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Install Linux in External HD in XP machine

by nina2000 / October 29, 2005 7:49 AM PDT

How can I install Linux in My External HD in my XP machine. What is bios change means? XP is in my C: drive and E: is my external HD. Which will be easy for beginner(Linux)? I want to install from CD rom but I don't know how to do it without login in to my XP.

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BIOS Settings
by engineer331 / October 30, 2005 12:22 PM PST

When they say to change the BIOS, they mean you need to set the computer to try to boot off of a CD or USB device before trying to boot off of the hard drive. When you first turn on your computer, it will say ?Setup? or ?Menu? or ?Boot?, or something to that effect. Press the key indicated (it is almost always one of the function keys) and you will be able to change the order in which the computer will try to find an operating system.

When installing, you have to make sure that your BIOS are set to check the CD-ROM drive before the HDD. The computer will then boot directly from the CD into a setup environment; Windows will not be given the chance to load (which means if you do see the Windows logo, you need to change the BIOS).

Similarly, in order to run the Linux installation once it is installed, you will need to make sure that the BIOS are set so your computer will try to boot off of any USB devices (like your external HDD) before it tries to boot off of the hard drive. Some older computers may not have this option, but I believe there are ways around this problem using a boot floppy.

I have never installed Linux on an external hard drive before (although it is something I am considering), so I don?t know the specifics. This is where Google is your friend; you should be able to find instructions for your particular distro.

All that being said, I would encourage you to get a Linux book and read it before you try installing. It will walk you through a regular hard disk install, and coupled with the directions you find on Google you should be able to figure it out. Also, simply configuring and using Linux often requires more in depth knowledge than does Windows, so a good book will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that newcomers make.

Good luck, and please let us know how it turns out.


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Don't need to change BIOS every time
by bulldogzerofive / October 31, 2005 10:19 PM PST
In reply to: BIOS Settings

I had this set up for a while before i dumped windows entirely. Be sure to make backups before you do anything.

if you never intend to move your USB drive:

You need to go into your BIOS (like chris said... usually by pressing F2, F11, or esc during boot up) and make sure that:
a. Your Mother Board supports USB boot. This is usually only newer MOBOs. If it does, that will be one of the options in the boot preference menu. You do not need to set it to boot before anything else, in fact you want to leave it after the CD and hard drive.
b. Set boot order to floppy, CDROM, and then hard drive.

Then you install your GNU/Linux distrubution normally. When the partitioner pops up during the installation, your C: will show up as HDA1; do not touch it. Your external drive will show up as SDA1 or something along those lines, that is the one you want to format and partition. Give a few gigs (about 5) to the mount point "/" and the rest to "/home".

If you want swap space, which is like a windows page file, then this should be on your internal drive. Defrag your C: from within windows first and then during the linux install slice a chunk of the end of HDA1 to swap. The chunk does not need to be very big; no more than 1 gigabyte at the very most.

From there, you let your GNU/Linux install go normally. Whichever Linux Bootloader (LILO or GRUB) you use will overwrite your Master Boot Record on your internal disk and point it to the lilo or grub file on your USB drive, which in turn will pass back over to your internal drive if you want to boot windows.

Now you should be done, but if you remove your USB drive you will not be able to boot your computer at all.

if you want to be able to remove your usb drive and boot it on other computers:

Go into your BIOS and set it to boot from CDROM first and USB second. Install the distro on SDA1, probably with all the defaults. If you use a swap partition, it needs to be on the USB drive, but USB is so slow, i do not know if this will do you any good. Leave HDA1 alone.

If you wanted you could stop here and control which OS boots by editing your BIOS every time you want to change. I do not find this elegant.

Instead(from within linux), use the command "dd if=/dev/sda1 of=bootsect.lnx size=512 count=1" to copy the boot sector of your external drive. Save the resulting file to a diskette or thumb drive or whatever.

Reboot and edit the BIOS to boot CD, then internal HDD and boot (into windows). Save the file you just got as c:\bootsect.lnx. Then use a text editor to edit c:\boot.ini. Append to the end of the file:


That should do it. Now, NTLDR should ask you which you want to boot when you turn the computer on. If you want to take the external hard drive to another computer that supports USB boot, you should be able to boot it by editing that computer's BIOS to boot USB first.

if your mobo doesn't support usb boot

In this case you won't be able to put linux on the external drive. What you CAN do, though, is put your /home folder on that drive. Defrag windows, then slice about 6 gig off the end of your internal disk, 5 of which you should use for "/" and one or less will become swap; they will probably be assigned HDA5 and HDA6, respectively. Then, instruct your install to mount "/home" on SDA1 and you can thus have a full linux install with a minumum of space eaten off your internal hard drive.

Let me know if this works for you.

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As for the kind of linux
by bulldogzerofive / October 31, 2005 10:32 PM PST

With this complicated of a partitioning scheme, you probably want to use Mandriva Linux for its easy to understand graphical partitioner and installer.

If you are a home user, as you learn Linux, you are probably going to want to move away from Redhat based distros like mandriva; they are (in my limited experience) harder to manage and less reliable for the kinds of things that home users want to do. Personally, i like debian.

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