External Boot Camp

vkd

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Original poster
Sep 10, 2012
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Has anyone managed to get working Boot Camp installation on an external USB2 drive?
 

Huntn

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May 5, 2008
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The Misty Mountains
I read some instructions on it a while back and although I don't remember much, I remember it being more complicated than I wanted to mess with. If it's fairly easy to accomplish, I'd be willing to free up some more space on my MBR's internal SSD.
 
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Janichsan

macrumors 68020
Oct 23, 2006
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Has anyone managed to get working Boot Camp installation on an external USB2 drive?
Allegedly, it's possible, but all the step-by-step instructions failed for me. Besides, you really don't want to install any operating system to boot on an USB 2 drive. It's painfully slow.
 

phairphan

macrumors 6502a
Sep 21, 2005
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Reject Beach
Unfortunately my mid-2011 iMac only as USB2. :(
I echo Janichsan's note above. I had a similar setup on my 2010 MBA a few years ago. USB2 external boot is painful.

Have you considered a Thunderbolt external? Or a Thunderbolt to USB 3 adaptor?
 
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RedTomato

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Mar 4, 2005
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I got Windows to boot on my MBA from an external USB3 128gb flash drive - one of the tiny SanDisk Ultra fit ones that barely stick out of the USB port. Don't ask me how - it was rather complicated - and I've forgotten how. It worked fine but (of course) was slower than the internal, and the flash drive got really hot. I've since repurposed the flash drive for other uses.

Overall the SanDisk Ultra Fit USB3 128 got hot even while I wasn't using it, and reduced battery life. I've now moved to a StorEdge PNY 128GB SXDC card which lives permanently in my MBA. It costs a bit more but doesn't get hot and doesn't affect battery life.
 

vkd

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Original poster
Sep 10, 2012
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I got Windows to boot on my MBA from an external USB3 128gb flash drive - one of the tiny SanDisk Ultra fit ones that barely stick out of the USB port. Don't ask me how - it was rather complicated - and I've forgotten how. It worked fine but (of course) was slower than the internal, and the flash drive got really hot. I've since repurposed the flash drive for other uses.

Overall the SanDisk Ultra Fit USB3 128 got hot even while I wasn't using it, and reduced battery life. I've now moved to a StorEdge PNY 128GB SXDC card which lives permanently in my MBA. It costs a bit more but doesn't get hot and doesn't affect battery life.
That's interesting. My experience installing Windows on my USB2 HDD varied, Win8 installed OK but on first boot failed due to login failure. I persevered repeatedly but it was the same insurmountable bug every time. Win10 had no sound but otherwise worked OK. Win7 and earlier just wouldn't do the do.
 

vailr

macrumors regular
Oct 22, 2009
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Windows doesn't normally behave well attempting to boot from an external USB device.
What does work, at least for booting Windows on a PC (haven't tried on a real Mac): create a "Windows-to-Go" installation on an external SSD.
There are several external SSD's, such as Samsung's T3. Or simply use a USB 3.0 -> SSD adapter cable, about $13 on Amazon. That would also work on a USB 2.0 port.
There's free software for creating "Windows-to-Go", such as Aomei Partition Manager.
http://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/aomei_partition_assistant.html
Microsoft limits Win2Go to the Enterprise edition of Windows 10, but Aomei Partition Manager allows using any version of Windows 10.
 
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vkd

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Sep 10, 2012
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Windows doesn't normally behave well attempting to boot from an external USB device.
What does work, at least for booting Windows on a PC (haven't tried on a real Mac): create a "Windows-to-Go" installation on an external SSD.
There are several external SSD's, such as Samsung's T3. Or simply use a USB 3.0 -> SSD adapter cable, about $13 on Amazon. That would also work on a USB 2.0 port.
There's free software for creating "Windows-to-Go", such as Aomei Partition Manager.
http://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/aomei_partition_assistant.html
Microsoft limits Win2Go to the Enterprise edition of Windows 10, but Aomei Partition Manager allows using any version of Windows 10.
I just had a quick look at your link and it seems to be an alternative Partition Magic, no mention of Windows-to-go. So what happens, you use Aomei to partition your external HDD then install Windows on it and by some quality of the partition created by Aomei it will work, whereas with other partitioning tools it wouldn't?
 

