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  1. #1

    Question 'live' external hard drive

    I have a usb harddrive that I use on a few different machines (music storage, etc.), and am inclined to use live CDs when using windows machines, so I thought if I could install linux on to the HD, I wouldn't need to use them.
    Presumably doing a standard install would result in having a hardware setup fixed to whichever comp I have the HD attached to at the time?
    I know I could just run a live CD iso off the drive, but I'd like to be able to update, add new software, and so on.
    Can anyone recommend an installation that wouldn't be locked into the initial hardware setup, but would also be more than a fixed live CD?

    Any suggestions would be appreciated,

    Edit: Sorry, perhaps this post ought to have been in the newbie section. It's not really intended as a 'which distro' question, but rather whether this could be done with a standard one rather than a live CD.

  2. #2
    you have to install the livecd in the hard drive manually and configure it, check knoppix for this.

  3. #3
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Berwyn Heights, MD USA
    If you wish to do a full install the two easiest are PCLinuxOS .92 and SimplyMepis 3.4-3. I have both installed on an external USB drive. I find PCLinuxOS is the easiest to use of the two. Either can be install on a small partition (one says 3GB) with a swap partition of 2 times the installed memory. I use 3 partitions for my installs- 1 for / , 1 for /home and 1 for swap. / and /home are both 10GB and swap is 1GB for 512MB memory. The installers for both recogonize USB drives easily. For USB installs the bootloader should be placed on the MBR of the USB drive and set your BIOS to boot from USB. In this configuration most computers will boot from drive A if no USB drives are present. Note that includes Zip, Jazz and dongles. The advantage to PCLinuxOS for use on various computers is that if the computer will not boot from USB there is provision to make a rescue cd. The command for that is 'mkrescue -iso'. PCLinuxOS is a livecd so you can boot and run it to find out if you like it or not.


  4. $spacer_open
  5. #4
    Thanks for the replies.

    Sorry if I'm being a bit slow, but if I install one of those, will it do its hardware detection every time I boot, or would it be confused by being plugged into a different computer from the one it was initially installed on?

    I understand knoppix can be installed in more than one way, ie. as a debian-like install, or as a live CD, but updating can be problematic with the latter, I believe.

    So, is it possible to setup one of the standard desktop install distros to do hardware detection on bootup, so that it can be used with different hardware setups, but still be updatable in the normal way, as if it were on a fixed HD, rather than using a live CD installer?

    I'm not necessarily looking for something that will just run 'out of the box', I realise it may take some configuring. (Whether I'd be able to do it is another matter )

    Right....thanks again for any ideas people might have.


  6. #5
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Berwyn Heights, MD USA

    I do not move my USB drives from computer to computer but I have made
    at least one hardware change which did not cause a hiccup. I added an
    additional ide drive to the internal drive chain. Mandriva (whick PCLOS is based on) sells a USB hard drive with linux installed so that it could be used with various computers.

    For reference I have 6 distros on USB drives at present.

  7. #6
    Linux Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Odessa, FL
    the usb drive shouldn't have problems moving from computer-to-computer, given that the computers it's moving to have ide hard drives. if the computers it moves to have scsi drives, than it may cause problems

    the reason for this is that a usb drive's device is listed at /dev/sda(partition-number)

    so, if you have one partition on the drive where your distro will be installed, it will be installed at /dev/sda1

    ide drives, though, are found at /dev/hda(partition-number)

    the reason computers with scsi drives may give you trouble is because they are also found at /dev/sda(partition-number) , which is a device section designated for scsi drives. usb drives, though, use a scsi driver to be mounted and this is the reason their drivers are also found at /dev/sda(partition-number) and the reason why i think a scsi-based computer might give you trouble and why it makes sense that oldman's computer didn't give him trouble when he installed another ide drive (since ide drives don't use the same driver section as usb or scsi drives).

    hope this information helps some

  8. #7
    Just Joined!
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Berwyn Heights, MD USA
    josolanes noted that I should not have any problem due to the none conflict
    between USB and IDE drives. It also may not be a problem with SCSI drives
    if GRUB is used as the boot loader. My reason for suggesting that is that grub
    remaps drives to hdx, x being 0 to some number. When it does that the disk it
    detects as the boot disk is mapped as hd0 and all other drives are then mapped in the order of detection- usually the same or close to the BIOS mapping.

    This can be seen from the fact that many first boot problems on USB installs
    are caused by the map being different than the install map.

    Most installs I have made from cd map my drives as follows:

    (hd0) (hda)
    (hd1) (hdb)
    (hd2) (sda)

    By changing this to:

    (hd0) (sda)
    (hd1) (hda)
    (hd2) (hdb)

    And changing the grub.conf (menu.lst) files to suit, many boot problems go away or are made easier to diagnose.

    Since I do not have scsi drives I can not test this but offer that it may hold true.

    I have no idea what would happen if booting with LILO.

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