Mac How-To Install Ubuntu to External USB Hard Drive

By | 2010/06/26

This guide is for Intel Mac (only!)

How to install Ubuntu to external USB hard disk and leave your existing Intel Apple machine and internal hard drive untouched.

There seems to be a lot of confusion over this topic. Here is a method that works if you don’t want to/are unable to alter your existing OS X install or hard disk.

Before beginning, back everything up from your internal OS X hard drive install!
Instructions are at your own risk. Be careful not to install over your internal hard drive.

You will need the following before starting:

– USB hard drive
– Ubuntu install CD (http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/download)
rEFIt bootable CD (http://refit.sourceforge.net/doc/c1s5_burning.html)
* rEFIt is no longer maintained. Consider using rEFInd

– Coffee


1. Connect your USB hard drive, and reboot with the Ubuntu install CD in the drive. Hold down ‘c’, and when the disc boots, hit enter to begin the Ubuntu install as normal.

2. (Important!) During the install at ‘Prepare Disk Space‘, choose your USB hard drive as the location to install Ubuntu. It will default to the internal hard drive – change this or else you will accidentally install on the internal drive!

02macubuntu-2 03macubuntu-2

3. (Also important!) At the last point of the install where it says Ready To Install and you are given a summary screen, CLICK Advanced

04macubuntu-2

Here CHANGE the hard drive location for the boot loader. It will default to the internal drive location first. Change it to the /dev/sdb or other location of the external USB hard drive.

06macubuntu-2

4. Sit back and let Ubuntu install. At the end of the install, click to reboot and wait for Ubuntu to eject the CD. Now insert your rEFIt bootable CD.

5. Reboot with the rEFIt CD in the drive. Hold down ‘c’ as the machine turns on, and there you will enter the rEFIt boot menu. Select Linux Hard Drive and press enter.


Example rEFIt boot screen


You will need to boot from this rEFIt CD to enter Ubuntu! (Do step 5 in order to boot into Ubuntu!)

This leaves the existing internal hard drive and OS X install untouched.

Done!

118 thoughts on “Mac How-To Install Ubuntu to External USB Hard Drive

  1. Spettro

    It doesn’t work:
    – Refit 0.14
    – Ubuntu 10.04.1
    – Macbook 4,1

    Any suggestion please?

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Can you provide more details?

      Did the install finish ok / where exactly is it getting stuck / can you boot off the refit CD ok / have you tried the latest version of Ubuntu (10.10) / have you searched ubuntuforums.org , etc ? for example

      The more details the better. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Spettro

    The install finished ok.
    When I restart choosing the tux, from the screen of refit cd, I have a black screen saying ‘Missing operating system’.
    I followed every step of your article, i thought it was complete!

    p.s. The images in your article are about ubuntu 10.04, not 10.10.

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Re: 10.04 images in this article – yep, this post you found is from June 2010, before Ubuntu 10.10 which is as of today the latest version of Ubuntu.

      Probably after 11.04 is released I will update the screenshots. It may look a little different, but the process is the same.

      Right off hand it sounds as if your external drive is missing the boot loader, or the boot loader did not install correctly for some reason.

      It certainly won’t hurt to try the install again with 10.10 or check out ubuntuforums.org ‘s apple section for more info as well.

      Reply
  3. Spettro

    I took the hard disk from the usb case and I put it inside the macbook and the system started up.
    This Ubuntu 10.04 automated installation procedure is not suited for an external usb on a macbook.

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Seems that error is common, and a problem with refit for some.

      http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=767677

      “Once you boot into the rEFIt menu, choose to start the partition tool. It will ask if you want to sync your partitions. Say yes. after rebooting, you should be able to select the Linux icon in rEFIt and it will boot into your Ubuntu install.”

      Cheers,

      Reply
  4. David

    Greetings and thanks for some info on how to do this. One question, though…I have all of pictures and tunes on my external hard drive now. Also my Time Machine backups. If I follow these directions, will I lose my pictures, tunes, and backups??? If so, how can I still install Ubuntu on the the external hard drive and save all this data???

    Thanks!!!

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Yes you will lose all of your data on that external drive.

      Get a different external drive for Ubuntu. 🙂

      Regards,

      Reply
  5. ben

    I followed these steps and installed ubuntu 10.10 on the second partition of an external usb drive (the first being a jhfs+ I use for time machine on my internal os x 10.5.8 install, if that matters in any way). BTW, the install gui has changed, and I did not even find a place to change where grub is installed. Thankfully, it did install to /dev/hdb’s MBR. I restarted, synced the partition tables (I already had rEFIt installed), and clicked on the linux icon. The full gray screen with tux in the middle appears followed by an all black screen with no cursor or anything. The system quits there. Any idea what’s gone wrong? Here’s some output from boot info script if that’s helpful:

    Syslinux is installed in the MBR of /dev/sda
    => Grub 2 is installed in the MBR of /dev/sdb and looks on the same drive in
    partition #2 for (,msdos2)/boot/grub.

    sda1: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: vfat
    Boot sector type: BSD4.4: Fat32
    Boot sector info: No errors found in the Boot Parameter Block.
    Operating System:
    Boot files/dirs:

    sda2: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: hfsplus
    Boot sector type: –
    Boot sector info:
    Operating System:
    Boot files/dirs:

    sdb1: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: hfsplus
    Boot sector type: –
    Boot sector info:
    Operating System:
    Boot files/dirs:

    sdb2: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: ext3
    Boot sector type: –
    Boot sector info:
    Operating System: Ubuntu 10.10
    Boot files/dirs: /boot/grub/grub.cfg /etc/fstab /boot/grub/core.img

    sdb3: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: vfat
    Boot sector type: BSD4.4: Fat32
    Boot sector info: According to the info in the boot sector, sdb3 starts
    at sector 0. But according to the info from fdisk,
    sdb3 starts at sector 734527584.
    Operating System:
    Boot files/dirs:

    sdb4: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: Extended Partition
    Boot sector type: –
    Boot sector info:

    sdb5: _________________________________________________________________________

    File system: swap
    Boot sector type: –
    Boot sector info:

    =========================== Drive/Partition Info: =============================

    Drive: sda ___________________ _____________________________________________________

    Disk /dev/sda: 60.0 GB, 60011642880 bytes
    255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 7296 cylinders, total 117210240 sectors
    Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes

    Partition Boot Start End Size Id System

    /dev/sda1 1 409,639 409,639 ee GPT
    /dev/sda2 * 409,640 116,948,055 116,538,416 af HFS

    GUID Partition Table detected.

