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Cautions during partitioning external SSD for Mint 19.1

Guend1

New Member
Could anyone please help me to find some previous topics or posts, about:-
-- What are the cautions, to be considered while partitioning a new external SSD 120 GB, which will be used entirely for Mint 19.1, as dual boot beside Win7 on the internal HDD?
-- In fact, I've searched about it, but couldn’t find something focusing on this point.
-- Could you please advise me about the closest topics or posts about that?
-- Otherwise, could you please help me by explaining that issue?
-- Many thanks in advance
 


TechnoJunky

Active Member
I wouldn't say there are any cautions that you need to worry about, other than the same one you'd have if the device was internal. That caution is don't format or install to the wrong drive. If you format the wrong drive, you'll lose all your data and bootability to Windows. Other than that, there's nothing to be worried about. Many people install Linux, at first, to a USB pen drive. So what you're asking about is basically the same thing. The only thing you might need to do is to continually go into your Bios and tell it to boot to the external drive, if it doesn't automatically do it.
 

Guend1

New Member
@TechnoJunky
Many thanks
((don't format or install to the wrong drive ))
In fact I use external SSD to avoid touching the internal HDD. Is it possible, in spite of that, to format it and install into it? And how to avoid that mistake?
Many thanks in advance
 

TechnoJunky

Active Member
I can tell you that it's not only possible to install to the internal hard drive and wipe out it's contents, but that I have done it myself. And if it wasn't bad enough that I did it, it was my work's laptop. So I had to explain to tech support, without giving too much detail, as to why they shouldn't bother trying to troubleshoot the issue. :rolleyes:

So first thing's first. Once you boot up to your installation media, run 'sudo fdisk -l'. You should then see something like this.
Code:
Disk /dev/sda: 238.5 GiB, 256060514304 bytes, 500118192 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: gpt
Disk identifier: 4CB3CDAF-B302-43C1-8736-383B3A33CB0A

Device         Start       End   Sectors   Size Type
/dev/sda1       2048    206847    204800   100M EFI System
/dev/sda2     206848    239615     32768    16M Microsoft reserved
/dev/sda3     239616 391571455 391331840 186.6G Microsoft basic data
/dev/sda4  496431104 500117503   3686400   1.8G Windows recovery environment
/dev/sda5  391573504 395767807   4194304     2G Linux filesystem
/dev/sda7  412545024 496431103  83886080    40G Linux filesystem

Partition table entries are not in disk order.

Disk /dev/sdb: 931.5 GiB, 1000204886016 bytes, 1953525168 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 4096 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 4096 bytes / 4096 bytes
Disklabel type: gpt
Disk identifier: 4266D668-DF0B-4893-B162-AD57C3F9FBFB

Device          Start        End    Sectors   Size Type
/dev/sdb1        2048 1936746495 1936744448 923.5G Linux filesystem
/dev/sdb2  1936746496 1953523711   16777216     8G Linux swap
So looking at that, you can see that on my computer, I have 2 hard drives, one is sda and the other is sdb. A is the primary hard drive and b is the secondary one. Which is primary and which is not is determined in the BIOS. If I'm not mistaken, your internal hard drive will always be sdA. So using this info, you would then start your installation and when you get to disk setup, ensure you're installing to sdB or whatever drive your external is on. Again, if I'm not mistaken, your installation media will always be the highest letter, in our case it would be sdC.
 
Last edited:

TechnoJunky

Active Member
Oh, and make sure you put the boot loader on the external drive. Otherwise, you may not be able to boot to Windows without the external drive being plugged in. The reason is that if you tell it to install the boot loader to SDA (Windows drive), it will update the boot record and tell it to load the Grub menu on the external drive and without that being plugged in, it'll fail. So choose your external drive for the boot loader (SDB) and then the grub menu will only load when you tell the computer to boot to that disk. So I guess there are 2 cautions, don't install to the wrong hard drive and don't load the boot loader on the internal drive. :)
 

atanere

Moderator
Gold Supporter
One caution from me that I think is very important.... BACKUP important Windows files before you begin. When you are new to this it is your most vulnerable time, and mistakes can happen. We do not want you to lose your Windows data! Another caution, if available, is to create a Windows Recovery USB (or DVD set) before you begin. Most big brand-name computers (Dell, HP, etc) have a tool built-in to create Recovery media. If you built the computer yourself, then you'll probably have a Windows 7 installation DVD instead. In other words, you want to be prepared for the worst while you hope for the best. Good luck!

Cheers
 

wizardfromoz

Super Moderator
Staff member
Gold Supporter
I can tell you that it's not only possible to install to the internal hard drive and wipe out it's contents, but that I have done it myself. And if it wasn't bad enough that I did it, it was my work's laptop. So I had to explain to tech support, without giving too much detail, as to why they shouldn't bother trying to troubleshoot the issue. :rolleyes:
I LOVE that bit, and not unkindly ;), nice one TJ.

There is an added benefit in terms of portability, by having the external bootable. Even if it is a powered unit, you can unplug it and take it to another computer, plug it in and boot, adjust the BIOS setup utility and away you go. Just be sure the other computer has both BIOS and UEFI if your usual environment is UEFI.

