I was wondering if it was possible to actually install a Linux distribution on an SD card or any other external drive. What I was planning to do was basically inserting the SD in my MacBook, turning it on pressing the Option key and choose the SD as boot source.

I am quite concerned by two issues: 1. Can this actually be done? I am aware this can be done on a partition of my hard drive, but I'm not sure about external drives. 2. What about the speed? Would it be too slow?

  • Googling for "macbook boot from sd card" seems to provide plenty of tutorials on how to do this. The speed will largely depend on the SD card speed class, if you pick a good card it should be sufficient for practical use. – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 28 '15 at 15:43

Installing Linux on an SD card can be done. A good example is the Raspberry Pi, whose OS is always installed on an SD card.

At least for those uses, the speed seems to be sufficient.


If your system can boot from external media (e.g. USB ssd drive) it can be done. You should make sure that you use persistent drive identifiers (UUID). The speed depends on the speed of your drive and the connection (USB, etc.). In general, it is faster than a classical hard drive.

Edit: As @Dmitry pointed out, booting from an sd card works a little different but can be done in your case as well.

  • Booting from USB and SD are two different things. Few computers support booting from SD cards, fortunately, MacBook is among them. – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 28 '15 at 15:45
  • @Dmitry Thank you for the additional information. – mrub Sep 28 '15 at 15:51
  1. Yes, just make an installation to the device representing your SD card.
  2. If you don't mind about booting time you can be OK since it may take a little more (SDs have different speeds some may take a lot more some may take a bit). After that you're system may be faster than from an HD if you load the whole system to memory and run it from there. Boot may take a little more but once system is up you will get great speeds, keep in mind that if you do this you may need to sync the system before stopping it or all changes will be lost. You may mount /home in your SD or other device to keep users changes without syncing.

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