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Installing Linux on spare drive

4:53 pm on Feb 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Is it possible for me to disconnect my current hard drives from my windows xp machine, then connect an old hard drive and install linux one it. Then whenever I want to switch between them can I just plug/unplug the drives? Will the install do anything else like alter my bios so I can no longer boot off the windows hard drive? I know there's ways to do dual boots and leave both drives connected, but whilst I'm still getting used to Linux I'd prefer not to risk deleting everything off my windows drive by accident!

Any help would be appreciated!
6:45 pm on Feb 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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If you want to get used to Linux ..why not use a "live disk" first ..
Just download any distro that supports live use, ( "mint 7" for example ..burn the iso file ( after checking the "hash" for integrity ) ..set your machine to boot from CD or DVD drive first and then your Xp HD second ( if there is no disc in the CD/DVD tray ..your Xp will thus boot as normal )..Play with it for a while ( you can even save stuff to an USB key ) ...

When you want to do a full install you can do so from the CD ( with both your Hard drives in place )..all you have to do to avoid messing up your XP is to note which HD it is on ( and how big the HD is ..the XP install is an NFTS ) and to install Linux on the other one ..
Mint comes with a real simple install routine and a graphical display of what discs you have ..takes about 10 minutes ..and comes with all codecs and players an browsers and email clients etc that you'll need to begin ..and it has an interface and desktop that is n't too far away from XP style so you can make the transition easy ..

Other distros will work fine as well ..I just think that this one is the easiest for someone making the transition ..

When it's installed definitively you get the OS switcher "grub" at start up ..it will boot by default to Mint after about 30 seconds or you can use the down arrow to get to XP ..

HTH :)

PS ..Everyone has favourite distros for different things ..IMO mint is easier ..but others will contribute a few centimes of their own no doubt ..:)

whatever gets the job done ..any OS in a storm ;)
7:39 pm on Feb 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

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First a direct answer:

(a) Yes, what you had in mind with switching hard drives is entirely possible.

(b) No, a Linux install will not mess up your BIOS or in any other way make your Windows install useless.


That said:

(As Leosgost said: ) Get a Linux LiveCD in stead. As soon as you've got it burned on a CD it's the easiest thing in the world playing around with Linux.

Using a Live CD you get a fully featured Linux operating system including all software like web browsers, office suite, games and whatever. And you don't have to install a thing. And: It does not touch your existing Windows install at all.

And it's really true, as said above, that install time is only a maximum of ten minutes (should you choose to install). That goes for any Linux live CD I've tried ... and that's more than a few. I've been installing Windows quite a few times, and that usually takes hours. On top of that comes the software, so usually it's a matter of days to get a fully functioning Windows system.

If you have some special hardware, eg. an odd webcam or some really specific mouse or some weird TV-card, or something, sometimes one type of Live-CD will not recognize that piece of hardware. Fear not: Just download another LiveCD and try that one in stead. Typically hardware detection is extremely good, and 100% automatic. Hardware that isn't supported is the exception these days. The types of LiveCDs that may have trouble with specific hardware is typically the "very lean" CDs that only pack a minimum of software.

A Linux install using a LiveCD will automatically configure your dual boot up for you. So, when you boot up you get a welcome screen with a choice of Windows or Linux (you can set the default to which one you want). It does not change your existing Windows installation in any way what so ever. Both installations can be on the same physical hard drives or on separate physical drives, that makes no difference.

So, the whole process is actually totally without hassle and without risk.


The question then breaks down to: Which "distribution" (geek-speak for "which flavour of linux") - should you use?

I don't know the abovementioned "Mint" specifically, but having tried a few distros, I'd say: Try any of those you get recommended. Don't hold back, just try a few. None of the live-CDs will harm your system in any way. If you don't like one, there's always another that is just a little different.

So, as Mint has been mentioned already, I'd try out that one.

Also I'd try out Mandriva, and Ubuntu.

Both are good, well-documented, well-updated, and very user-friendly. And not a lot different from Windows, meaning it's all menu driven point-and-click. If you can run Windows you can run any of those.
2:58 pm on Feb 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

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You have another, similiar option that is a bit more work upfront but will be less work ongoing. It's a dual boot system.

There may be other ways around this, but I would start with both drives connected, and a fresh windows installation, but put windows only on one drive. Then install Linux. During the setup, you can allocate the drives, as drive A, windows, drive B linux,and install linux on drive b.

What that does is when you boot you'll get a menu to select whether you want to boot into windows or linux. If you boot into windows, you'll be on drive A. If you boot into linux, you'll be on drive B (linux will see drive A as well, but windows won't see drive B).

In other words, just Google 'dual boot linux' and you'll find plenty of instructions.It's more permanent than the methods described by the previous posters (which is good and bad, depending if you're looking for a relatively permanent solution).
4:41 pm on Mar 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I would be tempted to go with the duel boot option as well. Your first idea of simply swapping the disks over would work, but I would be worried about damaging the connection pins. Those connections really aren't designed for repeated removal and reinstall.

Most Linux distributions will make it easy to create a boot loader, and decide what disk you want Linux to be installed on.

3:44 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

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kinda old thread but this might help you and others.

You could try Wubi, the installer runs on Windows and puts Linux inside your drive without compromising your data or configuration, you can uninstall it from Windows at any time. Wubi can install Ubuntu and other Linux distros. This way you can work WITHOUT the limitations of a live cd, you have a full install.

You can also perform a full install on an USB stick and do whatever you want in there. I tried but it was somehow slow with 2 boot up screens, so I researched and found another option.

You can perform a Wubi installation and then move it to your USB stick. The results are different and I don't have two boot screens, only one for a few seconds and the speed is different too. I have Ubuntu on a 8G USB stick now. Find the instructions at pendrive linux .com

Also, there is Slax. It's a debian mod that fits on 300MB USB space. You can download the CD Iso or the USB iso, then extract and click on makebootable (or something like that) from windows and you will be able of booting from your USB a full version of slax that you can customize from there.

Good luck