There is a type of misleading advice "out there" still, that recommends you unplug your internal HDD cable when you set up the external, to "force" LInux to recognise the external as the target. That is very much Old School.

I have been installing Linux to externals for 5 years and not ever had to go inside my computer to do so. That was with, initially, an Acer All-in-One, then a Toshiba Satellite laptop, and currently a Dell Inspiron laptop.

Cheers

Wizard
 

Condobloke

Well-Known Member
How about disconnecting the internal hard drive while you install 19.1 to the external ?
 

Alexzee

Member
If you plan to dual boot you will first have to shrink your Windows partition in order to make room for your Linux installation. Once that's done you can install Linux to that drive with Windows on it.
Just make sure you take your time when creating partitions for the install and don't forget to install Grub to the MBR.

Enjoy your Linux Mint! :)
 

atanere

Moderator
Gold Supporter
If you plan to dual boot you will first have to shrink your Windows partition in order to make room for your Linux installation.
That isn't usually required with Mint, but many people prepare a partition in advance like that. When installing Linux Mint, if it properly detects the Windows system, it will offer the choice to "Install alongside Windows." This option usually works very well for newbies. But this choice is also to install Linux and Windows together on the same hard drive... and this thread is about installing Linux on an external drive.

No matter which method of installing you choose, each has some advantage and some disadvantage. You should take great care to read each screen and understand what you are doing... but being new makes it hard to understand some of these things. And so it is also why it is so easy for a mistake to happen that could make your computer unable to boot one (or both) operating systems. If you have a problem like that, you can usually get out of it, but again, you have to take care to follow instructions that sometimes are not clear and that you may not understand. You learn these things with time, with practice, and sometimes, unfortunately, by mistakes.

I was also going to suggest, like @Condobloke, to remove the Windows drive while installing Linux. It's a simple method if you are comfortable unplugging hard drive cables. (Yes, I am "old school." :p) But as @wizardfromoz noted, it isn't necessary. Maybe it's more trouble than it's worth. And really, when you get into Linux, you will need to learn at least some basics about hard drive partitions and how Linux and Windows treat them differently, and name them differently (no more C:\ or D:\ drive assignments).

There is a lot to learn, in time, but we all think that it's well worth it. Many of us no longer use Windows at all and are quite happy about that.

Cheers
 

Guend1

New Member
Many thanks for continuing giving valuable advices.
I searched for tutorials for the linux beginners, I found some old on linux sites.
++ but about the new Mint 19.1, and its windows of every step while partitioning and installing, I couldn't reach anything, but only some videos with very small and unclear images.
++ Could you please advise about some written tutorials, that give detailed explanation of every element of every screen, step by step, about partitioning and installing Mint 19.1?
Many thanks in advance
 

atanere

Moderator
Gold Supporter
Could you please advise about some written tutorials, that give detailed explanation of every element of every screen, step by step, about partitioning and installing Mint 19.1?
I'd guess you are not searching very hard... there are literally hundreds of web pages with instructions and videos on how to install Linux. But it may well be that none of them will show your own exact situation (Linux Mint 19.1, to external SSD). Please expand your thinking... installing Linux Mint 19 is basically the same as Mint 18, or Mint 17. Also, installing Linux Mint is very similar to installing Ubuntu, because Mint is based on Ubuntu.

If you want to leave your internal hard drive plugged in while installing Linux, you should look at many of these installation instructions to help gain an understanding of how Linux identifies drives. You need this understanding so you install Linux to the external... so you don't overwrite your internal drive and erase your Windows. But you have already been warned to backup Windows data, in case you don't do this right.

If the fear of damaging Windows is too great, then unplug your Windows hard drive before installing Linux. You will simply boot on the Linux USB flash drive, and tell the installer to "erase disk and use the entire USB external hard drive" to put Linux. It will setup the partitions and put the bootloader on that drive. Or, even if you goof up with this type of install... nothing is harmed, and just start over. If you install correctly, you just reboot when finished and it works. Then plug Windows back in.... but you will likely have to use your BIOS Boot Menu (when the computer is starting) to get Linux, as it will probably only boot Windows normally. Having 2 operating systems means that you must have a way to choose.... using the BIOS Boot Menu is as good as any other method. You have to be quick to interrupt the boot to choose the non-default system.

When you learn what you're doing, this stuff is all very simple... but it has gotten more complicated in recent years due to differences with BIOS and UEFI firmware on motherboards. But the only way to learn it is to get out online and read about it, then do it. Below are a couple of links that I found on a very quick search.... you can do much better than these. I did not watch the hour-long video though.

https://linuxmint-installation-guide.readthedocs.io/en/latest/install.html


Special things I'd suggest during the installation:

1. Do not encrypt your hard drive (or home folder). Encryption brings a level of complexity that is not good for beginners.

2. Do not use "LVM" if you see it on one of the install screens. LVM is a partitioning method and is also too complex for beginners.

3. If you unplug Windows hard drive, you can use the "Erase disk and use entire hard drive". But if you leave the Windows hard drive plugged in, you will need to choose "Something else" so that you can put Linux on the correct external drive. The "Something else" screen (actual title of this screen is "Installation type") is also where you must choose the correct drive (external) for the Linux bootloader.

Cheers
 

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