Install Ubuntu Linux on external USB hard drive (How-To)

If you are a beginning or intermediate Linux enthusiast, this ‘How-To’ provides an in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to install Ubuntu Linux 10.04 (Lucid Linux) on an external USB hard drive. You can purchase one of these drives for less than $50 US. Having a full and bootable Ubuntu distro on one of these drives provides greater flexibility than installing it on a dedicated workstation.

I am a huge fan of Ubuntu Linux. Ever since the release 06.06 (‘Dapper Drake’) on August 10, 2006, Ubuntu is my distro of choice. I always carry a bootable USB stick containing the latest distro loaded with tools. It is really incredible how handy this is in my day-to-day IR and forensic work. I also a big fan of those small portable external USB drives sold by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, etc.

It is quite easy to install Ubuntu Linux on an external USB drive. I have about half a dozen of these drives with Ubuntu installed – dedicated to specific purposes. One of these drives is used as my development and test environment for my soon to be released (and free) McAfee Command Line Scanner Project (MCLSP). I will have more to say about this in future posts; suffice it to say this project provides a bootable version of Ubuntu Linux that runs the ‘McAfee Windows Command Line Scanner’ on Linux! This is one very cool tool.

Download the ‘How-To’ and give Ubuntu Linux a test drive. One word of caution for those of you who wondering if the install instructions will work on a USB thumb drive. The answer is yes, it will work. I suggest, however, that you don’t do it. I have tested it and discovered running a full blown version of Ubuntu from a thumb drive is agonizingly slow. Remember, ‘installing’ a Linux distro on a thumb drive is different than creating a ‘ramdisk’ version. I will have more to say about this later.


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