can you install Linux on an external hard drive on a Macbook?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by gnychis, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. gnychis macrumors 6502

    May 24, 2009
    From some Googling, I've found that you can use Bootcamp to install Linux on a Macbook. However, I have a Macbook air and do not have sufficient disk space. I was wondering if I could install it on an external drive, and boot it from the Macbook? I think that the problem is the bootloader. But, if I still use Bootcamp to install Ubuntu, it would set up the bootloader, and then I would just install to an external?

    PS. I am not looking to virtualize (e.g., Parallels...)
  2. gnychis thread starter macrumors 6502

    May 24, 2009
    Linux or Windows, really... I'm up for either
  3. aarond12 macrumors 65816


    May 20, 2002
    Dallas, TX USA
    The short answer is "yes". The long answer is "heck, yes".

    Get yourself a live USB key, attach your USB hard drive to the system, and boot your system from the key (holding Option during boot seems to be the best bet usually). Once you get to the point of installation, choose the correct disk drive (that's important!) and do your install.

    To boot from your external drive, once again hold Option during boot and choose the external drive.

    What's wrong with virtualization, by the way? You can download and install Virtual Box (free) and use your external USB drive to hold the virtual file. Most versions of Linux will only take about 1GB of space on the external drive when virtualized, so if you want to put it on your main hard drive, it will be faster.
  4. rutledjw macrumors member

    Aug 11, 2011
    I'm looking to do the same thing, and to answer your question re: virtualization: for me, I'm doing a lot of heavy computational tasks. Pseudo-HPC stuff, heavy statistical analysis, sometimes with long running jobs. It didn't work well in a virtual OS. And when I say "didn't work well", I mean it was a disaster. Development work isn't terrible, as long as there's a proper *nix server to run the jobs...

    I've owned Parallels for some time. What's the opinion of VirtualBox in comparison??

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