I'm interested in a high-level view of booting Linux from a partition separate from Windows using a USB bootloader.

My work computer must have Windows 10 on it because of company policy. IT is hesitant to allow a dual boot since there are several potential problems. They have instead approved use of a persistent USB Linux. However, I'm concerned about the integrity of this.

It seems the root problems with dual boot come from a shared MBR. If so, the problem ought to be overcome by, effectively, having separate MBRs.

  • How might I go about installing Linux on a SSD partition and booting from USB?
  • What problems can I anticipate?
  • Is this a fool's errand?

It seems like the process would go something like,

  1. Use Windows to create a new partition
  2. Install Linux on the partition without an MBR
  3. Format and install GRUB on a USB
  4. Configure GRUB to point to either the Windows install or the Linux install
  5. Configure the BIOS to boot from USB first
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    Have you considered virtual-box. I had lots of problems with IT support at work: Delays in approving stuff for instillation, etc. So I put is a request for Virtual-box, it took twice as long as any other request, but once installed, I never asked for anything else again. I just installed Debian, and everything else I needed. – ctrl-alt-delor Jan 8 '19 at 20:40
  • Yes, I have, thank you. That's a reasonable suggestion. Yet it seems that working from a VM always has a problem, from mouse integration despite guest additions, or 100% CPU usage within the VM on common operations with apt, to corrupted guest images when closing the host laptop lid. I've also used Cygwin, MSYS2, and MinGW yet have to jump through Windows related hoops, seemingly inevitably, despite all claims otherwise. Things Just Work™ with bare metal. The closer I can get to that, the happier I'll be. – Lorem Ipsum Jan 8 '19 at 21:14
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    FWIW I had success with VMWare-10 on Win-7 in a highly restrictive corporate environment - once I had found the VMWare-10 binary and licence on our directory of pre-approved apps, I was away (I choose Fedora and client). Never looked back, never had the problems that you outline. Only inconvenience was I still had to use Outlook but copy-paste and file transfer between client and host made it pretty easy. – wef Jan 8 '19 at 22:08
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    That said, I think your plan for a USB MBR sounds doable. – wef Jan 8 '19 at 22:10
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    Yes there are problems messing with the Windows 10 boot partition simply don't do it; have BIOS point to GRUB on separate disk/usb_stick and boot that; then GRUB will menu prompt boot your win10 disk or boot linux disk. You basically install CentOS_7 on disk2, grub2-mkconfig and it automatically recognizes win10 on disk1 and creates a menu entry. I do this at home, always boot grub on my linux ssd and then menu select via grub what to boot, I default to my win10_home disk. Any linux using grub2 will likely do the same. – ron Jan 10 '19 at 22:02