    Partition Start End Size System
    /dev/sda1 40 409,639 409,600 System/Boot Partition
    /dev/sda2 409,640 116,948,055 116,538,416 HFS+

    Drive: sdb ___________________ _____________________________________________________

    Disk /dev/sdb: 500.1 GB, 500107861504 bytes
    255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders, total 976773167 sectors
    Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes

    Partition Boot Start End Size Id System

    /dev/sdb1 63 524,550,206 524,550,144 af HFS
    /dev/sdb2 * 524,550,222 734,527,565 209,977,344 83 Linux
    /dev/sdb3 734,527,584 973,103,247 238,575,664 b W95 FAT32
    /dev/sdb4 973,103,290 976,773,104 3,669,815 5 Extended
    /dev/sdb5 973,103,292 976,773,104 3,669,813 82 Linux swap /”

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Hm, that sounds like it’s missing grub. Or grub was installed in the wrong place. Maybe start over? Careful – you could possibly trash your time machine backups if the Ubuntu installer installs over that existing HFS partition. (!)

      I’ll try and update screenshots when 11.04 comes out,

      Reply
      1. ben

        actually i found the problem. i already had refit installed, so i ignored your step that called for starting with the bootable refit cd. however, when i booted with that cd in and clicked linux from the refit screen grub appeared. i clicked ubuntu and ta-da. soo.. sounds like i should’ve followed your steps, although it makes no sense to me why booting with that cd would make any difference, since it shouldn’t have any effect on whether the external hd is bootable. any idea what the deal is there? btw, thanks for the instructions. they were spot on.

        sometimes after i choose ubuntu from grub it halts at a black screen again, but if i tap the power button (i.e., suspend/unsuspend) it continues the boot process. any clues about that one? could this have to do with grub thinking my timemachine backup is a bootable os x partition? (which it is, i assume. i just started using timemachine when i got this drive yesterday.)

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          That would be because you have refit installed on the internal drive, when your mac boots from the internal drive, it doesn’t need to load an external drives so when initialy booting from an external drive before it loads the internal helps boot linux better when booting refit from a cd

          Reply
  6. Newman

    Hi there,

    hummm…. I tried above procedure to install ubuntu 11.04 to external hard disk connected USB drive. The problem was when I insert the refit bootloader CD after installing Ubuntu 11.04 to USB HDD, then I tried boot from rEFIt however it appears “Grub rescue” prompt always. I’ve been using Grub2 bootloader.

    Anything wrong the set-up procedure?

    kindly regards,

    Reply
  7. Sei

    Hi, I have followed your steps with some differenses. One: I installed it on a partition on my external hdd. Two: I already have rEFIt installed so I did not use the cd. Turer: I installed ubuntu 11.10. When everything has installed without error and I have synced inside rEFIt I see the linux alternetiv in the boot menu. When I choose the linux alternetiv however I just get “missing operating system”. I have reinstalled 5 or 6 times no differense… Any ideas?

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Natively installed rEFIt has trouble booting to a second drive. ( http://refit.sourceforge.net/help/multiple_disks.html ) When booting from an rEFIt CD, it sees your external drive as a single/only drive, and just works. I could never get it to work natively as you have tried above and had to resort to a CD for booting. :/

      Reply
  8. raleigh

    but then you still need the disk drive to boot! the whole point is that its on my external hdd not the disk! btw i have a mba so i gotta use the super drive

    Reply
  9. raleigh

    would this delete any data already on the external hard drive?

    Reply
    1. scott Post author

      Yes it will wipe out any and all data on your external drive.

      Reply
  10. scott Post author

    Note: rEfIt does not work (yet!) with OS X Lion. So you can install Linux, but cannot ever boot from the rEFIt CD.

    So probably wait until there is an update to rEFIt before attempting with a Lion machine. Thanks,

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      rEFIt is no longer supported, use rEFInd instead as it acts the same.

      Reply
  11. Cody

    There is an alternative to rEFIt out there that is built on the original. It is called rEFInd and can be found here.

    Reply
  12. a-fan-of-mario

    I know this thread is kinda old but to all people trying to run ubuntu from hdd with refit on the internal hdd, it cuts power to usb devices wheb booting, but when using refit on cd or from the hdd itself, the power wont be cut to usb devices as it knows they need to be used

    Reply
  13. JP

    I’ve followed the directions and they have worked great, up to the point where
    I reboot with rEFIt in the CD drive. When I do this I get to select between my
    OSX and TUX installations. When I select the TUX installation it tells me that no
    boot device is present. I saw from a previous comment that I should run rEFIt
    partition tool. I did this and it tells me that the MBR and GPT are out of sync.
    Bear with me, I am no MBR expert. I __COULD__ just accept the partition tools
    suggested fix, but I am looking for a little advice from an expert.

    Here is what it tells me:
    Current GPT:
    #________StartLBA_______EndLBA_________Type
    1_________40___________409639_________EFI System (FAT)
    2______409640_________1953262903____MAX OSX HFS+

    Current MBR:
    #________StartLBA_______EndLBA_________Type
    1_________1___________1953525167______EE EFI Protective

    Proposed MBR:
    #________StartLBA_______EndLBA_________Type
    1_________1_____________409639_________EE EFI Protective
    2______409640_________1953262903_____AF MAX OSX HFS+

    The install of ubuntu I did was on an external USB drive. My internal OSX is on
    a 256G SSD drive. I also have 1TB for user/storage in the system.

    Advice/Questions:
    1) It looks like the proposed fix is to define to possible boot records in the MBR?
    Is that really what I want?
    2) What happens when I disconnect my external drive with ubuntu on it and restart
    the machine? Is MBR going to cause problems because I have these two entries in
    it and really there is only one connected in the system at this time when I reboot.
    3) Does it makes sense that I have to make this change?
    4) Would I ever need to restore the MBR? And if so, how would I?

    Reply
  14. NS-1m

    I think the solution of successfully running linux in external usb drive (hard drive) in Macbook is to have a EFI boot.

    I managed to run usb install Linux Mint 13 (cinnamon) ~ (Ubuntu 12.04 derivative) without any reFit or reFind installed in the system. I created .dmg and dd into usb stick. It booted in my macbookpro retina. I have not installed yet in external hard drive since I don’ t have one yet.

