Installing on USB connected SATA disk – install live or regular install?

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  • This topic has 9 replies, 5 voices, and was last updated Apr 8-9:54 am by X180A.
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    I’ve been using antiX on a couple of old computers and I really like it. Now, I’d like to try it out on my modern/contemporary laptop. I am not quite ready to dump Windows 10 and all my Windows programs. Instead, I want to put antiX on a 1TB external SATA HD that connects via USB.

    What would be the best way to try this? Should I treat it as a USB live install with root persistence? Or should I just do a regular install choosing the external drive for the install location? I don’t want to mess with the MBR of the laptop drive. In fact, I don’t want the laptop drive to be impacted in anyway.

    Thoughts and suggestions…….


    You could use the regular install. Assuming your system able to boot from the USB external hard drive, then the only real drawback to this method is that the USB external hard drive will be somewhat slower than an internal drive, unless the drive and computer both support USB 3.

    Windows 10 can complicate matters a little with UEFI/secureboot, depending upon how it is set up.

    Are you able to boot from a usb drive?

    If you can boot from the usb flash drive and run antiX live, then you should not experience any problems installing to, and running from your external hard drive. (If you can’t boot from a usb flash drive, things can get messy).

    Step 0, before you do anything, backup all the things.

    After that, boot into your antiX live USB flash drive, and run the installer.

    At step 1a of the installation, it will ask you to choose which disk to install to. It will identify them generally by manufacturer/model and size. It hopefully will be clear which drive is your Windows installation and which is your external drive from these.
    In the dropdown box, select your USB external hard drive.

    (As a sanity check, often you would expect to see /sda for your current windows installation, and /sdb for your USB hard drive – but if your laptop uses a modern ssd, it could be /nvme0 for your windows install and /sda for your USB hard drive, or it could be something else entirely).

    If you are happy to lose any contents of the USB external hard drive, you need not do anything at step 1b Rearrange disk partitions, and at step 1c Select type of installation, accept the default Auto-install using entire disk.

    Step 2 & 3 wait while it does it’s thing.

    At step 4 of the installation, it will ask you to choose where to install the bootloader (GRUB).
    In the dropdown box select your USB external hard drive (the drive you just installed to)
    (The default is to the first drive in its list, rather than the drive you just installed to, which is where you can interfere with the MBR on the windows installation if you accept the default).

    The rest of the setup step 5 -> , choose the options that suit, nothing this far along the installation will interfere your windows drive.

    Once the installation is done, remove your antiX live USB flash drive, and reboot your computer.

    Select your USB external hard drive as the boot medium, and you should be on your way.

    My apologies if any of this is too simple or already known to you, it’s not clear if you’ve installed antiX on the other computers or are running live, hopefully this is some help to you.


    I appreciate it the full explaination, rob. Sure, some I already knew but it is always good to get confirmation. And there was some I did not know and some I hadn’t even considered.

    To the last point, your comment about USB3 started me thinking. Yes, my laptop can boot from a USB connected drive, at least in theory. I have two USB2 ports and one USB3 port. The USB3 port is color coded blue. I did not know that. Anyway, I plugged in the drive and ran some benchmarks to see just how fast things were moving. Low and behold, the external box with the SATA has a hardware interface that is only capable of running at USB1 and USB2. I removed the disk from the box and confirmed that it is indeed an SATA-III drive (throughput up to 600 MB/s). So my high speed disk plugged into a high speed USB port was being held back by the portable box hardware limitations.

    I took the SATA-III 1TB drive out of the enclosure and replaced it with a 320GB SATA-II disk (throughput up to 300MB/s). I’ll use it for transferring files.

    I have just ordered an external enclosure that promises USB3 speeds. When it arrives, I’ll put the 1TB SATA-III drive into it and proceed with the antiX installation.

    I’ll pick this thread up again at that point and we’ll see how it goes.

    Thanks again for the help.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by X180A.

    Well, I purchased a little USB3 capable external box and put a 1TB 2.5″ SATA-III drive in it. I installed antiX on it and it is running much snappier than the SATA-II drive at USB2. I posted the boot times in linuxdaddy’s boot time thread.

    I still have something to figure out. What I was hoping to do is have a system that would boot to Windows 10 when the external drive is not connected but would boot to antiX if the external drive is connected. I’ve tried several different things but I haven’t gotten it to work that way.

    My BIOS has 2 options for boot – Legacy and UEFI. If I select UEFI I can only boot to the Windows 10 disk. If I select Legacy then I can only boot to the antiX disk. So, what I’ve been doing is toggling the BIOS as if it were a boot menu.

    I believe I could get what I want if I were to install GRUB in a FAT32 or NTFS partition on the external (antiX) drive and then manually edit the Windows 10 boot file. But, as stated at the beginning of the thread, I don’t want to make any changes to the Windows drive.

    I’ve discovered I can install an internal SSD as a second drive in my laptop. I’ve decided get one and put antiX on an hdb SSD.Hopefully the selective boot issue will be easier to deal with using that setup.

    I still want to try some things out.

