I have an 1 TB external hard disk drive and was thinking if it was possible to install Ubuntu in it and transfer it from one PC to another.

After an extended search I can't decide if it is possible or not. I have found many articles that say yes and some that say that for some operating systems it can't be done as they restart the usb ports.

Furthermore I am thinking that if I install Ubuntu in it and I have that hard disk drive in one PC it will install drivers for that specific model so if I move it to another what happens with the drivers?

I am sure that there are other problems that I have not taken into account, so I would like to know if I can do it and if it is wise to do it.

  • 2
    Windows resets the USB ports, Linux doesn't. I have run Ubuntu off an external HDD for years. The things to keep in mind are: 1. Install GRUB on the external HDD, not the internal one. 2. Don't use device names which might change (such as sda), but stick to UUIDs. As to what happens with drivers, depends on the devices. – muru Apr 9 '15 at 19:16
  • I think only the proprietary drivers would be the problem other things won't be a problem because Linux checks for the hardware and than boots the modules that are needed. But you won't be able to run 64-bit distro on a 32-bit machine. – Da1T Apr 9 '15 at 19:20
  • Things get a bit complicated when the PCs have UEFI and not legacy BIOS. The disk needs to be prepared differently for these two types of PCs. Unlike Windows, all the opensource drivers are built into the kernel of Ubuntu. So, as long as PCs you want to use don't have devices that depend on proprietary drivers, you should be OK. Please edit your questions and tell us if the PCs you want to work with use new UEFI or older BIOS (or equivalently Legacy/CSM mode UEFI). – user68186 Apr 9 '15 at 19:21
  • Also see askubuntu.com/questions/559007/… – user68186 Apr 9 '15 at 19:50
  • possible duplicate of Can I get LiveCD/USB platform adaptability on a normal install? – Fabby Apr 12 '15 at 17:47

No problem whatsoever! (I've got a USB disk just like that but I've never tried anything but BIOS machines, as I rarely encounter UEFI machines and if I meet one, I put them in BIOS mode and revert back when I leave)

Procedure is exceedingly simple:

  1. Insert the HDD
  2. Boot the LiveCD
  3. Install like you would install any other machine and install grub, swap, / and /home on there
  4. Ensure fstab uses blkids
  5. Install as many applications as you want, but stay away from any proprietary modules (aka drivers), just standard Linux kernel modules... And these are extremely good at adapting to their environment! They're like mongrels: they'll eat anything, drink anything and ... well, whatever. ;c) It just works!

That's it!

  • Isn't going to be a problem if I move it to another computer? Let's say the one PC has Nvidia and the other has AMD graphics card. Once I install Ubuntu in the first one there is going to be a driver for the Nvidia card, but when I move the HDD to the other one with the AMD card, isn't going to be a problem as the driver will be for different hardware? – Adam Apr 13 '15 at 5:44
  • 1
    No! That's what Item 5 is all about: as long as you don't install the proprietary nVidia driver on machine A before you move it to machine B with the AMD you'll have absolutely no problems... And secondly: there are no drivers under Linux! Only modules... They have the same purpose, but they're different. If OSes were dogs, OSX would be a steak-only eating German Shepard, IOS a Chihuahua, Windows an easy-to take care of breed like a Golden Retriever and Linux would be a pure-breed street-dog that'll eat raw onion, grass, potato peels and generic garbage and drinks from a puddle. – Fabby Apr 13 '15 at 8:11
  • 1
    I like your comparison of the OSs ;) – Sergiy Kolodyazhnyy Aug 11 '15 at 18:24

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