux cannot already read. )
Old 04-09-2004, 04:04 AM   #3
Registered: Feb 2004
Distribution: Debian
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look for "puppy linux", been there done that, "knoppix" and Java linux will boot from cdrom, and will not effect the existing installation, knoppix can also be used to repair broken windows.
Old 04-16-2004, 08:05 PM   #4
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I am also trying to build root file system on a usb storage device. In my case, it is one of those small memory stick devices. So far, I have created a boot floppy disk with kernel that supports usb mass storage, scsi (since usb mass storage are modeled as scsi devices). I used rdev, and lilo configuration to set the root filesystem to be /dev/sda1
(or in my case, since i am using devfs, /dev/scsi/host0/bus0/target0/lun0/part1)
I get it as far as the point where It tries to mount the root file system, and sais unable to mount root fs on 08:01, meaning that the /dev/sda1 is not available yet.
I now have a theory this may be due to even though i have the usb support built in, and scsi support, one has to mount the /proc and /proc/bus/usb filesystems (?) then, the usb device would be available for mounting.
So, I am currently investigating making an initrd on floppy to mount /proc, /proc/bus/usb, (make the /dev/sda1 available), then pivot to the usb device.
(will keep you posted)
Old 04-17-2004, 10:38 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies so far... I've so far been successful at the first (most basic) steps of getting a USB connected external hard drive mounted and partitioned and am in the process of recreating the file systems from a 'normal' installation on it. Fedora Core 1 seems to have native support available for PCMCIA USB2.0 CardBus controllers, so that much was easy.

Once copying over the / and /boot file systems, I think the major challenge is going to be getting the boot order correct so that the PCMCIA USB drivers are initialized prior to trying to mount the /boot and / file systems. Any ideas on this?

Old 04-25-2004, 04:32 PM   #6
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im very interested in what your trying to. want to do something similar myself.

i would like to create a bootable cd which mounts all partitions apart from /boot from a usb harddrive.

have been doing some research but could use your help. whats your status?

Last edited by jensm; 04-25-2004 at 04:35 PM.
Old 04-02-2005, 10:49 PM   #7
Registered: Aug 2002
Location: East Coast, USA
Distribution: Ubuntu
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bump +....

Has anyone had success with this yet? I bought an external laptop hard drive and it sure would be nice to take my OS and data with me. I've created and used a USB pen drive with DSL embedded (damn that's cool!) and I can boot from it or boot into Windows and execute the batch file and boot into that, but I want to install Linux on my external HD and boot from it. I've gotten the impression that USB hard drives are not natively supported and require a boot device (like a floppy) and that's an option I guess, but I'd of course prefer to leave the floppy at home!

Thanks in advance,


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