I was thinking of installing Ubuntu on a couple of VMs. Would it be better to store each VM on a 8GB thumbdrive or store all the VMs on a 320GB USB-powered external HDD?

Which one would be faster?

2 Answers 2


For running Ubuntu/Linux off of a external hard drive connected via USB then it's actually quite simple to do. Here are the steps, or rather, the steps I took.

Please Note: The following steps were tested using Ubuntu Version 9.10, but has not been tested with the later versions. Use at your own risk & discretion.

What You Will Need

  1. A Computer with Internet access.
  2. A LiveCD or LiveUSB with Ubuntu.
  3. An external Hard Drive with USB capability.

What To Do

  1. Open up your computer and remove the Hard Drive.
  2. Plug in your external USB Hard Drive via the USB cable.
  3. Stick in your LiveUSB or LiveCD and then boot up your PC.
  4. Open up the boot menu, and choose to boot from the LiveCD/LiveUSB.
  5. During the installation process you should your external hard drive listed, install Ubuntu to that.
  6. Finish the installation process, turn off your PC, and put your other hard drive back into your computer.
  7. Reboot your computer, go to the boot menu and select your external hard drive and attempt to boot from it. If it does congratulations, you now have an external hard drive with a full fledged Operating System on it.
  8. Enjoy your external hard drive running Ubuntu/Linux! Please do let me know if this helps you! If not let me know about that too. :)
  • You really don't need to remove the internal HD, also, if you specify that Grub gets installed to the external HD, it won't touch the internal HD, in effect, grub will only launch when you have the external HD plugged in, otherwise it will boot to the internal HD...
    – TheXed
    Jul 12, 2011 at 4:23
  • True, but removing the internal HD ensures that the external HD is what will be written to, instead of second guessing if you got the correct one or not...
    – zkriesse
    Jul 12, 2011 at 4:28
  • right but leaving the internal one in, and installing grub gives you the option of booting into ubuntu, or windows (and not having to select the boot device everytime you boot your computer) or unpluging the external HD and booting straight to windows.
    – TheXed
    Jul 12, 2011 at 22:38

In terms of speed, the flash drives would be faster as you don't have that millisecond delay. Its solid state vs platters. However, your solid state drive is going to be limited in writes so it will be prone to failure where as the platters should have a much longer life cycle.

  • So I guess it doesn't really matter which one I use cause the difference is negligible eh?
    – girdus
    Dec 2, 2010 at 4:38
  • What would be my flash drive's lifecycle if I run a VM on it. Will it at least last 1-2 years?
    – girdus
    Dec 2, 2010 at 4:39
  • That depends on a few factors. Will your VM be using a pagingfile or swap space? Thats a pretty constant read/write under large processing loads. Assuming that the drive itself is brand new, you should get about 2 to 3 years out of it. But again, your mileage may vary.
    – lazyPower
    Dec 2, 2010 at 4:48

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