Run Windows from an External Drive?

Discussion in 'Windows, Linux & Others on the Mac' started by drgrafix, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. drgrafix macrumors regular

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    #1
    I have a couple of programs that can only be run on a Windows PC. I'm guessing this is not a new question because many people are skeptical about getting infected with some sort of virus once you run Windows on a Mac.

    So I was wondering if I can dedicate a external HDD to Windows use and actually have some kind of option when I boot the mac as to whether I want to boot into OSX or WindowsX and if I choose "Windows" it will defer to the external HDD and my screen will basically look like a Windows 7 machine.

    I also wondered whether it would be better (safer) to do this as opposed to say using Parallels and dispensing with the external HDD? BTW, if I install Windows, I would not be using it to browse on the web, but purely to run these three programs. However, one program is an online application that is used to program a remote control (Acoustic Research AR-RX18G XSIGHT Touch). The other programs are Corel Draw and MS Visio.

    My MBP has a solid state drive... and I think I have heard where some people have put two (2) of these inside the machines. That seems like a very expensive solution, but would that be better?
     
  2. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #2
  3. drgrafix thread starter macrumors regular

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    #3
    Just read through that... seems like a bit of a pain. I was hoping to rid myself of my PC but for corel and visio... I guess I can live with the extra PC when I need it. OTH, the online app to program/update my remote requires a PC and you need to be in front of the TV/Home Theater setup to check each step. So I'm kinda' stuck with this... now the question would be Parallels or BootCamp or whatever, and would I be better off with XP as opposed to Vista or W7? Size-wise I'd assume XP is a more compact install, but I'm wondering about both updates and security since MS says they are not going to support XP down the road.
     
  4. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #4
    W7 32 bit is compact and runs fairly well in a VM. You can try it all out using a free trial of Parallels or VMWare or Virtualbox (always free) and an official iso of W7. Search forum for links.

    B
     
  5. drgrafix thread starter macrumors regular

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    #5
    I think my best bet is to divide this baby into two LOL. My MBP has a 80G SSD so I don't want to bog it down with unnecessary programs. Plus, it would be the machine I used for programming the remote anyway. So the choice here would be one of the virtual setups... or bootcamp, right? I would buy a family pack (3 machines) of W7 so I could install on the MBP as well as on my iMac.

    That way I would have more disk space available on the iMac for both Corel and Visio... and when using them, I could theoretically drag and drop graphics files as needed.

    So the bigger question for me is which VM program to use? I had never heard of Virtual Box... that sounds interesting and the screen shots look convincing.
     
  6. dime21, Mar 7, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011

    dime21 macrumors 6502

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    #6
    LOL, what?? Read the system requirements. XP requires 300 Mhz and 64 MB of RAM. Windows Seven requires 1 Ghz and 1 GB of RAM. Obviously both will run better when supplied with more than the minimum, but W7 requires way way WAY more resources than XP does- triple the CPU and sixteen times the memory! Sure, W7 is more compact when compared to Vista... but compared to XP, Windows Seven is a bloated pig.

    For a virtual machine that you only use for those few Apps that aren't available on OSX, I would stick with XP. Besides being much lighter weight and faster, it's also a more stable and mature platform.

    VMware is the big dog in the virtualization space, they've been doing it longer than the other guys. I've been using VMware on Linux since 1999, and now VMware Fusion on OSX today. Very solid product.

    Also since the hardware is abstracted in a VM, you can boot your virtual machines from an external drive, it doesn't know or care. In my case, I have three firewire drives, each running a different VM. All are bus-powered, no power cables required!!
     
  7. drgrafix thread starter macrumors regular

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    #7
    I have a SSD in my MBP and its only 80 Gigs. But I don't have any non-Apple apps on it, so how much space would I need to partition for XP vs W7? Is there a bare bones W7 that is 32 bit vs 64 bit? I have to find a YouTube video on how to partition a mac and set up bootcamp. I think I should go that way rather than a virtual setup because I only intend to use it for one thing, programming and updating my home theater remote. On my iMac, it'll be a different story, probably go with Parallels only because I bought the bundle from Mac Update that included v.5.X and if I really like it, I can upgrade to the latest Parallels for $39.
     
  8. reekster macrumors newbie

    reekster

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    #8
    Windows on an external drive

    The solution is fairly simple. Install a copy of OSX on an external drive.
    Boot from that drive.
    Install Windows.

    On startup, hold down the option key and you will get to choose which drive you want to boot from.

    Ta-Da!