Janichsan

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Oct 23, 2006
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I just had a quick look at your link and it seems to be an alternative Partition Magic, no mention of Windows-to-go. So what happens, you use Aomei to partition your external HDD then install Windows on it and by some quality of the partition created by Aomei it will work, whereas with other partitioning tools it wouldn't?
It's always better to take a look at the official product page instead of some random download site. ;)
 
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vkd

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Sep 10, 2012
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Windows doesn't normally behave well attempting to boot from an external USB device.
What does work, at least for booting Windows on a PC (haven't tried on a real Mac): create a "Windows-to-Go" installation on an external SSD.
There are several external SSD's, such as Samsung's T3. Or simply use a USB 3.0 -> SSD adapter cable, about $13 on Amazon. That would also work on a USB 2.0 port.
There's free software for creating "Windows-to-Go", such as Aomei Partition Manager.
http://www.majorgeeks.com/files/details/aomei_partition_assistant.html
Microsoft limits Win2Go to the Enterprise edition of Windows 10, but Aomei Partition Manager allows using any version of Windows 10.
OK I just wasted a few hours trying to create a Windows-to-go disk that will boot on an iMac. The problem is that you have to do some improvising in order to get the iMac to recognise the drive as bootable, it is not simply a straightforward format, install and boot process. I have done this before and used the WinToUSB tool available here: http://www.easyuefi.com/wintousb/

Aomei seems similar to WinToUSB but somehow I could not get it to create drive that was recognisable. In other words: Fail.
 

antonis

macrumors 68020
Jun 10, 2011
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Has anyone managed to get working Boot Camp installation on an external USB2 drive?
I've done it a couple of times with usb3 / thunderbolt external drives. IIRC usb3 is the minimum.
 

kiwipeso1

Suspended
Sep 17, 2001
646
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Wellington, New Zealand
I would suggest that you either get a Thunderbolt drive, or a Thunderbolt dock for USB 3.
As TB 2 is plug compatible with TB 1, you can find a solution for a reasonable price.

Alternatively, as I said on the other thread, you could install a SSD in the spare sata slot in your iMac, use that for macOS and use the HDD for bootcamp at full speed.
 

Robbo1

macrumors member
Apr 4, 2017
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Isn't an easier option to do a small (~30gb) bootcamp partition (just enough for Win 10 and the Steam app) and to put all the games on an external SSD?
 

kiwipeso1

Suspended
Sep 17, 2001
646
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Wellington, New Zealand
Isn't an easier option to do a small (~30gb) bootcamp partition (just enough for Win 10 and the Steam app) and to put all the games on an external SSD?
The easier option in the other thread is for some clown to not understand 2 ideas at the same time ;)

Seriously though, as the internal HDD runs at a decent speed, but not as fast as an SSD, it works out as a good option to use the SSD as the MacOS drive by default, and use the HDD for windows only when gaming.
As you are spending a large amount on an external SSD, which will run at the same speed as the internal HDD, it is cheaper to just get a SSD in the internal sata slot spare.

I have done that with my 2011 iMac, and it runs around 10 times faster on the SSD than the HDD.
 

vkd

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 10, 2012
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The easier option in the other thread is for some clown to not understand 2 ideas at the same time ;)

Seriously though, as the internal HDD runs at a decent speed, but not as fast as an SSD, it works out as a good option to use the SSD as the MacOS drive by default, and use the HDD for windows only when gaming.
As you are spending a large amount on an external SSD, which will run at the same speed as the internal HDD, it is cheaper to just get a SSD in the internal sata slot spare.