    What would I have to do to install a live version of antiX on my external USB connected HD? I figure it would have to load much faster than a DVD and I could use a partition on it for persistence (I think).

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by X180A.

    X180A, check out this hot-off-the-press “antiX Frugal Install” tutorial video by dolphin_oracle » Thu Mar 29, 2018


    If MS Windows still uses a boot configuration file, you could likely add your external drive to it, & choose which to boot.

    N.B. I haven’t used any MS products since 1999, this is something that I read somewhere. 😉

    Linux (& BSD) since 1999


    IT WORKS !!!

    They say that if you give a stupid but immortal monkey an indestructible typewriter with an unending supply of paper and allow him to type for eternity he will eventually compose the complete works of Shakespeare entirely by chance.

    This monkey has been trying all sorts of things and I have discovered the way to make the system work as I had wanted. The problem was in the BIOS EUFI Security settings. The toad in the road was the BIOS Boot setting “Secure Boot: Enabled”. That line was grayed out and I could do nothing to change it.

    Here is what I had to do:

    • In BIOS I disabled both hard drives. I did that for both hard drive 0 and hard drive 1 even though I only have one hard drive installed.
    • I plugged my portable SATA drive into a USB. I plugged my portable DVD drive into a second USB port (my laptop does not have an internal DVD).
    • Next I booted from the DVD. My portable hard disk was the only disk visible to the system and I did a full install of antiX on that drive. I opted to put GRUB on EFI
    • Trying to boot after install failed and an error message declared “Security Boot Fail”
    • I rebooted again but pressed F2 to go into the BIOS. Under top menu BOOT I could see the setting “Secure Boot: Enabled” but I could not access it. It was grayed out.
    • Still in BIOS, I re-enabled both of the internal hard drives (only one hard drive is installed). Then I rebooted and pressed F2 to immediately return to BIOS.
    • Now under Boot Options I could see both the internal Windows disk and the external, portable antiX disk. The Windows disk was listed first so I changed it to second and made the antiX disk the first boot disk.
    • Under “Select an UEFI file as trusted” I drilled down and entered one for the Windows disk (Hd0–;EFI–;Boot–;bootx64.efi) and typed Yes to confirm. I did the same for the antiX disk by drilling down to the GRUB EFI file.
    • Under BIOS top menu SECURITY my Supervisor and User passwords were marked “CLEAR”. I entered a password for each of those. Apparently, unless you use passwords the BIOS will not allow you to change the “Secure Boot” option!
    • Now, under top menu BOOT I could access the setting “Secure Boot:” and I changed it to “Disabled”

    That was it. Now my system is doing exactly what I wanted it to do. If I do not have the portable SATA connected to a USB port then it boots directly to Windows. If I do have the portable SATA connected to a USB port it boots directly to antiX.

    Some may ask why I would want such a setup. Well, first off I’m not quite ready to completely cut the Windows umbilical. This gives me both complete OSes. My SATA is a 1TB disk. There are some robust, dependable 1TB USB transfer drives to be had, Kingston for example, but they cost more than what I paid for the laptop when I bought it new, My 1TB SATA-III disk came out of a salvaged system, i.e. it was free. For all intents and purposes the portable antix disk is running just as fast as if it were installed internally because the limiting factor is not the USB3 connection. It’s the SATA-III max rate of 6 GB/s. This setup also gives me the option, should I finally free myself from Windows, of just replacing my laptop hard drive with the hard drive in the portable box. No additional install or modification would be needed.

    I am still going to install an M.2 PCI 3.0 X4 SSD in the laptop as a second internal hard disk. I’ll install antiX on that and see how it works out. Perhaps I will get to triple boot system.

    The help and suggestions are appreciated. Please bear with me, I’m still exploring the possibilities with a lot of learning along the way.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by X180A.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by X180A.

    Thanks for the great writeup & kudos for your tenacity in finding a working solution!


    Glad to see uefi worked out…there have been other posts and threads on uefi/secure boot
    problems. This might help them too. Maybe it’ll help get my A10 out of legacy mode, I’ll
    have to try it out.

    Normal == 🙂
    depends on the surrounding crowd ?!


    I finally got my M.2 SATA SSD. It was very easy to install. Once in the laptop here is what I did to get antiX on it for dual boot.

    • Disabled hard drive 0 in bios SATA settings.
    • Installed antiX full from DVD. The SSD was the only disk visible to the installer and I let it take control of the disk. I opted to install Grub on the EFI system partition (ESP).
    • Booted to BIOS and reactivated hard drive 0.
    • Still in BIOS, drilled down to the antiX .efi file in security settings
    • Re-booted to BIOS, both drives are visible in Boot Order. Changed the order to list the antiX disk first.
    • Re-booted and it took me to my antiX desktop
    • In terminal ran “sudo update-grub”. Grub found the Windows 10 disk and added it to the boot menu. Note: Secure boot must remain disabled to boot the Grub .efi file, at least on my system.

    The Windows 10 disk remains untouched. My antiX install is very responsive and fast. I’ll post the boot times in the boot time thread. Needless to say it is a BIG improvement over the performance of the SATA-III disk via USB3 port.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by X180A.
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