    My plan is to installed Linux Mint in external HDD and then update the Linux kernel to 3.5.x from ubuntu repository. MacbookPro retina needs 3.5.x linux kernel to work properly (e.g. nvidia card, wifi and thurderbolt.

    I suggest try to install Linux Mint 13 or new Ubuntu which as support to EFI booting if you want external linux installation working.

    Reply
  15. Mike

    I can verify that a Ubuntu 12.10 live installer on a usb stick, made with unetbootin, will boot on a MacBook Air (mine is 2010) without rEFIt. That is because it supports EFI booting. The only trick is that at startup, you must hold down the option key and choose the “EFI” disk. I’m pretty sure that Ubuntu 12.04 will do the same, but the current version of Puppy Linux, based on Ubuntu 12.04, will not – it doesn’t show as a boot disk even with the option key. However, what I am really after is a persistent usb that will allow saved changes. I have done a lot of internet searching to find out how to do this and even after trying some of the suggestions, I have yet to solve this problem. I know one solution will likely work – install from the live usb stick onto another usb stick. But I’m afraid to do this for fear of messing up my internal drive. You can do this without concern on an MBP by easily disconnecting the internal drive before starting the process, but that’s less easy on a MBA. If anyone knows how to solve this problem, I’d like to hear about it.

    Reply
    1. Zach

      I tried making a live bootable disk with unetbootin on my MB, using Ubuntu 13.04, and it worked. I was able to keep files and settings using the option: “space to preserve files across reboots (ubuntu only)” in unetbootin. I am assuming this is now standard across all versions of unetbootin, not just the version i used on my MB.

      Reply
    2. supermariofan25

      It’s easy with the 2012 and up modle MacBook Airs, just unscrew the SSD card and pull it out. Much like RAM, and is accessible as soon as the back cover comes off.

      Reply
  16. Milan Senar

    I followed all the procedures mentioned above but when I choose Linux (Ubuntu), Windows boots instead of Windows, since I have dual boot Mac OSX and Windows 7. Any possible explanations to what I am missing?

    Reply
    1. ceteco

      I’ve got the same s*** going on here. Windows boots up instead of Mint. What do?

      Reply
  17. jonoave

    My question is: Can I safely wipe the Ubuntu installation later, and just boot automatically into my Mac?

    The reason is I’m using a company Mac, and later when I return it I’d like to remove any traces of Ubuntu on it.

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      That’s the beauty of Ubuntu on an external HDD once you unplug the USB there will be no trace that Ubuntu was ever run on that Mac unless there was a boot time log. You could even use the Ubuntu USB on a public computer and no one will know as long as you don’t get caught in the act.

      Reply
      1. jonoave

        Thanks a lot for your quick reply.

        Just to clarify – can the rEFIt boot menu be removed as well? I.e. the when I restart the mac, it will just boot automatically into OS X.

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          rEFIt is old, a newer variant called rEFInd is available and works the same, yes they both can be uninstalled but I would recemend installing rEFInd to a USB instead so you don’t have to, trust me as I use USB Ubuntu daily and the USB rEFInd works fine.

          Reply
          1. jonoave

            Wow, thanks again for your quick reply. I’ll try this soon and hope it works!

          2. supermariofan25

            Just a few quick tips;
            1. DON’T use rEFInd to boot from the CD/DVD, only use it to boot the USB after installing.
            2. When booting the Live CD make sure to boot the EFI part of the disc.
            3. When Installing make sure to boot loader gets installed to the EFI partition of your USB drive e.g. /dev/sdb1 on WD Elements Drive
            4. From personal experience I would recommend Ubuntu 13.04 or higher and to make the disc has minimal or no scratches as that would stop the Live CD from booting.
            Enjoy.

          3. supermariofan25

            Sorry many typo’s, here’s a repost as I can’t edit the last one.

            Just a few quick tips;
            1. DON’T use rEFInd to boot from the CD/DVD, only use it to boot the USB after installing.
            2. When booting the Live CD make sure to boot the EFI part of the disc.
            3. When Installing make sure the boot loader gets installed to the EFI partition of your USB drive e.g. /dev/sdb1 on WD Elements Drive
            4. From personal experience I would recommend Ubuntu 13.04 or higher and to make sure the disc has minimal or no scratches as that would stop the Live CD from booting.
            Enjoy.

  18. jonoave

    Thanks for the additional details. Last question (hopefully!):
    “When Installing make sure the boot loader gets installed to the EFI partition of your USB drive e.g. /dev/sdb1 on WD Elements Drive”

    How do I check the location of the EFI partition of my USB drive? I’ll be using SanDisk SSD.

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      Reposting so that it will be a direct reply.

      The EFI partition will ALWAYS be the 1st partition on the disk, but you have to partition the USB disk to GUID first using Disk Utillity in OS X before installing (make sure to use the GUID Partition Table, not Master Boot Record, not Apple Partiton Table, ONLY GUID Partition Table). I personally would recommend adding a second Partiton for Linux Swap (when installing this will be the third partition as the Ubuntu installation shows the EFI partition whereas OS X hides it). As for knowing which partition to use, the Ubuntu installation has a list with Device names followed by their partitions for Boot Loader installation e.g My external HDD showed up as “WD Elements (/dev/sdb)” followed by “/dev/sdb1” which was the EFI partition.

      Reply
  19. supermariofan25

    The EFI partition will ALWAYS be the 1st partition on the disk, but you have to partition the USB disk to GUID first using Disk Utillity in OS X before installing (make sure to use the GUID Partition Table, not Master Boot Record, not Apple Partiton Table, ONLY GUID Partition Table). I personally would recommend adding a second Partiton for Linux Swap (when installing this will be the third partition as the Ubuntu installation shows the EFI partition whereas OS X hides it). As for knowing which partition to use, the Ubuntu installation has a list with Device names followed by their partitions for Boot Loader installation e.g My external HDD showed up as “WD Elements (/dev/sdb)” followed by “/dev/sdb1” which was the EFI partition.

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      P.S the Linux Swap Partiton should only be about the same size as your installed RAM e.g 4-8 GB’s also how big is the Sandisk SSD that you are using, in GB’s?

      Reply
      1. jonoave

        I’ll be using a 128 GB SSD. I have done Ubuntu installations before, usually I allocate 1 GB for the swap partition.

        I have not done any partitioning before to EFI/GUID type for MAC. So how many partitions do I need for my SSD using the OS X Disk Utility and how much should I allocate for each partition?