I have done that with my 2011 iMac, and it runs around 10 times faster on the SSD than the HDD.
Yes, I have already put an SSD in the spare slot as you say and combined it with the HDD to make a Fusion Drive. Unfortunately I used 100% of SSD and HDD space in the Fusion drive and to now make a Boot Camp partition I will have to back up my data, break down the Fusion drive, create another one leaving space on the HDD for the Boot Camp partition, reinstall all my progs and data etc., which is a lot of work so I am more interested at this stage in alternative options, such as using external drive for BC or Virtual drives in emulation software (Parallels, Fusion, VirtualBox etc.) instead.
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
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Yes, I have already put an SSD in the spare slot as you say and combined it with the HDD to make a Fusion Drive. Unfortunately I used 100% of SSD and HDD space in the Fusion drive and to now make a Boot Camp partition I will have to back up my data, break down the Fusion drive, create another one leaving space on the HDD for the Boot Camp partition, reinstall all my progs and data etc., which is a lot of work so I am more interested at this stage in alternative options, such as using external drive for BC or Virtual drives in emulation software (Parallels, Fusion, VirtualBox etc.) instead.
No need for all that reinstalling when you can restore from a Time Machine backup.

- Dump video files, large folders etc to a spare HDD to reduce size of the Time Machine backup.
- Make sure the backup is small enough to restore to the single SSD with at least 10% space left (and after allocating space for the Windows partition if you choose to have it on the SSD).
- Make sure you have a third backup on Dropbox or a separate Time Machine drive just in case something goes wrong with the other backup.

You can reuse the spare HDD to store games and other files once you have BC running on the internal drive. If you have a windows partition on the SSD, rebooting takes only a few seconds.

I was going to say run BootCamp off a cheap FW800 enclosure but it seems that doesn't work either. You could always remove the internal HDD (or optical drive), and put a second SSD in there, and dedicate that to Bootcamp, and mount the HDD externally for large file / game storage.
 

Flint Ironstag

macrumors 65816
Dec 1, 2013
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640
Houston, TX USA
Takes some hacking. One of my guys actually had a good reason to do this (I forget the details), but the mac mini has been sitting on a production line for at least 2 years booted off this thing. YMMV
 

kaioshade

macrumors regular
Nov 24, 2010
109
22
It is pretty easy to do. Use Rufus on a PC to create a windows to go drive, then boot mac.
 

vkd

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 10, 2012
911
311
I've been running this for over a year now just for gaming via Steam and Origin. Got a cheap used 2.5" 128GB SSD and a SATA-USB3 cable and it's great.

You do need a PC to do the first install though. This works step by step:
https://forums.macrumors.com/thread...m-external-drive.1815672/page-3#post-20758398
Yes, I have been doing the same procedure but using WinToUSB instead of the dism command. I managed to get W10 working, but unfortunately Apple are not supporting my mid-2011 iMac for W10, only up to W8.1, so although it works properly in all other respects, the sound card driver does not, so a silent system. On the other hand, when I tried with W8.1, it repeatedly seemed to install OK but upon first login fails on the User Account, which it says is unrecognisable (Don't you just love Microsoft Windows?). In the guide you linked, it says this:

"WinToUSB basically does the same thing, but doesn’t always work because WinToUSB doesn’t really take into account between BIOS-CSM and UEFI Macs; it only uses one method for all (which may result in boot failures and other problems)."

At an outside chance, do you think that this may be the reason for the W8.1 failure? As I said, the exact same procedure but with a W10 image completes successfully in repeated trials.
 

NazgulRR

macrumors 6502
Oct 4, 2010
374
37
In the guide you linked, it says this:

"WinToUSB basically does the same thing, but doesn’t always work because WinToUSB doesn’t really take into account between BIOS-CSM and UEFI Macs; it only uses one method for all (which may result in boot failures and other problems)."

At an outside chance, do you think that this may be the reason for the W8.1 failure? As I said, the exact same procedure but with a W10 image completes successfully in repeated trials.
Honestly, I have no idea. It does read like that the manual method might work so it's worth giving it a try.
 
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