    I'm planning on doing this as I have an app that is Windows only and I need to use it to program these SoundWeb DSP boxes.
     
  9. DonCarlos macrumors regular

    DonCarlos

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    #9
    Hmm..... I always thought that windows would not boot from an external (bootcamp retrieved or not). My understanding is that windows does not really work unless you have it on an internal drive or unless you go through the elaborate process that balamw eluded to for the external.

    Guess we have all been wrong about that according to reekster. Great to see such "a simple solution" we all missed.
     
  10. reekster macrumors newbie

    reekster

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    #10
    As long as you are booting from that drive, it should be fine. I'm 99% sure.

    BTW- Get a massive drive. What seems like too much has (for me) turned out to be too little a couple of years later.
     
  11. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #11
    Please post detailed instructions so that anyone can follow along!

    FWIW since your machine is a
    wouldn't another internal drive just be easier? On the Mac Pro side of life you can just add another drive and dedicate that to Windows trivially.

    B
     
  12. DonCarlos macrumors regular

    DonCarlos

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    #12
    Just bumping this asking Reekster to provide the simple solution that he mentioned, so we can all learn from his unique solution to a commonly asked question.
     
  13. RollTide macrumors 6502

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    #13
    I installed xp on 15 gigs internal and everything for windows goes on external, works great. I even run games off of the external.
     
  14. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #14
    That of course works fine. As long as everything required to boot is on the internal, apps and data can be on an external.

    Reekster has been MIA since his last post in this thread, so I can only assume that it worked and he's busy playing some Windows only MMORPG. :p

    B
     
  15. reekster macrumors newbie

    reekster

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    #15
    I did this on my Laptop, not the MacPro.
     
  16. reekster macrumors newbie

    reekster

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    #16
    Sorry for the MIA-

    Here's the how part and the WHY part.
    I had the same dilemma and that I wanted the Windows OS and data on a different drive but couldn't figure out how to do this on any drive but the startup drive.
    So the answer was to make an additional start-up drive and go from there.

    Start with an OSX install disk and have your external hard drive already plugged in.

    Install OSX on that external drive

    In System Preferences, choose that external drive as your startup drive and reboot.

    Install Windows then on that external drive you just booted from.

    The problem isn't internal VS external per say, it's installing on any other drive besides that start-up drive.

    Hope this helps.
     
  17. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #17
    Your sig is quite appropriate:

    Which laptop is that. You've never told us which one you did this on.

    I tried this myself on my iMac with the external drive connected by both USB and FireWire and XP Home SP2 to no avail.

    So you need to tell us several speciics so someone can go try and replicate this.

    1. Which Mac laptop model did you do this on?
    2. What firmware version is installed on the Mac laptop?
    3. Which specific version of Windows did you use? (XP/Vista/7,Home/Pro/...,32/64bit,Service Pack Level,source(OEM/retail/...))
    4. Which specific external drive did you use?
    5. How was the external drive connected to the Mac? (USB/FireWire/...)

    That's simply not true as a general statement.

    XP has a fundamental problem in booting from USB as it unloads the USB stack during boot. On some "PC"s you can get around this with settings in the BIOS, but Macs use EFI, not BIOS and there aren't many settings to tweak.

    B
     
  18. reekster macrumors newbie

    reekster

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    #18
    I just did an install

    - Installed OSX 10.6.6 on an external USB drive on My MacBook Pro
    - BOOT FROM THAT EXTERNAL DRIVE (Very important step)
    - Installed Parallels
    - Installed WIndows 7 premium Home 64 bit.

    Works like a charm.
     
  19. balamw Moderator

    balamw

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    #19
    Using the Parallels you installed right above that or natively/Boot Camp?

    I think the "very important step" is the Parallels install. ;)

    B
     
  20. throAU macrumors 603

    throAU

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    #21
    I'd combine the approach, and use Parallels / VMware Fusion / Virtualbox to run Windows inside a VM, from an external drive.

    If you find performance is an issue, you can pick the VMDK (or equivalen) virtual machine files up and move them to your SSD either temporarily or permanently, move them back to external disk if you run out of space, etc.

    You also gain the ability to snapshot the operating system, roll back if something screws up, etc. i.e., you could install a clean copy of Windows, snapshot it, and if you ever need to go back to clean, rather than reinstall just revert to snapshot.

    Virtualbox is free and works well, if you're worried about needing to pay for Fusion or Parallels.

    I'm a big fan of virtualization (i'm a vSphere admin too in my day job :D), it gives you so many more options for backup/recovery, upgrading to new hardware, etc.
     

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