Installing opensuse on an external drive — MBR version
This post describes my experience with installing on an external drive. I tested this with 13.1 Beta1 on an MBR based computer. I later repeated with the final version of 13.1 on a UEFI box, and I’ll report on that in a future post.
I first tested this using the live KDE media, written to a USB flash drive. I later repeated using the DVD iso, also written to a USB flash drive. Overall, the install went rather well. But there are a few places where care is needed.
Booting the installer
I had the install software on a USB flash drive. I wanted to install on a USB hard drive. The BIOS on the target computer has an option to boot from a USB. But it does not allow choice of which USB.
My first step was to plug in the installer flash drive (the live KDE media). I then booted the computer, hitting F12 while it was booting. For this particular computer, hitting F12 brings up the BIOS boot menu. I selected “boot from USB”. That brought me to the opensuse boot screen. I accepted the default (boot the live media). I immediately plugged in my USB hard drive, while it was booting, though I could have waited till a little later with live media.
The idea here was to have only one USB device connected at the start of boot, to avoid confusing the BIOS. Once booting had begun, I could connect the other USB device.
Because I was using live KDE media, this booted me into a KDE session. There, I clicked on the “Install” icon to start the install procedure. If I had instead used the DVD iso, I would have booted directly into the installer.
The next place where care is required, is in the partitioning section. The installer made suggestions on how it would partition. The suggestions included using the primary (internal) hard drive. I did not want that. So I selected “Create partition setup”.
The next screen listed the disks available. I checked only the box for the external 80G hard drive, where I wanted to install opensuse.
The next screen gave me a list of partitions on the disk. I clicked the button “Use entire disk”.
The next screen gave me a revised list of suggestions for partitioning. I accepted the suggests.
Following the partitioning, there is a screen to enter a user login name. After that there is a summary screen where choices can be made. I clicked on “Booting” to configure the boot installation.
Before I clicked “Booting”, I looked carefully. There, I could see:
Boot loader type: grub2 Status Location: /dev/sda (MBR) (other information)
This was not acceptable. It wanted to boot from the MBR of the internal hard drive. I wanted it to boot from the MBR of the external drive (“/dev/sdb”). So, clicking “Booting” gave me some options.
Toward the bottom of the screen, there was a large button “Boot Loader Installation Details”. I clicked that.
The disks were listed. I selected “/dev/sdb” (the third entry), and clicked “Up”. Nothing happened. So I selected the first entry (“/dev/sda”) and clicked “Down”. That moved the entry down. I repeated, until it was at the bottom. Next, I move “/dev/sdc” down in the same way. That left “/dev/sdb” at the top of the list.
I hit “OK” twice to get back to the summary screen. The booting section now read:
Boot loader type: grub2 Status Location: /dev/sdb (MBR) (other information)
And that looked much better, because it was using the wanted MBR.
Install and reboot
I now clicked “Install”, and that allowed the actual install to start. Toward the end, the installer wanted to reboot into the newly installed system.
Now I had the same problem, that the BIOS can only recognize one USB device in the boot menu. So I rebooted, hit F12 to get to the BIOS boot screen. And now I unplugged the flash drive that I had used for the install, leaving only the external hard drive.
In case this might have confused the BIOS, I hit CTRL-ALT-DEL to force another reboot. And I hit F12 again, and selected to boot from the USB.
This took me to the final configuration steps of install. And then I had a working system. I’ll note that when using the DVD iso for install, during the boot I plugged in the install flash drive, which is needed for the final configuration. You will be prompted to plug it in, if you have not already done so by the time that it is needed.
To boot the system, I need only plug in the hard drive, hit F12 during boot, and select USB from the BIOS menu.