How to Install OS on Portable Hard Drive

Written by tom frazier
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How to Install OS on Portable Hard Drive
Use a USB stick, or thumb drive, to help in formatting the external hard drive. (usb image by Steffi Mueller from

A portable hard drive allows you to carry your operating system and any data stored with it from computer to computer, making it a useful option for a computer user on the go. Installing an operating system (OS) on a portable hard drive can save you time and energy by giving you the same desktop on every computer you use. Portable hard drives provide you all the resources of a normal hard drive, but usually at a slower speed.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • USB stick
  • GParted Live USB
  • HP USB Format Tool
  • Portable hard disk drive
  • Operating system installer

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  1. 1

    Download the GParted Live utility and the HP USB Format Tool via the links in Resources. Insert your USB stick into the computer. Run HP USB Format Tool. Select your USB stick and then choose the FAT or FAT32 format options. Click "Start."

  2. 2

    Extract the files from the GParted Live zip file. Select the USB stick as the destination.

  3. 3

    Open a file browser and navigate to the USB stick. Select "utils" > "win32" > "makeboot.bat." Double click on "makeboot.bat." Enter "Y" when prompted.

  4. 4

    Power off your computer leaving the USB stick inserted. Connect your portable hard drive to another USB port. Power on the computer and quickly press "F8" through "F12" to access your boot menu. Check your computer or motherboard manual for the exact keystroke. Select the USB stick as your boot source and press "Enter." Allow the Gparted GUI to start.

  5. 5

    Select the external portable hard disk drive. Click "Partition" on the menu bar. Hover over "Format to" and select "NTSF." If you are unable to create or format the partition, select delete partition. This will erase all data on the external hard drive. Confirm partition deletion. Select the external drive again. Click "Partition" and hover over "Format to" then select "NTSF."

  6. 6

    Select the external hard disk drive again. Click "Partition" on the menu bar and then "Manage Flags." Check the box next to "Boot." Save and apply changes to the drive. Power off your computer and remove the USB stick.

  1. 1

    Insert or plug your OS installer, usually a DVD, CD or USB thumb drive, into the computer. Power on the computer and access the boot manager again. Select the source containing your OS installer and press "Enter."

  2. 2

    Enter your personalisation and registration information if required. When prompted, specify the portable hard drive as the install directory. Begin the installation normally.

  3. 3

    Restart the computer when prompted and access the boot menu again. Select the external hard drive as your boot source and press "Enter" to ensure the installation succeeded. Use this process to boot from your portable drive on any computer.

Tips and warnings

  • Some older operating systems will not function normally on certain PCs. Likewise, newer operating systems may not function on older hardware.
  • It is extremely important that "makeboot.bat" be executed from the USB stick. Executing the .bat file while it is located on your hard drive may corrupt your current operating system.

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