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I would like to install Ubuntu on a hard drive that is accessed via USB.

Then, when all is OK, replace the computer hard disk with that one that was USB-connected.

(Computer used for USB installation and the one receiving the HD is the same machine)

Is there any problem with this approach?


  • drive not recognized the same way by Ubuntu via USB and via (internal) SATA?
  • boot record issues


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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'm pretty sure that GRUB (the bootloader) won't like the difference between a USB hard drive and a sATA hard drive, and may have difficulty booting your installation.

If you reload GRUB to refer to the new location of the Linux kernel, you may be able to accomplish this task.

However, why not put the drive in first, and then install Ubuntu? That seems like a simpler solution.

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Actually I would like the computer to be available asap, if necessary. Installing Ubuntu on a separate drive (USB) allows to boot back quickly to the original setting. More generally, I'm interested in this answer, as we may want to perform pre-installations on hard-drives (via USB) that will be inserted into a case later. – ringø Oct 18 '10 at 2:03
Have you considered hot-swappable drive cages? – Zoot Oct 18 '10 at 2:16
Not for that line of computers (pretty cheap), used for desktops. – ringø Oct 18 '10 at 2:53

What you'll have to do is use UUID of your partition instead of partition special file. If your unbuntu is recent it will use UUID by default in GRUB and /etc/fstab.

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Indeed it seems the Ubuntu fstab uses UUID instead of /dev/sdx. Sounds like a good hint. – ringø Oct 18 '10 at 2:50

The latest Ubuntu releases should handle this ok because they use unique identifiers instead of partition names references that include disc attachment details. It would also be possible to tweak things yourself even on other distros if you knew what the disc details were going to be so that a disk would be bootable.

However, this is really not a recommended route. It would be much better just to put the disc in and install on it the way it will be running in the end. This allows the hardware detection mechanisms to optimize for the platform.

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I guess what you are really looking for is "OEM-Installation". This is available with the ubuntu alternate cd.

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