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The Problem I have is how to install Ubuntu in a very tricky environment: My computer is a Macbook Pro (bought in 2013). My current OS is Mac OS and Windows 7 in bootcamp. Since my Mac Pro only has a 256 GB HDD, I would like to install Ubuntu on an external disk, so I went ahead and bought a USB3.0 Portable Hard Disk, which has 500GB space.

How should I proceed to install Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS on an external HDD and boot it from there?

I would like to avoid to install it in a virtual machine.

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I've just created a similar configuration on my Mac Mini (OS X Mavericks and Windows 7 on internal SSD, Ubuntu on external drive). Here's what you'll have to do:

  • create back up images of the OS X and Windows partition (optional but strongly recommended)
  • create a bootable USB stick with the ubuntu installer
  • holding down the option key, boot from the ubuntu installer stick
  • install ubuntu to the external hard disk
  • On reboot (I had to force the shutdown by pressing and holding the power button, as it seemed to have stalled some time after clicking reboot), hold down the option key to boot into OS X
  • download and install Refind boot manager
  • edit the refind configuration file /efi/refind/refind.conf (the line you're looking for starts with scanfor) and make sure hdbios is included in the list
  • on reboot, you should now be greeted with a menu containing a ubuntu, Mac and Windows logo (you can press esc to refresh the list, as external drives can take some time to show up; you can configure refind to pause befaure showing hte menu)

Hope this helps.


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For the record: I installed Ubuntu 13.10 this way, but I'ld be surprised if the same mo wouldn't work for 12.04. – Gregory Van Vooren Jan 19 '14 at 21:24

According my experience (on Windows) you can install your Ubuntu outside your internal HDD (e.g USB Flash Drive , USB External HDD) but if you won't mess with your Mac OS bootloader you must use Virtual Machine (Just for it's installation to your External HDD)

1-Mount your Ubuntu ISO to the Virtual machine

2-Mount also your USB External HDD to the Virtual machine

3-Configure the Virtual Machine to boot from ISO (Make sure you're not mount other ISO or USB Device to the Virtual machine)

4-When Ubuntu on the Virtual machine booted,install it on your external HDD normally

5-When installation done,shut down your Mac,boot from your external HDD

i've tried that method to install it on my External USB 2.0 HDD.And it's perfectly works

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1 - Burn the ISO to a DVD rom.

2 - Power on while holding [option] key while you power it on.

3 - This will pull up the boot device selection menu. From there select the Ubuntu installation media and continue with a normal installation, but when you get to the point where you select the device to install to, select your external drive.

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You will probabally want to set up rEFIt from OSX prior to installation of Ubuntu. – Matt Timbrook Jan 16 '14 at 12:17

My experience:

Use your Windows 7, install Linux Live USB Creator (LiLi USB Creator). Install Lili, use your old USB memory stick 4+ GB. Lili will do all the work - extract files on your USB memory stick and make it bootable. Restart your PC and choos Boot device. Boot from USB, start Ubuntu installation and don't forget to choose your external disk for installation...

And that's it!

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Currently I am running Ubuntu-12.04 & Windows XP from my external USB disk(WD500). This will work if you have option to choose boot device in your BIOS.

  1. While installing Ubuntu, choose advanced option in disk/partition selection & remember to select external (HDD) for boot loader (by default it will choose internal HDD).
  2. Once installation is over, re-boot the system. while in bios select boot device option, now boot to your external USB HDD. You will be presented with Grub2 splash screen & desktop there you are running Ubuntu from external disk.
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Macs use the EFI, there is no BIOS. – Matt Timbrook Jan 16 '14 at 12:09

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