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Hope this will not be a double post - my first attempt to post seem to have failed.... I have a corporate Dell laptop (with Windows 7 ) and naturally ...
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  1. #1
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    How to install linux on eSATA drive without writing to primary disk?


    Hope this will not be a double post - my first attempt to post seem to have failed....

    I have a corporate Dell laptop (with Windows 7 ) and naturally I would like to also be able to run Linux on the machine. Problem is that the primary disk is protected by "pointsec" full drive encryption and all system areas (MBR etc) are scanned against a checksum causing boot to fail if tampered with.

    Since I have an external eSATA drive enclosure handy I thought I could install Linux on that and use at home when I want to run Linux (selecting to boot from it in the BIOS boot drive selection menu).

    I must however be 100% sure I can install without the processes writing ANYTHING to the primary disk (this would either corrupt the encrypted disk or cause a boot failure).

    Do anybody know of a distribution that easily can be installed like that and in that case how would I go about the installation (to prevent writing to main drives MBR etc)?

    I tried to remove the primary disk (to fool the Ubuntu installer to install to the eSATA drive only) but my stupid laptop seemed to hang on power up if no primary hard drive was installed instead of booting from the DVD so that plan did not work

    All advice and suggestions are appreciated (note I want to make a full install where I can add programs and change settings not just run a live CD or something like that)!!!!

    /Trist

  2. #2
    Linux Guru Rubberman's Avatar
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    Have you considered installing Linux on a virtual machine under Windows 7? You could put the virtual machine image on the eSata drive easily enough so you don't use up space on the system drive.

    As for installing on the external drive without touching the system drive, you should be able to do that. However, if you can remove the system drive temporarily from the laptop when you install to the eSata drive, you could then be sure that the boot loader is not going to drop onto the system drive. My Dell laptops only require removal of 2 screws to slide the drive out of the case - very easy. In fact, I have a couple of system drives that I use, and leave the screws out, so when I want to change operating systems, I just slide one out and the other in. Just as fast as connecting up a USB or eSata drive.
    Sometimes, real fast is almost as good as real time.
    Just remember, Semper Gumbi - always be flexible!

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    Thanks and more info...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rubberman View Post
    Have you considered installing Linux on a virtual machine under Windows 7? You could put the virtual machine image on the eSata drive easily enough so you don't use up space on the system drive.

    As for installing on the external drive without touching the system drive, you should be able to do that. However, if you can remove the system drive temporarily from the laptop when you install to the eSata drive, you could then be sure that the boot loader is not going to drop onto the system drive. My Dell laptops only require removal of 2 screws to slide the drive out of the case - very easy. In fact, I have a couple of system drives that I use, and leave the screws out, so when I want to change operating systems, I just slide one out and the other in. Just as fast as connecting up a USB or eSata drive.
    Thanks for the sugestions - One of the main reasont ot install Linux on an external drive is that I intend to lock that drive to my desk with a wire (only use it when at my desk) this way I can avoid a company requirement to use full drive encryption on it (that I must use on the laptop that I of course bring out of the building or else I would use a stationary machine) and to avoid using a "very heavy" Anti-Virus suite that slows down builds etc (required on Windows but not Linux) so performance is one main reason. If virtualizing Linux on to of Windows I would pay the virtualization overhead and the virus suites overhead so the improvement would not be that great (I believe - have not measure it).

    Sadly I only have ONE 2.5" drive (the one in the machine) and it is mounted inside a proprietary "enclosure" that seem hard to break apart without risking problems putting it back together (I would not hesitate with my own machine but this is my employers!). With no primary drive it seems like the boot process hang before I can even select boot device (badly written BIOS?) so I cant remove it entierly

    It is actually how to control the boat loader location that is my main concern - how can I for instance do this with Fedora? During at least the "normal" install procedure I saw no mention of this so I assume it is silently installed on my primary drive. But somehow I assume it is possible using advanced install to avoid this...

    Is there anything else except the boot loader that I need to worry about that could be written to primary drive?

    /Trist

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    I haven't installed Fedora 15 and don't know if that's what you are intending to use. On Fedora 14, one of the first windows you will see is "Which type of installation would you like". Best bet is to select "Create Custom Layout". After you have selected your partition to install, set up users, etc. the last step before the install begins is to select where to install the bootloader. The default will probably be to install to sda which would put it in the mbr. In Fedora 14, there is a Change tab at the top of the window which you can click to get options where to install the bootloader. You will need to know which drive is your internal and which is external, usually sda and sdb respectively but that's not guaranteed. Best thing would be to boot the Fedora install CD and get partition information to post to get specific instructions.

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    Thanks a lot - I will try that procedure!

    Do you know if Linux installs in any way are tailored to the specific machine (CPU type or other hardware)? If not I supose I can do the install on ANOTHER machine (that I own myself so less trouble if I make some misstake) and then use the e-sata drive with my laptop?

    /Trist

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    Do you know if Linux installs in any way are tailored to the specific machine (CPU type or other hardware
    Any installation of any OS will detect specific hardware AFAIK. You should be able to find tutorials for installation of Fedora on line with step by step instructions and images for each step. Read one or two of these. If you are going to be using this on your employers computer, it might be a good idea to try and install to thee external drive from your personal computer just to familiarize yourself with the process. After installing in your computer, try booting it on your employers laptop and note warning/error messages. I expect you may be able to boot it with some modifications.

    I don't know what the consequences would be if you tried installing to your employers laptop and messed it up??

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