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I've dual booted Mint and Windows 7, but I'd really like to get rid of Windows all together. And from what I understand, it's not really a true dual boot, but it's actually just running from inside Windows.

So I was wondering if there was a way to install Mint on a blank SSD (in an external enclosure), so I can just later swap it for my HDD.

And if this isn't possible, please explain why.

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If you're dual-booting, it is not "just running from inside Windows": that would be virtualization.

You could install Mint on an external hard drive and then put it inside your machine, but you might have to edit /etc/fstab (e.g. the external hard drive is detected as sdb and, when you put it as the main HDD, it becomes sda). But even then, that is unlikely: I believe Mint uses UUIDs for partitions.

Also, you could put the SSD in your machine (moving the HDD to the enclosure) and directly install Mint there.

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Mint does indeed use UUIDs. –  terdon Sep 29 '12 at 10:47
    
Could I do that if the SSD is completely blank? If so, would I need a bootable usb? –  Matt Sep 29 '12 at 22:07
    
@Matt Yes, you can do this using a Mint live-CD. –  Renan Sep 29 '12 at 22:58
    
@Renan What about my lack of optical drive? Would a usb not work? –  Matt Sep 29 '12 at 23:21
    
@Matt an USB drive would work, too. –  Renan Sep 29 '12 at 23:57
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As Renan said, if you are rebooting your computer between each system, then that is dual booting. Can you install Mint on an external device and boot from that? Yes, if the settings allow :)

I have done this with Ubuntu before. First I booted from a LiveCD on the computer, and I selected the external drive as the device to install to. Be careful to make sure that GRUB is written to the external drive and not your internal drive. After installing to the external drive, you may need to enter the BIOS of your computer to allow booting from the external device.

After doing that, you should have a portable Linux operating system. Mine is installed to an old 40GB external usb drive, and I use it to diagnose/rescue problems with Windows computers.

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