I have a difficult problem that I'm trying to solve.

Currently, I am using Mac OSX and I want to create a full Ubuntu partition on my home computer; this is fine.

I'm currently doing a lot of development work, both from my home as well as at University, where there are a lot of machines and each machines cannot install specific software or libraries.

What I am wanting to do is have an external HD, that I can plug into my main computer (at home) and synchronise the Ubuntu image so I can take it into University and just boot Ubuntu from my external HD. I can then work from this image (WIll have all the files, software, libraries etc..) and all of the work that I do whilst I university when I come home, I can then transfer this onto my main computer.. SO that I'm always up-to-date no matter where I am.

I cannot use remote desktop since my home computer isn't always on. Could anyone therefore provide any tutorials or guidance to how I can do this?


It sounds like you are looking for a persistent USB install? Is that correct?

The basic procedure is to install your Linux distribution on to the USB drive and then boot from it. The trick is making the Linux install persistent, the basic procedure is (shamelessly copied adapted from here)

  1. Boot into a Live Session of your Linux of choice (Ubuntu in this case)
  2. Once your up and running, insert your USB disk
  3. You now have to run usb-creator, according to the Ubuntu Docs:

    You can find usb-creator-gtk in the Unity Dash by typing "Startup Disk Creator" (Ubuntu Desktop) or usb-creator-kde in K-Menu-->Applications-->System-->Startup Disk Creator (Kubuntu). If it is not there, then you can install it using the Synaptic Package Manager or Ubuntu Software Center

  4. Open a terminal and run usb-creator and click the option to Create a USB startup disk. From the Make USB Startup Disk window, (1) Select USB disk to use, (2) Select the option Stored in reserved extra space and adjust the slider to set capacity to use, (3) Click the Make Startup Disk button:

    enter image description here

    Once the installation has finished, remove the CD, restart your computer and set your BIOS to boot from the USB device. You should be able to take this to your machine at work and boot of the USB drive there. You may have to do some tweaking each time because of the different hardware, post another question if you encounter problems.

For more info, see the many many howtos on http://www.pendrivelinux.com (make sure you are looking at the "persistent ones". I also recommend you read the tutorial I got this info from since they have more pretty pictures. It describes the process for Kubuntu 8.10 but the main idea is the same as you can also see in the Ubuntu docs.

Finally, you might want to consider if you really need an installed OS, or if you just need a simple Live Image that stores its data on your drive. If you just store the files you work on on your drive, you can access them from whatever OS, just use a file system that is easy to configure for multiple OSs like NTFS.

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  • Hey, but, the thing would be is this: I would not want my main Computer to always have to boot from the external HD.. This would not be a safe option for me.. – Phorce Nov 19 '13 at 18:47
  • @user1326876 then don't. The BIOS boot order is just an order. If your disk is not plugged in, it will not boot from it but from your normal drive. You can also add the USB disk to your boot loader and only boot from it when you want. – terdon Nov 19 '13 at 18:48
  • So I could therefore boot without the need of the USB on my home device, but, have a clone of the disk on the actual USB and take this away with me? I'm so confused :( – Phorce Nov 19 '13 at 18:50
  • @user1326876 there are many options. If you set the USB as default boot device for your home system then: 1) if the USB is present, it will boot from it 2) if it is not present, it will boot from the next boot device=> your local hard drive. If you want to have the same system on your home and work computer, you will have to boot from the USB in both cases. Isn't that what you asked for? If you don't want the same system, just the same data, I don't see the problem. Just save all your work to USB at home and at work and that's it. – terdon Nov 19 '13 at 18:53
  • I get it now :) SO what I'm going to do is this: Get an external HD, create the image onto that.. At home/work I'll boot from the external HD and make nightly backups etc.. BUT. What I wanted to do for my home PC is completely remove mac OSX and just run ubuntu.. Doing it this way that won't be possible? – Phorce Nov 19 '13 at 18:56

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