        Thanks a lot for your detailed explanations.

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          When partitioning using GUID the EFI Partition is automatically placed and can’t be changed so you would only need to make 2 Partions for Ubuntu and swap, and the EFI partition would be created as well, don’t worry as its only really small. To create a partition table in GUID make sure you are in the “Partition” tab for your device in Disk Utility, choose an amount of partitions from the drop down list labeled “Current” then click “Options…” and select “GUID Partition Table”.

          P.S even though the Partition Table is GUID, format the partitions to “MS-DOS (FAT)” (a.k.a FAT 32).

          Reply
          1. jonoave

            Thanks again.

            Thanks for the reminder of using FAT32 filetype. This is my first time using Mac, and was initially surprised why I couldn’t copy files from my Mac into an old external hard disk.

            So I just need 2 partitions – 8 GB for swap (8 gb ram on my Mac) in 1 partition and the remaining <120 GB in another?

  20. supermariofan25

    When installing Ubuntu the partitions cant be written to by Ubuntu though when install you have to change them to ext4 or Linux Swap anyway.

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      Sorry, many typo’s

      When installing Ubuntu the partitions cant be written to by Ubuntu if they are HFS+ Journaled, even though when installing you have to change them to ext4 or Linux Swap anyway.

      Reply
      1. jonoave

        Sorry I don’t understand this part. So is it alright if I just use Fat32 for the swap and installation partition?

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          sorry,

          Before installing, when you are still in OS X and are making the partitions on the USB drive, use the GUID partition table but format the separate partitions to FAT_32 (MS_DOS (FAT) as OS X likes to call it). When Installing Ubuntu reformat the partitions to ext4 and SWAP respectively so ubuntu can use them. Make sure to keep the partition table to GUID (although you shouldn’t be prompted to change it) and to install the Boot loader (GRUB) to partition 1 e.g./dev/sdb1.

          Reply
          1. supermariofan25

            So basically partition one will be left the same (other than installing GRUB on it, it wont need to be reformatted), partition two will be reformatted to ext4 and mount point set to / (root), partition three will be reformatted to SWAP

  21. supermariofan25

    Yes, so after installing that partition layout should be something like

    Sandisk 128 GB (/dev/sdb?) (don’t know if yours will be /sdb or /sdc, you will find out when installing, just the for the similar partition layout)
    1. /dev/sdb1 20MB (I think?) EFI (this will have grub) FAT_32 (the EFI partition is formated to FAT_32
    2. /dev/sdb2 120GB / (the mount point, this will contain ubuntu)
    3. /dev/sdb3 8GB SWAP

    or something along those lines, I cant tell how Ubuntu lists the partitions in command prompt as i’m currently using OS X

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      im so full of typo’s today :/

      Yes, so after installing that partition layout should be something like

      Sandisk 128 GB (/dev/sdb?) (don’t know if yours will be /sdb or /sdc, you will find out when installing, just look for the similar partition layout)
      1. /dev/sdb1 20MB (I think?) EFI (this will have grub) FAT_32 (the EFI partition is formated to FAT_32
      2. /dev/sdb2 120GB / (the mount point, this will contain ubuntu)
      3. /dev/sdb3 8GB SWAP

      or something along those lines, I cant tell how Ubuntu lists the partitions in command prompt as i’m currently using OS X

      Reply
      1. jonoave

        Alright thanks. I will try it this weekend and see if it works.

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          make sure to get the version of rEFInd that goes on a USB drive or CD so that you don’t need to install it to the internal Hard Drive and have to uninstall it later

          Reply
          1. jonoave

            I was pumped up to try installing it this weekend. I burned rEFInd and Ubuntu to CD and DVD but it wouldn’t boot! I tried again on another CD/DVD but still wouldn’t boot.

            Then I tried rebooting an old Linux mint cd and I could boot. Turns out there were problems burning the images to CD, as I couldn’t boot the Ubuntu and rEFInd on my old Mint laptop. I did spent a lot of time fiddling with the Disk Utility, and it looked sorta weird but I didnt’ think too much of it.

            After some googling, found out this is a common problem – guess the Superdrive is broken or something. This is why I hate macs, so freaking expensive but still so troublesome to do simple things in Linux and things also break so often. Anyway now I’ve wasted some CD and DVDs, and will need to wait for next week to buy some more since the shops are closed on weekends. And I will try to burn them using my old 5 year-old laptop.

          2. supermariofan25

            Weird, If you are having trouble with CD’s then you can make a live USB instead, Iwas experimenting last night and i found that by Partitioning a small 4 GB thumb drive to GUID with a FAT_32 partition and then using the program Unetbooting, I could copy the Ubuntu ISO to the USB and boot, without problems, as for rEFInd I have it installed onto another USB drive through the Terminal. When using Unetbooting, look up the USB identifier through Disk utility by selecting the partition in the list and clicking “Info” you should be looking for something like “/dev/disk3s2” which means disk 3 Partiton 2 on /dev/

  22. supermariofan25

    How to use UNetbootin on the Macintosh:

    1. Download UNetbootin for OS X here:http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/unetbootin-mac-latest.zip and unzip it.

    2. Open Disk Utility and locate you your USB drive in the side bar list, select the device and click “Partition”.

    3. From the drop down list labelled “Current” select “1 Partition”, then click the “Options..” button and select “GUID Partition Table”

    4. Back in the partitioning menu open the “Format:” drop down list and make sure MS-DOS(FAT) is selected, you don’t need to change the Partition name but can if you want to. Click “Apply”

    5. Select the partition you just made from the side bar list and click the “Info” button at the top of the window, there should be a line that says Disk Identifier: disk#s# (note the # would be replaced by numbers that represent the Disk Identifier), make note of that disk identifier as it is important.

    6. Locate and open UNetbootin, it will ask you to put in your credentials, this must be the credentials of an admin account.

    7. Select the “Diskimage” button and select ISO from the drop down list that follows.

    8. Click the “…” Button to point UNetbootin to the Ubuntu ISO that you have.

    9. You will see a drop down list labelled “Drive:” and it will most likely say “/dev/disk1s2” or “/dev/disk1s4” select this drop down list and select the partition of you USB drive e.g “/dev/disk3s2” (this it the time to remember that Disk Identifier that you wrote down earlier for example, if your Disk Identifier was disk3s2 then you would need to select disk labelled “/dev/disk3s2” from the list)

    10. Click “OK”, once completed it will say that “The created USB device will not boot of a Mac. Insert it into a PC, and select the USB boot option in the BIOS boot menu” don’t be fooled. Because we partitioned the drive to GUID and and made the partition MS-DOS (FAT) and because UNetbootin still copied the EFI files, this USB will indeed boot on a Macintosh. Exit the program.

