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Setup: a PC with working linux (Ubuntu in my case), one USB drive. No other removable media available (i.e. no CD/DVD drive, no SD card, no other USB drive...).

Task: install a linux (Fedora in my case) on the USB drive (without modifying the system installed on the PC).

Normally I would use another removable medium, set up a live image there, boot it and install on the desired USB drive from there but there is only a single USB drive is available. Is it possible to achieve this? If it is, how?

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Try using some virtualization software such as VirtualBox and VMWare. These softwares support booting virtual machines with *.iso file. If you decided to use VirtualBox, try these steps.

  1. Install VirtualBox extension pack.
  2. Make a virtual machine with minimum size of virtual hard disk drive attached.
  3. Set up the virtual machine to use USB controller. Select a version of USB which is compatible with your USB drive.
  4. Set up the virtual machine to boot with desired image file. (In your case, Fedora Linux iso file.)
  5. Plug the USB drive on your computer.
  6. Start up the virtual machine and install Fedora Linux on your USB drive.

In my opinion, using virtualization software is a good choice because you won't have problems such as accidentally installing on wrong drive. The worst case will be messing your virtual machine when you use methods like this.

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