Running Linux on an external hard drive

  rogerbs 12:26 07 Jul 2009

I am new to the forum and this is my first post. I would be grateful for any advice on the following.
I would like to try Linux but keep Windows XP. Can I use an external hard drive (for portability) with Linux installed and be able to transfer files containing, for example, music and pictures between the two then work in the external hard drive as if it was a second computer?

  Rahere 17:09 07 Jul 2009

Not sure if you really want to try it the way you suggest as it might be much more difficult to achieve than the ways below.

To sample linux try ubuntu one of the easiest to use - this comes as a Live CD which means you can boot your PC with a copy in the CD drive and run it without it touching your XP install at all.

You can also run ubuntu from within Windows if you don't want to install on your hard drive permanently - I haven't tried this though.

Download an image
click here , burn a CD and enjoy

  interzone55 17:23 07 Jul 2009

Do as Rahere suggests and use one of the live CDs, many distributions have them.

Ubuntu is the most popular, but OpenSuSe is another good one, based on the SuSe Enterprise Linux core.

As a beginner I suggest you steer clear of Fedora, which is popular but is not the friendliest of distributions.

If you want to run as a live version from a CD and use files from the main Windows system then you'll find everything runs smoothly providing the drive is formatted as Fat32. If you have an NTFS formatted drive then many Linux distributions won't be able to read from the drive, or if they can read it they won't be able to write to it.

  Graphicool1 17:32 07 Jul 2009

It only takes up 100MB click here

  Graphicool1 17:35 07 Jul 2009

Easily install to USB, Zip or hard disk drive media
Load and run totally in RAM
Boot from LiveCD/DVD, and have the optical disc drive free for other purposes
Boot from LiveCD/DVD, and save everything back to the optical disc.
Boot from USB flash drives, and minimise writes to extend its life indefinitely
Extremely friendly for Linux newbies
Boot up and run extraordinarily fast
Have all the applications needed for daily use
Will just work, no hassles
Will breathe new life into old personal computers

  DieSse 17:58 07 Jul 2009

Puppy is great for older slower systems.

Linux Mint is based on the latest Ubuntu, but upgraded so that it plays CDs, DVDs right away - a sort of Ubuntu Plus. Personally I think Mint is the best of the bunch, especially for beginners at Linux right now.

I have Mint installed on a second internal hard drive, with dual-booting with XP. However when starting out, running it from a LiveCD is often best - though it's slower, of course.

Ubuntu, Mint and Puppy can read and write to XP files on the NTFS partition with no problems I've found.

  LastChip 22:45 07 Jul 2009

It is possible to run Linux from many sources; a USB stick, an external USB drive or even a SD card to name but three.

The question is, can your motherboard boot from a USB device? Because that is the key, if you want to pursue your original thought.

If you want to swap files, there are some caveat's. Linux can read both FAT (or FAT32) and NTFS. It can also write to FAT(32). Writing to NTFS is possible, but it remains under development as Microsoft are not interested in interoperability. This means, developers have to reverse engineer solutions to the problem. Windows cannot see any native Linux file system. Having said that, samba is an application that allows files to be seen over a network by both systems. In a sense, samba is a layer that sits between the systems to allow file transfers.

Without question however, a Live CD is the simplest way to go, if you don't want to upset your existing set-up. And incidentally, I do agree with DieSse, Linux Mint is an excellent first option for someone new to Linux.

In fact I installed it for a client about three months ago, who didn't want the constant maintenance that is part and parcel of Windows. I've seen him several times since and I'm pleased to report he (and his wife) are delighted with it. This was a classic example of someone who openly admits they are not computer literate and just wants to turn a computer on and use it.

Other options that may be of interest are; Kubuntu and PCLinuxOS. They are not the only ones, (there are hundreds of distributions - known as distros), and everyone will have their own favourite, but are perhaps amongst the most popular.

  Charence 22:50 07 Jul 2009

I have been using click here to access Ext2/3 file systems from Windows.

  LastChip 00:58 08 Jul 2009

That's interesting and frankly, I never knew it existed.

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