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Hey all... Just a quick question... can one install Linux on a dedicated hard disk on one machine, then move that disk to another machine and boot from it? I ...
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  1. #1
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    Move Disk to Different Machine


    Hey all...

    Just a quick question... can one install Linux on a dedicated hard disk on one machine, then move that disk to another machine and boot from it? I know Windows won't allow you to do that, but can it be done with Linux?

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    oz
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    Welcome to the forums!

    My own experience doing this is that it sometimes works, and it sometimes doesn't, depending on the hardware. Obviously, it won't work if the new hardware doesn't work under Linux, but overall it's worked more times than it hasn't for me.
    oz

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    Hmm... so does that mean my chances are slimmer if the hardware is not similar?

    The machine I want to build on is a dual-AMD, the target machine is a P4...

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    Linux Guru techieMoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmrank View Post
    Hmm... so does that mean my chances are slimmer if the hardware is not similar?

    The machine I want to build on is a dual-AMD, the target machine is a P4...
    The processor shouldn't matter, unless you're moving a 64-bit install onto a 32-bit CPU. Hardware most likely to give you trouble are things like video cards (moving from Nvidia to ATI or discrete to onboard) and wireless chipsets.

    Most of this can be reconfigured with little trouble, but the more differences in hardware (in general) the more likelihood something will yell at you.
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    Works every time...

    The ONLY issues I have ever seen are:
    1. Custom Xorg config not reflecting the new hardware... you might want to remove any customizations before moving the drive.
    2. Unsupported hardware... check that the new system's hardware is supported.
    3. Other customizations such as networking might need to be adjusted.

    Due to the modular nature of the kernel and the wonderful autodetection of hardware, the kernel detects and loads the correct modules for your hardware upon every boot. The kernel doesn't care what hardware was in the system the last time it was booted.

    Most distros have taken this to an extreme and their default configuration is completely portable from one machine to the next (that why the live CD's work so well). It is entirely possible to customize your configuration and make it less dynamic, but there are few reasons to do that for a typical desktop installation except to support binary drivers such as video.

    If you move it and it doesn't work, just make a note of what is failing, put the drive back in the first machine, remove your customizations as necessary (disable proprietary hardware drivers for example) and then pop it back in the new machine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmrank View Post
    Hey all...

    Just a quick question... can one install Linux on a dedicated hard disk on one machine, then move that disk to another machine and boot from it? I know Windows won't allow you to do that, but can it be done with Linux?
    That depends if the Linux distro you choose scans hardware at each boot. May I suggest Simplymepis. It's documentation states that it is transportable because it scans at each boot, making it transportable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmrank View Post
    Hey all...

    Just a quick question... can one install Linux on a dedicated hard disk on one machine, then move that disk to another machine and boot from it? I know Windows won't allow you to do that, but can it be done with Linux?
    Your best would be to start with a Live-CD and see if it works on both machines. If it does,you could install onto the hard disk drive. Linux automatically detected and modules installed when needed (lsmod, modprobe, etc...).

    The tricky part comes with the graphics hardware and the "binary blobs" that work with the Nvidia and ATI cards. If the X-server doesn't find the drivers for the detected hardware, it will resort to a non 3D-accelerated mode.

    Your best bet would be to take the hard disk drive and get the Linux OS updated with everything you want (yum update, yum install ...), then take the disk drive to the new machine and check to see if there are any additional device drivers needed.

    If there aren't any valid display drivers, the Linux drops back to a single terminal mode.

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    Linux Guru D-cat's Avatar
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    I've never had a problem with it. For the most part, HAL will do its job and reconfiguration to most hardware is automatic. The potential glitches are in the manually configured modules/drivers, usually video drivers as others have stated. Poorly or unsupported wireless cards and soft modems are likely to also not function right off, but they shouldn't prevent you from booting. The only real show stopper I see here is a configured proprietary video driver (nVidia or ATI), which can still be dealt with easily enough if you know how to start and work in the CLI. You may even consider switching the driver to vesa in the xorg.conf prior to relocating the drive, just to avoid that hazard.

    There is always a potential that different BIOS will interpret a drive's geometry differently, and thus prevent booting from a drive formatted in the other machine. This is not a Linux problem but a BIOS compatibility issue; it would prevent booting regardless of OS. I don't see this very often.

    On another note, I have also been successful in moving Windows drives between computers as well. It does a hell of a lot more complaining and the driver search can be irritating, but I have found it to be workable in about half the cases. The other half have resulted in blue screens, so I would suggest that Linux is statistically better for relocating/cloning than Windows in my experience.

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    My experience was positive with this. Didn't want a complete Debian Testing reinstall (either was it Squeeze then or the one before it). I had to do major hardware upgrade - motherboard change. Old system was an older Gigabyte motherboard with Nvidia chipset, AMD single core 32bit processor, the old AMD socket, PCIExpress Nvidia graphics card. New system was dual core AMD 64bit processor on new Gigabyte motherboard with ATI chipset and ATI builtin graphics card. Of course it didnt start the Xorg, but proprietary drivers remedied that in minutes. The only glitch I had left from the old system was some Nvidia graphics cards postremove script at any package changes saying some error. But I removed or changed some line in it and it disappeared well. Was on some Ubuntu forums, cant remember that exactly.

    I am pretty sure if you take Knoppix and make it install to HDD, it would be the best solution for the purpose of moving the HDD from PC to PC, painfree.

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    oz
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmrank View Post
    The machine I want to build on is a dual-AMD, the target machine is a P4...
    You've not given much info about your hardware, but the items mentioned above shouldn't present much trouble if you want to simply move the drive over to that machine. Let us know how it goes.
    oz

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