    11. Now assuming that you already have the external hard drive partitioned for installing Ubuntu you can now go ahead and reboot. Make sure that both the external HDD and the Ubuntu Live USB are connected properly so you can restart the computer. While the computer is restarting hold down the option (alt) key on your keyboard in order to pull up the boot drive selection menu (I would recommend using a wired USB keyboard as it is tricky to get the boot drive selection list when using a wireless one). Use the keyboard or mouse to select the USB icon labelled “EFI”, you will be presented with an EFI GRUB menu where you can select to either “Install Ubuntu” or “Try Ubuntu without installing”. Pick whichever one you prefer and continue installing like normal.

    Note: When installing for a Macintosh the drive you are installing to must be partitioned as GUID or it will not work. Also for the installation to work properly, when prompted you must select the first partition of the drive that you want to install Ubuntu to e.g “/dev/sdb1”

    Reply
    1. jonoave

      Thank you so much for your detailed, step-by-step guide. So now I tried switching to USB install, and the rEFInd on USB went fine. I tried restarting, and it found the USB drive. I selected the USB drive and booted into the rEFInd menu succesfully.

      However, ubuntu on USB didn’t work. I followed the steps above but when I restarted, the boot menu doesn’t list the USB. I reformatted and tried to setup the Ubuntu on USB again, but still no go. The USB option is still not listed in the boot menu. I’ve already verified the Ubuntu image with md5 and shasum, so it shouldn’t be a problem with the image before burning.

      Does it have something to do with the unetbootin option “space to allocate to preserve changes” when installing on USB? Since you didn’t mention it, I left it at the default settings which is 0 MB.

      Reply
      1. supermariofan25

        That’s great to hear that the rEFInd USB works but what happend to the Ubuntu one? What version of Ubuntu did you use? If you used the version of Ubuntu that they say is made for macs then don’t use it as it doesn’t actually have the EFI files that are needed (silly I know) here is a link to the latest version of Ubuntu that I know works : http://releases.ubuntu.com/raring/ubuntu-13.04-desktop-amd64.iso

        Also it helps to know what kind of mac your using and how old is it?

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          Also the allocation space is fine, that’s only for is you want a persistent live USB

          Reply
          1. supermariofan25

            Also did you use the right disk identifier? You may have made the wrong disk into an Ubuntu Live CD, also you would need to make sure that the USB is GUID

        2. jonoave

          I was using ubuntu-12.04.3-desktop-i386.iso. I’m using the LTS version as some programs that I intend to run, was reported to have some problems in the Ubuntu 13.04 version.

          I’m trying to install on a Macbook Pro 13′ late 2011, running OS X 10.8.4.

          Reply
          1. supermariofan25

            Don’t worry about the AMD 64 part, it works with intel 64 processors aswell.

          2. supermariofan25

            Even though Macs can boot 32 bit (i386) the EFI only comes on the 64 bit and EFI is needed for mac to boot Ubuntu.

          3. supermariofan25

            Also may I recommend that you have a second computer or smart phone/tablet at hand in case any questions arise during installation.

          4. jonoave

            Ah, thanks again. Actually I chose the 32-bit version as again, I read that there might be possible incompatibilites with the programs I intent to run in the 64-bit version.

            Anyway, I tried the 64-bit version you linked to, and this time it could detect an EFI boot. I selected it and it loads the Ubuntu grub menu: Install Ubuntu or Try without intalling. Both options, however failed to load. A busybox error came up: [initframs] unable to find a medium containing a live file system.

          5. supermariofan25

            Odd, try reformatting and reloading? I’m sorry but I can’t be of much help there, I found out that it can have trouble booting the live cd if the rEFInd USB is plugged in as it doesn’t know what to do with it. But saying that it can’t find a live file system is weird, before reformatting look for the file called filesystem.squashfs

          6. supermariofan25

            Also that method should work as I just did the same thing with ubuntu-12.04.2-desktop-amd64.iso and install went fine.

          7. jonoave

            Well I double-checked and repeated the Ubuntu 12.04 64-bit version installation steps, and still the same initframs error came up.

            However, remember I mentioned to you that I booted off an old Linux Mint CD on Mac? It was a 32-bit version, and it booted off fine. Maybe I’m just having bad luck with USBs, I will try to get again with an Ubuntu on CD.

            Thanks again for all your help and detailed guides step-by-step.

          8. jonoave

            I found an old Linux CD that came with a magazine. I rebooted my Mac and entered the 32-bit Ubuntu 12.04. At the installation menu, I set the 120 GB to ext4, mount ‘/’ and the 8 GB to Linux swap. The boot loader is set to drive /dev/sdb. When I clicked “Install now”, a message popped up saying some stuff about requiring an area for “reserved area for BIOS boot” or else the boot loader won’t install properly. The message also state that this region is separate from the “/boot area”. I ignored the message, click next and the installation seemed to go fine.

            When I restarted withe the rEFInd USB, I select the tux icon (boot Linux from HD), and then.. it hangs with the tux icon in the centre. I rewiped my SSD, reinstalled with the 64-bit version of Ubuntu 12.04, but still I hang when I tried to boot in through rEFInd.

            I did some googling, and some sites mention about needing another partition for “/boot”. So do you think I need 4 partitions now, one more for /boot and one more for ‘reserved for bios boot’?

          9. supermariofan25

            Sounds like your trying to do a BIOS install which doesn’t at all work with USB boot on Mac’s Did you say you had a working 64bit CD/DVD? If you do you need to select the EFI option, or Ubuntu will install non EFI, legacy GRUB which won’t boot. Also the 32 bit version can boot from Live CD but not Live USB as Mac only supports EFI boot from USB drives.

          10. supermariofan25

            I am downloading ubuntu-12.04.3-desktop-amd64.iso and will test it for my self, maybe there is a problem with this revision of 12.04? If there is you will have to try and find ubuntu-12.04.2-desktop-amd64.iso as I know that works (I have one from previous times).

          11. supermariofan25

            That is a possibility as I had 12.04.2 installed but as soon as I installed updates Ubuntu was unable to boot.

