Booting Ubuntu from a USB Hard Drive

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by idkfa, Sep 21, 2006.

  1. idkfa macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2006
    I am starting to really like Ubuntu linux for basic work tasks; I love the stripped down feel of the OS. Whatever my reasons, I would like to move from using the LiveCD and saving on my USB Key, to something faster and more streamlined.

    Is it possible, using a USB 60GB Drive to do the following:

    1. Partition into 50GB (for data and backup with OSX) and 10GB (for installing and using Linux).

    2. Install Ubuntu on the drive

    3. Boot Ubuntu on my iBook from the drive.

  2. zflauaus macrumors 65816

    Nov 19, 2004
    I am 99% sure you can't boot from a USB drive, it has to be a firewire drive. I wanted to do the same thing, but alas, I'm USB on my iBook.
  3. After G macrumors 68000

    After G

    Aug 27, 2003
    I've booted into Ubuntu with a USB drive.
    However, it was Breezy, not the current version Dapper, and I only did it with one partition, not two. Might be a firmware capability though as I've done it on an Intel Mac. (mac mini to be precise)
  4. zflauaus macrumors 65816

    Nov 19, 2004
    I think that's the only exception, Intel Macs. They can boot from USB. PowerPC Macs can't.
  5. coal macrumors regular


    Oct 22, 2005
    Portland, OR

    Exactly. From my understanding, Intel Macs can boot off of both USB/firewire, but the firewire drive is formatted with a different partition scheme so that the same drive cannot be used to boot both PPC and Intel Macs. Strange?

    You should have no problem with a firewire enclosure and linux.
  6. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006

    Yeah, Ubuntu Linux is really cool. Even feels faster than OS X on my G4@400Mhz Powermac. Besides, using SAMBA under linux seems to be more flexible than under OS X.

    Some notes you might want to consider:
    regarding 1) - when you partition your disk for dual booting, you'll need:
    a) a "NewWorld" partition for the bootloader ie: the software that enables picking which OS to load on bootup
    b) a partition for OS X
    c) a partition for Linux
    d) an optional but recommended Swap partition for Linux
    e) a small partition that all Mac-formated drives seem to have (?) which remains empty and I don't know what it does :p

    In my experience, creating 5 primary partitions does not work. When installing Linux you should create 1 primary partition for e) and another for b), which you must leave empty. The create one extended partition, under which you create a) , c) and d).

    If you have all your relevant data backed up, you can try allowing the Linux installer to automatically partition the disk for you and see what happens. Do NOT use any partitioning tool before backing up your valuable stuff.

    Regarding 2), what you could also consider is to have 2 harddrives (if you have a powermac tower). On the main disk you keep:
    a) that small partition that Mac disks have
    b) the "newworld" partition
    c) OS X
    d) optionally, a FAT32 partition so that both operating systems can share files in it

    on the second disk, you keep:
    a) Linux
    b) Linux Swap
    c) alternativelly you could keep that FAT32 partition over here.

    Good luck

  7. idkfa thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2006
    ^^ Thanks!!! :D

    However, still mixed signals. Is that a no-go on the USB hard drive?

    EDIT: Also, keep in mind PowerPC.
  8. Warbrain macrumors 603


    Jun 28, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    No go on the USB hard drive. You would need a Firewire HDD. I'm glad I read this thread since I'm planning on doing the same thing soon. I loved how Ubuntu ran on my iBook.
  9. jtown macrumors 6502

    Jul 3, 2003
    PPC = no USB booting so your only choice is firewire.

    It's also the clear winner even on machines that can boot from a USB device. Firewire puts less load on the CPU, has less protocol overhead, lower latency, and higher throughput.

    When using external drives for video editing, I tested both connections thoroughly. Throughput of USB2 was roughly half that of FW400. Everything that involved continuous reading and/or writing of large, multi-gig files took twice as long with the same drive connected via USB2.
  10. idkfa thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2006
    I just bought a $30 Firewire enclosure on ebay, and I got a 10GB 2.5" of a friend.

    Ubuntu, here I come. :D

    I am guessing that 10GB will be sufficient, as Ubuntu full install is ~2.5GB correct?

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