Windows Bootcamp Windows on USB 3 ext drive?

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by Dirtyharry50, Apr 2, 2015.

  1. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    Ya gotta help me! Please! Well, not really of course but I hope somebody will here. I am indefinitely continuing to give in to the dark side because I have quite a backlog of good windows titles and it would be stupid to buy them again for PS3 even though I have considered doing that, being stupid sometimes and all.

    So, on to the question at hand. I have a two terabyte external USB 3.0 7200 RPM drive that I've only used for archival storage of game installers, etc. My time machine backups have their own USB 3.0 drive. Currently the 2 TB drive is partitioned 1 TB Mac filesystem and 1 TB FAT for Windows stuff but I really don't need that storage anymore. I think the only thing of consequence there is about 200 gigs of GOG game installers I could easily move over to the Mac side of the drive. So that leaves me with a 1 TB partition I could potentially use for running Windows and playing Windows games on if this setup would work reasonably well.

    And that is the million dollar question. Is USB 3.0 fast enough for this purpose? Can I do a bootcamp install into one out of two partitions on that drive? Do I need to make any specific changes so I can? Ideally it would be quite nice to boot off the external drive and free up 200 gigs on my iMac's drive that is currently used by Windows.

    While I am at it, could I move my Parallels virtual machine with Windows XP (around 40 gigs in size) to the Mac partition of that same USB 3.0 drive and access it there with Parallels? Would performance take any significant hit for doing that?

    It would be great to have just my Mac stuff on the Mac internal drive if I can do that. The reason I posted this here in the games forum is gaming performance is everything here. If it is going to be bad, there's no point in doing any of this.
  2. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    Lazy me did my own homework and discovered this isn't doable, at least not via the standard method of simply using bootcamp in OS X.

    Some people reported various methods that involved spending money either on other hardware or software or both and sometimes rather confusing steps that were then reported not to work in posts that followed.

    I'm not up for all that. Next iMac I'll go with a 3 TB fusion or whatever is similar in terms of size at the time and that'll be that. I wanted to do that with this system but couldn't afford the upgrade at the time they gave me this replacement iMac.

    Now, I shall proceed to google for "can I run my Parallels VM from a USB drive"

  3. Huntn macrumors P6


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    On my MBP I divide my internal drive 40/60, 60% going to windows/Bootcamp, then supported with a 2TB external for 50/50 for Time Machine and other Mac data and a 1TB external Windows drive for gaming. It works well.
  4. bushidounohana macrumors member

    Jul 11, 2008
    St. Louis, MO (USA)
    I had a similar notion about a year ago on my 13" MacBook Pro--I wanted to play all my favorite Windows games on the go but I didn't want to compromise any space on my internal SSD. I ended up finding the following guide, which enabled me to create a Windows 8.1 installation on an external USB hard drive that runs pretty well--

    I don't find the USB 3 interface to be too terribly limiting for my usage, which typically consists of running Dolphin (GC/Wii emulator) and some Steam games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadows and Tomb Raider (2013). I use a bus-powered LaCie Rugged USB 3 7200rpm drive, which isn't as snappy as the internal SSD, but performs surprisingly about as well as any 7200rpm drive I've ever used.

    For me, the biggest concern was potential CPU hit of USB 3 versus Thunderbolt (with Dolphin, I wanted to squeeze every ounce of CPU out that I could), but the cost of Thunderbolt drives at the time (and frankly, still!) was prohibitive for me.

    I hope that helps!
  5. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    Well, I have moved my virtual machines for XP and Win7 to the USB 3.0 external drive and I note that works nicely for those and just freed up a lot of space.

    It occurs to me now that I could blow away the bootcamp partition and redo it in a much smaller size then have Steam store its games on the USB drive and access them there on the Windows side of that which would offer a terabyte of space for those less a little bit for some odds and ends I save that are windows specific.

    That seems to me like the path of least resistance for now. The only pain in the rear will be redoing the bootcamp partition and reinstalling Windows 7 into it. To keep the pain to a minimum, I'll play all the stuff currently installed there before doing that to save downloading it all again. So that should work out nicely.

    I think you only need around 20 gigs for a basic windows 7 installation but just to err on the safe side I'll probably double that to 40 and then I don't have to worry about all the various direct X, misc frameworks, etc., etc. that various games download on Steam every install not to mention windows updates and whatnot.

    Problem solved. I'll still go for 3 TB fusion next time around for simplicity and improved performance. :)
  6. antonis macrumors 68000


    Jun 10, 2011
    I'm using the method described in bushidounohana's link for over a year now, with excellent results (actually, I've used the very same guide), running Windows 8.1. I even capture videos of the games running on it with fraps without issues. USB3 or thunderbolt is required.
  7. NazgulRR macrumors 6502

    Oct 4, 2010
    I have USB 3.0 flash drive with Windows/Boot Camp on it. Works like magic. It is pretty much as fast as the internal SSD. I use it exclusively for Steam gaming.

    if you've got usb 3.0 drive or a non-removable type usb 3.0 flash drive, follow this: / alternatively use this software for installation:

    if you've got removable type usb 3.0 flash drive, follow this:

    Once you have a drive ready with windows installed on it, plug it into a mac, reboot it with holding down the alt key and then select the windows drive to boot into it. Install bootcamp, drivers, etc and you're all set!

    I have successfully created working Windows 8.1 drives with both removable and non-removable type USBs that boot up on my 2013 Macbook Air without a problem by follow the above steps.
  8. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    Thank you for the information. I appreciate it. If I decide to pursue this further I'll keep the stuff explained in this thread and in your post in mind.
  9. blesscheese macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2010
    Central CA
    Those external solutions are great! I didn't know it was possible...I'll save this for future reference (currently, I have a 2009 Mac Pro, and just have Windows on it's own drive, but someday, I may want to go portable!)
  10. saturnotaku macrumors 68000

    Mar 4, 2013
    Installing Windows on an external drive is only feasible on Macs with at least a Haswell (4th-generation Core i) or later CPU.

    Also, it's not a good idea to install Windows on a USB flash drive, as the memory chips on those devices are not built to handle the rigorous I/O of an operating system. If you want to go down this route, use a regular SSD in a USB 3.0 enclosure.
  11. Dirtyharry50 thread starter macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    As I have continued to think about this, honestly I am starting to lean toward just cherry picking a few very important titles worth the time and cutting the cord from Windows, at least in the form of a bootcamp installation.

    If remaining Windows games from the backlog work in Parallels, fine but eventually I am likely to drop that too.

    In three years now, I've acquired a substantial backlog of excellent Mac titles I should be enjoying before OS X upgrades break them.

    I wouldn't argue the benefits of using Windows for other people. I've had a hard time letting go of the stuff I collected over years on sales but I think I probably need to just move on now. If I ever run out of Mac games to play, I can always reinstall it then. The stuff will still be there but I have a feeling that in reality, I'd never wind up having the time for it anyway.

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