          12. supermariofan25

            No Busybox for me, maybe a redownload is in order, again I can’t be of much help in Busybox [initframs] errors, its just trial and error for me if that happens. But you really should try to Boot the Live CD/Live USB in EFI mode for the USB Ubuntu to work.

    2. jonoave

      “If you do you need to select the EFI option, or Ubuntu will install non EFI, legacy GRUB which won’t boot.”

      Can you clarify on this further? I have never seen this option. At which stage does this option appear?

      Reply
      1. supermariofan25

        When using a Ubuntu CD/DVD there are two options that show up on a Mac; Windows (becuase it has legacy BIOS boot files, Mac thinks its Windows) and EFI Boot, when choosing the “Windows” option Ubuntu boots up with the legacy BIOS files and that also determines what boot loader to install during installation, but when booting the “EFI Boot” option, Ubuntu boots up using the EFI files and that determines that it should install EFI GRUB when installing, you need to boot EFI Ubuntu to get EFI GRUB and EFI grub is needed to boot the USB on a Macintosh

        Reply
        1. jonoave

          Well I’ve never successfully boot Ubuntu using EFI boot. All my attempts of various Ubuntu installations on the USB with UnetBootIn is never detected during startup. When I hold “alt”, the only options are ‘harddisk’ and ‘recovery 10.8.1’. If I use the rEFInd USB, a third option for “EFI boot” appears, but if I remember correctly it still doesn’t list the Linux option.

          Reply
          1. supermariofan25

            That’s odd, are you shure its GUID?

          2. jonoave

            Yes, I’ve double checked many times. All GUID partitions, MS-DOS format.

          3. supermariofan25

            Are you using the 64 bit desktop, alternative or mac edition ISO?

          4. supermariofan25

            Are you properly checking the disk identifier and pointing UNetbootin to the right one?

          5. supermariofan25

            As I remember in a previouse post, you where able to boot the EFI part of the USB but got a Busybox

          6. supermariofan25

            If all is done correctly try “sudo bless –device /dev/disk#s#” in Terminal, remember to replace disk#s# with the partitions disk identifier and then try booting it.

      2. jonoave

        1. Well I tried with 12.04 32 bit versions, which failed to detect. Then I tried the 12.04 amd64-bit version that you linked, and this one detected but got a busybox error.
        Then I tried with 12.10 64-bit-amd+mac version and this one also failed to detect.

        I never tried the alternative version – does it make any difference?

        2. Yes, I checked the disk identifier properly in Disk Utility to point to the correct USB partition.

        Reply
        1. supermariofan25

          I’m not sure what the alternative one does but don’t try it. Also all 32bit versions of Ubuntu don’t have EFI only use 64 bit

          Reply
        2. supermariofan25

          “Then I tried with 12.10 64-bit-amd+mac version and this one also failed to detect.”

          the mac version doesn’t contain EFI files as it aims to make it easier to install ubuntu as if it where Windows in BootCamp, EFI is needed to be booted of a USB so it doesn’t work

          Reply
          1. jonoave

            I think I tried the 13.04-64 bit-amd+mac version, which failed to detect. I’ll try the 13.04-64 bit AMD only version tonight.

            Thanks. 🙂

          2. supermariofan25

            Only use the bless command as a last resort, it may not be needed.

          3. supermariofan25

            Remember to put GRUB on partition one of the install drive e.g /dev/sdb1

          4. jonoave

            Well, so much for good news. I tried rebooting back into my mac and got a grub2 error: no such device found. I was like WTF? How did this happen? I clearly pointed the bootloader to /dev/sdb1.

            After some googling, I found someone else who shared this problem
            http://askubuntu.com/questions/304109/are-the-problems-with-installing-ubuntu-to-an-external-hard-drive-fixed-in-ubunt

            So now I have to find a way to restore my Mac bootloader. Guess I’ll never be a find a way to properly install Ubuntu on external harddisk. 🙁

          5. supermariofan25

            Ah, I forgot to tell you that when installing GRUB EFI Ubuntu sets it to boot priority number one, so the Mac boot loader is still there, you just need to press option when booting to find it, as for grub 2 error, GRUB has trouble booting Mac OS X so you need to hold option before GRUB loads, also to set Mac OS X as boot priority number one start up OS X and open system preferences, click on Startup Disk, select “Mac OS X 10.8.4 and click restart, don’t worry as you will still be able to boot GRUB using rEFInd.

          6. supermariofan25

            Hope that works for you as it would be a shame for you to have to reinstall OS X and ubuntu just as you got it working.

            P.S my internet is crap right now, don’t expect a quick reply

          7. supermariofan25

            If for what ever reason that doesn’t work you can hold option while booting and than hold both Command and R until you are prompted to connect to the internet, via WiFI or Ethernet and the Mac EFI will download and boot the restore files from the internet. You can then try to fix the boot loader using Disk Utility.

        3. jonoave

          “Remember to put GRUB on partition one of the install drive e.g /dev/sdb1”

          1. Which is partition one? Is it the EFI partition previously hidden by Mac? Or is it my main partition for linux (ext4 system)?

          I tried installing to partition one i.e. the EFI install but a message error comes up “fail to install to efiAMD64 to /target/”.

          Reply
          1. supermariofan25

            Partiton one is the EFI partition hidden by OS X, you shouldn’t have trouble installing though as long as you pick the right one.

          2. supermariofan25

            For example if you’re ext4 install Partiton is /dev/sdb2 than GRUB should be /dev/sdb1 which is the EFI partition normally hidden by OS X

          3. jonoave

            Ah, that was the part I was missing. From the steps given by scott, he pointed the bootloader to /dev/sdb. That’s likely the reason why i got the “bootloader warnings”.

            Anyway, here’s what happened so far. I have 3 USB drives: blue, yellow, and silver. I put 13.04-64AMD on blue USB, 12.04-64 AMD on yellow AMD, and rEFInd on silver USB.

            1. I tried booting with 13.04 on blue USB. Success! But I prefer 12.04, so I tried booting with 12.04 on yellow USB. Success too!

            2. I tried installing 12.04 to my SSD. However, the USB slots are placed so closed together on the Macbook Pro. And I couldn’t fit the SSD USB into the port as the yellow USB is a bit thicker. I tried to connect the SSD using a USB hub but halfway through it crashed.

