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I have bootable ubuntu usb and everything is working fine. Note that I can boot only from usb or cd/dvd.

Now I want to install new programs, edit my own files etc... So I thought that the best solution would be to

  • boot fom my external (160GB WD) or
  • have root directory automatically mounted to the external hdd when booting from usb

Is any from above possible?

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I'm currently running my Acer Aspire 5440 laptop off of an external WD Passport 500gb hard drive, and have been for a year now. I haven't had any issues with it, other than the occasional disconnect issue. I don't see any performance problems with it, as long as the computer has a good set of hardware, RAM, video, processor, etc.

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All are possible ! The only thing that will bother you is the performance issues that will be very poor due to USB 2.0 input - output (read - wright) performance limitations.

You should also check for some other problems you may encounter

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