Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am new to ubuntu and i would like some help. I have a laptop with windows 7 installed but i would love to have ubuntu too because it's a great OS. So i would like to install ubuntu on an external usb hard drive (320 - 500 GB) and i have some questions about that :

  • Do i need a usb external hard drive which will be compatible with ubuntu - linux ? or i can do it with any hard drive
  • If i make a partition on it for ubuntu staff will i be able to use it and save other staff in the usb hard drive (movies,songs,documents etc) ?
  • If i have ubuntu installed on the usb hard drive will i be able to boot ubuntu from any pc ?
  • Are my changes going to be saved normally or my settings will be lost after shut down ?

Waiting for your answers, if something is not explain well tell me to try explain it better . Thank you!

share|improve this question
See… – user68186 May 6 '13 at 14:22
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You don't need a special HD. Your laptop needs to be able to boot from USB HD (if it's not 5 years old it probably can). Make sure you install grub on your external HD during installation.

You can make one partition for Ubuntu with ext4 on your external HD and one NTFS for data, where you can put your movies and documents - this NTFS partition will be seen from Windows as well.

You should be able to boot from other PCs as well but you should avoid making special settings (hardware dependent).

Your changes will be saved normally.

I have just tried this on my laptop and it worked perfectly. When I want to boot Ubuntu I chose the external usb hard disk as boot disk. If I don't do anything it just boots into Windows as usual.

share|improve this answer
Thank you for your answer! – user156097 May 12 '13 at 9:03
You are welcome. Mark it as solution ? – IvanP May 12 '13 at 10:57
Of course! Answer me one last thing please ... is it going to have a normal speed or is it going to be slow ? my laptop has only 2.0 usb ports.. – user156097 May 13 '13 at 12:06
It's going to be slower. But that depends on what you are doing. It's acceptable. Once you get used to interface you can repartition your internal HD to include Ubuntu (20 GB is more than enough for Ubuntu and swap + what you need for data). – IvanP May 13 '13 at 15:03

There are a few technical considerations of which you need to be aware.

  • First, any computer that uses this needs to be able to boot from USB. So you will need to check the BIOS and make sure that the computer is capable of using it.
  • Second, unless your drive and computer are both USB 3 capable, the end experience might be so slow and cumbersome that it is only useful in an emergency.

All in all, you'd be better off using eSATA if it is available. I am not trying to discourage experimentation, but an external eSATA drive will be pretty much like using an internal HD and you'll almost certainly be satisfied with the final results.

share|improve this answer
My laptop can boot from usb but can you be a little more specific in the usb 3.0 thing ? My laptop has only usb 2.0 ports so you are saying that it will be very slow in that case ? – user156097 May 12 '13 at 9:06
I have done this, my laptop is only USB2 compatible (old laptop) but Ubuntu runs just fine. Obviously USB3 would be an improvement for moving data from/to the disk, but must of my apps run in the RAM, so if you've got enough RAM (>= 1 GB) you are good to go. – edwin Jun 6 '13 at 2:21

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.