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I know how to do a fresh installation on an external (USB) HDD and make it bootable but I'd like to avoid configuring it and installing all the apps and tweaks.

Can I just make the drive bootable and the copy all the contents of the partition to it? Should I clone my internal partition somehow?

My actual install takes less than 32Gb. I'm planning on a 100Gb partition on the external drive. Is it feasible?

I would be extremely grateful for a work path and caveats.

BTW, the drive is an "oldie" Maxtor One touch 320Gb.

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You could use CloneZilla to clone the entire 32 GB to the drive – Amith KK May 5 '12 at 3:45
Amith, many thanks! Do I make it bootable first? My grub is in a different disk than Ubuntu, – Jorge M. Treviño May 5 '12 at 6:07
I see, so you have to update grub from the disk, or use boot-repair from a liveCD – Amith KK May 5 '12 at 6:09
No problem there. Done that many times. Proceeding to install clonezilla. I'll let you know in a while how it worked. – Jorge M. Treviño May 5 '12 at 14:06
Didn't go very well. Clonezilla proceeded to the end smoothly but exited with an error message about not finding the partition end. Next I made a fresh installation on the prepared partition and booted all right in my wife's laptop but mine refuses to boot from it even tho I added the system to my grub via Grub-Customizer. Then I manually erased it and tried to copy my Ubuntu partition on the now emmpty bootable partition. No go. I'm back with a fresh install on the external and will try to customize it to mimmic my internal one but I still cannot boot from it even if Grub lists it. – Jorge M. Treviño May 6 '12 at 1:07

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