            3. So I rebooted back to Mac. Reformatted the blue USB and put 12.04 on it. Reboot with it and then… busybox error!

            Now I remember I tried rebooting with 12.04 yesterday on the blue USB, and it had busybox error too. So for some unknown reason, the Mac can boot Ubuntu 13.04 on the blue USB, but not 12.04. And I can only boot 12.04 on the yellow USB.

            4. Since there is no way I can fit the yellow USB and my SSD together, I reformatted the silver USB (erased rEFInd) and put 12.04 there. Success on booting in.

            But when I tried to point the bootloader to /dev/sdb1 (EFI partition), halfway through installation there was an error “failed to copy EFI-64AMD to /target/”.

            5. So right now I rebooted with the old Ubuntu CD, and install on my SSD. I set the bootloader to /dev/sdb1, but then I got the “bootloader needs to be installed on partition” warning.

            I ignored that warning and click next.

            6. So now I have to boot back into Mac and set up rEFInd on the blue USB, and hopefully I can boot Ubuntu from my SSD… And apparently I can’t… it just hangs there.

            So in summary:
            i. Different versions and different USB boot differently on Mac. 12.04 never boots on my blue USB, but 13.04 can. But 12.04 boots on the yellow USB.

            ii. 12.04.3 has problems copying bootloader and the warning “efiAMD64 failed to copy to /target”. And the old 12.04 (on my CD), pops out the “bootloader needs to be installed” warning even when I point it to /dev/sdb1.

            So right now I’m not sure if I made any progress or back to square one. 🙁

          4. jonoave

            Good news! I installed ubuntu 12.10-64 bit on my SSD, and succesffully booted of it!!!

            The only downside now is that the wifi network drivers weren’t installed. And there seems to be some problems adjusting for an external monitor… :S

            Anyway, thanks again so much for your help!!! Hopefully me or someone else can repay your kind attention and efforts!

            Cheers.

        4. jonoave

          Well, after the grub error I restarted, hold ‘alt’ and successfully booted back into Mac OS X.
          Then I simply tried on Disk Utility, select my primary drive, click “verify” and “repair disk”.

          then for some reason my Macbook got really sluggish (firefox freezing, apps freezing) and i thought of doing an SMC reset. I figured with all the restarting and manual shut downs I did I probably messed up the SMC. I hit restart, and surprisingly it booted into Mac OS X normally! And my Macbook Pro firefox etc was back to normal!

          Not sure if pressing the “repair disk” on Disk utility work or not. But I’m just really glad that I can boot back into Mac oS X automatically. Tonight I will try to see if I can still boot back into Ubuntu with rEFInd.

          Thanks, and hope your internet conditions get better! 🙂

          Reply
          1. supermariofan25

            Thats good, using rEFInd to boot back into ubuntu shouldn’t be a problem, did you do the Startup Disk option, otherwise your computer may try to boot grub automatically again. As for my internet, its not as buggy anymore but my landline has no dial tone (i’m using ADSL so landline and internet come from the one copper cable :/) cant wait till i get the NBN so that copper cable will be replaced by optic fibre.

          2. jonoave

            Well, a bit of updates. I managed to get the WiFi working on ubuntu 12.10. But the program I intend to run has some dependencies that are only supported up till 12.04.

            So I tried to install 12.04, and again I got the /efi-AMD64 failed to install to /target. Apparently I’m not the only one, and there were changes made to 12.10 that supports proper installation of the bootloader to the EFI partition.

            So now I’ve booted back 12.10, and trying to find workarounds to get my program to run. This time I also tried “verify/repair disk” with Disk Utility, but I still get the boot error grub until I followed your suggestion of “startup disk -> restart with Mac harddisk”.

            So the summary from my experiences:
            1. Only Ubuntu12.10 upwards can be properly installed on EFI Mac.
            2. USB drives are picky. If you fail to boot ubuntu with one USB drive, try using another.

            Take care and have a nice weekend.

          3. supermariofan25

            Thats odd, my current Ubuntu EXT HDD setup is 12.04 on an late 2011 iMac, install was flawless as I remember, but i cant remember if I used 12.04.2 or 12.04.3

          4. supermariofan25

            Also what programs are you trying to use? I might be able to help.

          5. jonoave

            Thanks a lot, but I think i’ve troubled you enough. 🙂 I’ve already found a few options that I can try to get the dependencies I need, and I will try them out this weekend.

            Well, I used an old Ubuntu CD (maybe 12.04.0 or 1?) and that has the same error as the 12.04.3 I tried. Maybe it’s different mac build or something? I’m not too certain if 12.04.2 will work, as my problem is similar to these users who use 12.04.2:
            http://askubuntu.com/questions/288837/ubuntu-12-04-uefi-mode

            But nonetheless, I managed to get Ubuntu running on external SSD.. I think I should be able to figure out the rest.

            Thanks again!

    3. jonoave

      Oops, guess you’re right bout the EFI boot and busybox error. Guess I tried too many installations and they all failed that I forgot about that one bit. That was with the 64-bit-AMD version.

      Since then I’ve also tried the 64-bit-AMD+Mac version and this one failed to detect the USB.

      Reply
      1. supermariofan25

        The Mac vesion doesn’t contain EFI files so it will boot properly into legacy like a BootCamp install, the only ones you should be trying are desktop-amd64 ones have you tried the latest 13.04?

        Reply
  23. supermariofan25

    How to install rEFInd to a USB Drive.

    1. Download the USB version of rEFInd from here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/refind/files/0.7.3/refind-flashdrive-0.7.3.zip/download and unzip it.

    2. Open Disk Utility and locate you your USB drive in the side bar list, select the device and click “Partition”.

    3. From the drop down list labelled “Current” select “1 Partition”, then click the “Options..” button and select “GUID Partition Table”

    4. Back in the partitioning menu open the “Format:” drop down list and make sure MS-DOS(FAT) is selected, you don’t need to change the Partition name but can if you want to. Click “Apply”

    5. Select the your device from the side bar (make sure that you select your device from the list not the partition of that device) and click the “Info” Button at the top of the window, there should be a line that says Disk Identifier: disk# (note the # would be replaced by number that represents the Disk Identifier e.g. disk2), make note of that disk identifier as it is important.

    6. Use Disk Utility to unmount the Partition of the device, do not eject!

    7. Open a Terminal window, type in “cd” followed by a space and then drag the unzipped rEFInd folder to the terminal window and press enter. This will make the rEFInd folder your current directory.

    8. Type “sudo dd if=refind-flashdrive-0.7.3.img of=/dev/disk#” replace “disk#” with the Disk Identifier that you wrote down earlier. Press enter and enter the password of an admin account.

