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I have an encrypted root partition (main hard drive) and my /boot is on a usb drive with a certain section of the usb drive's bits acting as the key for the encrypted partition.

Of course I have to have this thumb drive attached to boot into the OS, however my I am wondering if it is OK to unmount /boot and remove that USB drive after the OS is booted?

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I have unmounted and removed the USB drive and nothing seems to be going wrong. I did however just run some system updates (with /boot mounted) which pulled a new kernel and I guess updated stuff in the /boot partition. So I guess it depends on what your doing as to if it is an issue. – bwizzy Apr 25 '12 at 23:18
up vote 7 down vote accepted

No, /boot isn't needed during normal system operation. In fact, it doesn't need to be mounted at all, since only the bootloader reads /boot, not Linux itself. You can add noauto to the /boot line in your /etc/fstab. There are even weird setups (or not-so-weird embedded setups, not running Ubuntu but this isn't distribution-specific) where Linux is booted from another operating system where the kernel isn't stored in a place that's accessible by Linux.

The times when you'll want to mount /boot are when you upgrade your kernel or your bootloader, or change their configuration.

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