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I have an old, beat up laptop. the screen was removed, and it can be connected to an external monitor. However, the hard drive died a long time ago, and I recently acquired a blank 80gb hardrive. I would like to boot from this hardrive and be able to see what I am doing. Is there a way to have the hard drive set up such that the computer will boot from it and connect to the external monitor so I can see what is going on? I am capable of moving files to and from the hard drive using my working laptop. As far as I know, the motherboard, processor, etc. from the beat up laptop still work, and it was purchased back in 2012, so it's old but mostly compatible with newer tech. Is there anything I can do here, or is it kind of a lot cause?

Edit: since the problem isn't exactly clear, let me try again:

I have a laptop that I use regularly and has windows 7 installed. I have another laptop that I haven't used since its hard drive failed, but i just got a new hard drive that has literally nothing on it other than that it has been partitioned into two drives. I want to see if I can run Ubuntu using the old laptop. The old laptop does not have a monitor of its own but can be connected to an external monitor via vga cable. When the old laptop starts up, it does not communicate with the external monitor, so I cannot see any of the bios options. Is there a way to install ubuntu on the new hard drive so that when I plug it into the old laptops hard drive slot, ubuntu boots on the old laptop hardware, and connects the computer to the external monitor? If so, how do I do it considering I cannot actually see the bios options when I turn on the laptop? How do I do this without messing with any of my current laptop's options/drives/operating system? I do not want Ubuntu on my current laptop, just on the old one.

Edit: thanks for the help everyone, I was able to install it on the hard drive by loading it from a flash drive and installing to the hard drive via usb cable. it is mostly working now.

Edit: I should note that the wireless wasn't working and I couldn't figure out why, but then I remembered that the wireless antennae is housed in the laptop screen. I found an antennae and connected it, and now it is working properly.

Edit: also note I had to carefully drag the installation window from where the system thought there was another monitor, and when it was loaded had to change settings so that it would use the external exclusively.

  • Not sure what the external monitor has to do with the HDD. The two seem unconnected. That said, yes, you can boot from it, and yes, the external monitor should work. – mikewhatever Oct 7 '16 at 22:17
  • the computer does not automatically connect to the external monitor. I didn't connect this monitor directly to the motherboard or anything like that, it connects via a vga port. – Turtle Oct 7 '16 at 22:37
  • It might be the trivialities of terminology, but connecting the monitor to the computer by plugging it into an appropriate port, is your job. What you probably mean is that it doesn't display anything, in which case, try looking for a special screen-switch button on the keyboard. It's usually in the topmost row with the fx keys (fn+f4 in my case). – mikewhatever Oct 7 '16 at 22:52
  • the monitor was plugged into the VGA port from the very beginning. pushing the screen switch button does nothing, I already tried that. There isn't an operating system on this computer, so i'm beginning to think that it's just not possible to get it to connect unless I find a way to install an operating system, which I would need help with since I'd be doing it blind. Any suggestions? – Turtle Oct 7 '16 at 23:36
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    I suspect installing Ubuntu blind is going to be a frustrating experience. An easier way would be to simply swap the HDDs on the other laptop, install Ubuntu, and then swap them back. – mikewhatever Oct 8 '16 at 1:25
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It should work fine to install Ubuntu on a laptop with an external monitor. To install Ubuntu you should:

  1. Burn Ubuntu on a flashdrive or DVD
  2. Insert flashdrive or DVD into laptop with external monitor connected.
  3. Turn on computer and boot into flashdrive or DVD. Your bios will most likely boot into it automatically, but you may need to use the boot menu.
  4. Choose "Try Ubuntu without installing" and then click on the Install Ubuntu icon on the desktop.
  5. Configure your Ubuntu install with the GUI.

If you get stuck this may prove useful.

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    well, the problem is that I cannot see the bios or the menu or anything-it's not connecting to the monitor. even before the hard drive failed, this computer never auto connected to the vga monitor before loading the operating system. I cannot see what I am doing. Is there a specific series of keys I could push to maybe do what the instructions say without being able to see what I am doing? – Turtle Oct 7 '16 at 22:44
  • @Anna how did you select the monitor before? Also you could try hooking up your hardrive to your other laptop and using Unetbootin to install Ubuntu on the blank drive from Windows – Cammy_the_block Oct 7 '16 at 22:48
  • When a laptop with a broken screen is connected only to an external monitor, it is very common to be unable to see the BIOS/UEFI setup utility when the laptop is booting. – karel Oct 7 '16 at 22:54
  • the hard drive that failed had windows installed. once windows booted, the monitor would connect to the computer, but I had other issues with this computer where windows failed to boot, and when that happened the monitor would not communicate with the computer (and after those issues were fixed it would communicate with the computer again.) – Turtle Oct 7 '16 at 22:58
  • I have the ability to connect the new blank hard drive to another laptop and download files onto it. However, I'm not sure how to do that without knowing that it won't affect the operating system that is on my primary laptop. This is my first time trying to use Ubuntu, so I appreciate the help. – Turtle Oct 7 '16 at 22:59
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If you can't boot from a USB, but can still boot from your internal hard drive, you can employ some sort of "trickery" to get this working. Ideally, you have a Linux computer already at the ready, but you can apply similar steps on a Windows one.

Essentially, we're going to burn the ISO to your hard drive, and then boot from it, copy everything over to RAM, and then install to that hard drive.

You will need a SATA sled, and a computer with at least 4GB of RAM to pull this off.


  1. Download the Ubuntu ISO that you want to install to your machine.
  2. Connect your new hard drive to your computer through a USB/SATA sled (something like this).
  3. Burn the ISO to the new hard drive. On Linux, you'd use dd if=/path/to/iso.iso of=/dev/sdXY, (replace XY with your drive's identifier, found with lsblk and/or blkid). However, on Windows, you should try using Rufus and seeing if it detects your external drive. If not, you may need to find another program than can burn ISOs to USB drives.
  4. Actually burn the image to your new hard drive. When this is done, insert it into the hard drive bay of your old computer.
  5. Boot up your computer, and stop at the boot screen. You'll need to boot the disk to RAM, follow this post to see how to do that.

DO NOT CANCEL OR POWER DOWN YOUR COMPUTER FROM HERE ON OUT!
You will have to restart this entire procedure if you do.

  1. When you've booted up to the desktop in Try Ubuntu mode, be sure to open gparted and wipe your current hard drive clean.
  2. Open the Ubuntu Installer and install Ubuntu to your cleaned hard drive as normal.
  3. Boot up your fresh version of Ubuntu!
  • Is there any way to skip booting to ram? – Turtle Oct 8 '16 at 6:39
  • @Turtle Not really, as you have the issue where you can't overwrite the install media with a lot of negative consequences. If your machine has UEFI, there may be a way, but that might very well not work (very platform dependent). I guess you could try partitioning and creating a loop boot using the ISO (I can try to explain this tomorrow), but you would need to do a lot of partition preparation for that. – Kaz Wolfe Oct 8 '16 at 6:41

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