How to Boot From External Drive for New Local Installation

(by Lynna Jackson, Williams College)


In all cases it is best to use the fastest external drives you can get.


These drives have the read/write speeds that a modern Operating System expects.

  • Install Linux on an external drive

    • Once you install and boot linux on an external drive, it will be tied to that hardware and isn't "portable" to other hardware the way windows and mac can be. It is perhaps possible to install/preload the need boot drivers for other hardware but I haven't experimented with that yet.
  • Install Windows To Go on an external disk

  • Install Mac on an external drive...

    • There are just about a zillion sites on the inter-webs that describe how to create a Mac external boot drive!


  • When attempting to boot to an external drive from a Mac: Restart while holding down steady the "Option" key
  • When attempting to boot to an external drive on a windows computer: Restart and press multiple times the F12 key
  • Both of these should bring up the "Boot" menu with a list of drives the the firmware of the computer "thinks" are bootable on that system.

This should get people started. Any additional questions please point them my way.