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I am going on a trip (bus) and I will not be bringing my computer. However, I would like the comfort of my Linux operating system the way I like it, with my programs and files.

I was wondering if it is safe to simply take out my SSD from my main computer, put it in an anti-static bag, pad it with the clothes in my suit case, and take it with me.

Where I will be staying there is a desktop that also has Linux on it, booting from Grub, the same boot-loader I use. However, I believe I am on a more recent version of Grub than that computer.

I have heard it is not a good idea to transfer a hard drive from one computer to another with different system specs. I do not know why it was not advised, however. Maybe simply because Windows would think it was an illegal copy, I don't know. What possible problems could I have? Will dual-booting work fine just like it does on my main system? Will different Grub versions be a problem? I don't see a problem with taking this simple approach, and avoiding the hassle of trying to transfer files and programs. Does anyone know why it is not recommended?

Thank you very much for your help.

  • Grub versions don't matter if you swap hard drives. It's usually because you lack drivers on the other computer. – cutrightjm Jun 16 '17 at 3:32
  • A much simpler solution is to put the OS and files you need on a bootable USB stick. You might need to change BIOS settings on the target computer before you can use this, but that's still significantly less intrusive than replacing its primary fixed disk. – tripleee Jun 16 '17 at 7:27
  • Okay, thank you. I considered trying a bootable USB stick, or my USB external hard drive, but I was wondering if I could avoid setting all that up, and slower speeds of going through a USB rather than an SSD (which can be quite substantial), by simply moving my hard drive. Along with the risk of damage from the trip, I guess it's not worth it. I'll make a bootable OS on my USB drive. – Uncle Snail Jun 16 '17 at 12:42
  • Most of your questions are answered in our reference question on migration to new hardware. – Gilles Jun 16 '17 at 21:10
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Modern Linux installations are generally fairly portable. Moving a bootable disk to another machine with different specs should generally work, at least to the point where you can log in to the console, and probably all the way through to a working graphical X11 session, as long as the CPU architecture remains the same.

Anything requiring special drivers is likely to work poorly, or in the worst case not at all.

Display hardware (in particular, graphics acceleration), some network cards, and some disks (high-performance RAID devices for example) might require you to install additional kernel drivers, or start the kernel with specific boot parameters. Some motherboards and bus architectures have similar issues. Ideally, there will be a fallback option to get working but slow, or otherwise below-spec performance; in the worst case, some things will not work at all (wifi, odd function keys, touchpads and other post-1995 input devices, basic VGA-level display graphics?)

If you can boot to the bare console, you can get command-line work done. If your work requires a fast high-resolution graphics display and lots of fast disk storage, you are somewhat less likely to get to the point where at least you can limp along.

There are "live CD" images for many distros which will boot on most reasonably standard contemporary hardware. Knoppix paved the way, once upon a time, but these days, most distros have a bootable USB image which allows you to work without touching the host system's hard drive at all. (Maybe put your home directory on a separate stick if you don't have one large enough to host both the OS and your personal files.)

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