    9. Once finished you will be presented with a warning saying “The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer.” Click “Ignore”, this warning will pop up whenever you plug that USB into the computer or when you boot OS X with the USB inserted. Don’t worry as this is normal.

    10. Now that you have finished installing rEFInd to your USB you may restart your computer. While your computer is restarting you must hold down the option (alt) key on your keyboard to bring up the boot device selection menu (None that this can be tricky with a wireless keyboard as the computer may not register that you are holding down that key, it is recommended that you use a wired USB keyboard for it to work properly every time). Use your keyboard or mouse to select the USB icon labelled “EFI”.

    11. You will now be looking at the rEFInd boot menu where you can select a boot device (Your thinking that why would I need rEFInd when the Mac’s EFI has a boot menu, well rEFInd shows the GRUB boot menu and Linux boot options. The EFI boot menu doesn’t.)

    12. If you have Ubuntu installed on any of your internal/external drives, rEFInd will find them and list them. there will be many Linux/Ubuntu options but only one Ubuntu option that loads GRUB, you must select that Ubuntu option so GRUB will load and Ubuntu will launch properly.

    Enjoy

    Reply
    1. supermariofan25

      Note: Mac’s will only boot of drives that have the GUID partition table and rEFInd doesn’t change that. for rEFInd to find and boot Ubuntu or GRUB it must be installed on a device with a GUID Partition Table.

      Reply
  24. supermariofan25

    If using my method if installation, you will need to do the startup disk thing in OS X every time GRUB gets updated.

    Reply
    1. jonoave

      What startup thing do you mean? I need to reinstall rEFInd on the USB each time?

      Right now I just plug in the rEFInd booter and SSD, and select EFI boot–> Ubuntu.

      Reply
      1. supermariofan25

        You know how when you finished installing and you restarted the computer, but when the computer restarted it booted GRUB automatically even if you didn’t set it to do that? That’s because when GRUB gets installed, it sets itself as boot priority #1 on the EFI firmware, so in order to boot OS X again you needed to hold Option key on the Keyboard. That’s what I mean by Startup Disk, it has nothing to do with rEFInd, just the fact that you will need to set OS X as boot priority #1 again through the System Preferences app in OS X. Just choose Startup Disk, OS X 10.8.4, restart.

        Reply
        1. jonoave

          Oh ok, thanks for clarifying. That doesn’t seem to terribly troublesome. Just hope that grub doesn’t update often. 🙂

          Reply
  25. Scott Miller Post author

    Hi, I received this helpful message from a contributor. Check it out:

    Hello,
    
    I tried following all sorts of instructions for running linux from a USB drive (in my case, from my hard 
    drive), and I tried for at least 3 hours on my mac. But I found a much easier way. I did this on my Mac OS X 
    Mavericks MacBook Pro 15 inch from 2010. I installed bootcamp on it as well. It's worked till now.
    
    
    1. I installed reFIND first. (By just dropping the install file into terminal).
    2. I used the software at this link http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/. I got the mac software.
    3. I opened the app, and installed UBUNTU to my FAT32 partition on my hard drive (it is a 300gb partition).
    4. It said that I could only run Ubuntu on a PC, so I restarted my computer with the intent of opening my bootcamped windows 7. 
    However, to my great delight, the option to boot from the UBUNTU on reFIND appeared.
    
    5. From there it booted and worked fine.
    
    Reply
    1. Patrick

      Worked perfectly for me — MacBook Pro Retina 2014, SanDisk 128gb USB stick

      Reply
  26. Chrysoman

    Just to say cheers Scott, worked a treat!
    C.
    (Macbook Air with WD My Passport Ultra 1TB using 2GB USB to BOOT)

    Reply
  27. Jason Mauza

    I am running 10.6.8 on a mac intel tower. I am trying to install on an external HD, and have followed all of your directions. So far so good, however it gave this message on install, please help. “no root file sytem is defined, please correct this form the partitioning menu.”

    thanks, Jason

    Reply
  28. MonaLisaOverdrive

    For the technically challenged and the command line phobic, I found a simpler way to install and boot Ubuntu on a USB flash or external hard drive. This worked for me on a 2010 17″ Macbook Pro running OSX El Capitan, but this should work for other Intel Macs. I erased a new 64GB USB flash drive using the disk utility in OSX and installed a fresh copy of OSX El Capitan. I then booted into the new installation of OSX from the thumb drive by pressing “O” while rebooting and selecting the thumb drive. Be patient as OSX runs very slowly on a USB 2.0 thumb drive. I shrank the OSX partition on the thumb drive to around 25GB as I won’t be using this install, just the boot loader from it which will be modified when Ubuntu installs. I left the remaining part of the thumb drive as empty space.

    I then inserted another USB stick with a bootable copy of Ubuntu and restarted while pressing “O” to go the boot options menu. I selected the Ubuntu install disk and started the Ubuntu installation. The most important part of the installation process is choosing the Installation type of “Erase Disk and Install Ubuntu” and on the next screen to make sure the thumb drive is selected as the destination drive and to select the “Advanced Partitioning Tool.” Once in the Advanced Partitioning Tool screen, select the unused space on the thumb drive and click change. Decrease the size of the partition by around the size of your system RAM to make room for a swap file, if you don’t, Ubuntu will run very slowly. Choose EXT4 Journaling System and choose “/” for the mount point so Ubuntu is installed in the right location. Select format and then click OK to exit. Select the remaining unused partition, select change and choose “SWAP” from the drop down menu and click OK. Make sure you select the thumb drive for the boot loader before continuing the install.

    After the install completes, reboot while pressing “O” to get back into the boot options menu. The Ubuntu installation won’t be visible. Select the OSX install from the thumb drive and boot to the sign in screen. Restart from the sign in screen without selecting “O” The Ubuntu installation will magically load up by itself. I don’t know how. Ubuntu lives very well on the USB Flash drive and I’m sure on a USB external drive as well. It runs slower than on the internal drive but is definitely usable.

    With the flash drive removed, the internal OSX installation won’t reboot by itself until you select it from the boot options screen by pressing “O” on reboot. You will get a grub error message which will go away after you boot into OSX from the boot options screen. When you want to boot to Ubuntu, just insert the USB flash drive without pressing anything and it will boot into Ubuntu automatically. It’s not the most elegant way to do it but it’s not very technical either.

    Hope this helps.

    Reply

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