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I planning to by a 1TB portable external hard disk. I have a budget of Rs 6000( US $136 approx. ) . How do I check the external hard disk that I purchase would support operations for multiple OS's( especially linux ).

For e.g. I referred to this offer from ebay:-

This and many similar offers never have any mention of whether or not they support Linux OS. I could see that they support Mac OS.

I am planning to reserve around 450 GB for Ubuntu and say remaining 450 for use with either Windows 7/XP . Would I be able to successfully implement this scenario?

Can I boot Ubuntu directly from this hard disk? Or if not, can this external hard disk be used as a mount point for more than machines which have the same version of Ubuntu installed on it( this would serve the purpose like a normal usb pen drive, right?). In my case I specifically have a PC and a laptop both having Ubuntu 10.04 OS Installed on it. The only diff is that the PC has Win XP installed and the Laptop has Win 7 installed.

Can you please help me on this and suggest me on what features do I need to look in for when I would be purchasing an external hard disk and would want to use it for the above scenario.

In any case if the above scenario can't be implemented, could you please suggest alternative best solutions which can be considered.

Thank you..

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I have never seen an external hard disk which is incompatible with Ubuntu. Most external HDD's work "plug & play". The software (or crapware) delivered with the package might not be compatible, but it does not matter.

The software delivered with that external HDD:

  • encryption software, alternative: LUKS
  • SmartWare (backup software?), alternative: deja-dup (front-end of duplicity)
  • In some cases, partitioning software is included, the alternative would be GParted

To get the full power out of it, I recommend formatting the Linux partition ext4 and the Windows one NTFS. You can use GParted for that.

Ubuntu can be booted from external HDD's, you might need to enable booting from USB drives in your BIOS or change the booting order to make the external HDD be booted before the internal one.

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@Lekensteyn: Thanks for your enlightening answer..:) – boddhisattva Apr 9 '11 at 9:06
Just wanted to clarify if using the external hdd for Win XP/7 simultaneously wouldn't be a problem..? . I guess not.. just wanted to confirm on this... . Also just of curiosity... say some time in the future I would want to use this external HDD as the one in the link for Mac OS, do I need to initially take any precautions for the same for its use later on ..? . 1 obvious thing based on the above ques. cud b create 3 partitions instead of 2 right..? . If thts the optimum sol. until I really am using this OS(mac os) that space would be idle right? any better alternatives or other feasibilities? – boddhisattva Apr 9 '11 at 9:17
@boddhisattva: Using the external HDD with WinXP/Win7/Ubuntu simultaneously won't be a problem. MacOSX offers read-only access to NTFS filesystems by default, with the NTFS-3G driver (used by Ubuntu as well), you can write to it too. – Lekensteyn Apr 9 '11 at 9:29
@Lekensteyn - but the hdd of WD mentioned in the link says it has support for Mac OS. Did they mean read only? . If yes.. I guess they would have explicitly specified it.. right..? . Is it a marketing strategy.. ? – boddhisattva Apr 9 '11 at 9:44
@boddhisattva: there are other filesystems out there, most external drives are formatted FAT32, which has a volume limit of 2TB. But this one is NTFS (as noted on the page) and requires reformatting for the Mac: "Requires reformatting for Mac OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard" – Lekensteyn Apr 9 '11 at 9:49

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