Forum Question: Boot Camp on an External Drive

I have been looking into getting a mac for college. It will be my first mac. I realize that I will most likely still need to use Windows for certain tasks. Is there a way to install Windows on an external hard drive then boot up Windows from the external hard drive. I am afraid that my computer will not have enough memory for putting Windows on the Mac. Also, is it possible to partition an external hard drive so there is one portion for Time Machine, one portion for miscellaneous movies/documents, and a portion for Windows to be installed.


— Matthew

Comments: 8 Responses to “Boot Camp on an External Drive”

    5/19/10 @ 8:37 am

    No, Boot Camp partitions must be on the primary internal drive for your Mac. But, Boot Camp is not your only option. How about using Parallels, VMWare, VirtualBox or some other virtualization solution? (
    You can definitely put a Windows virtual partition on another drive. In fact, it isn’t even a partition, it is a “file” that represents a partition. They are also easier to create and get rid of.
    As for storing partitioning an external drive to contain both your TM backup and misc files — don’t do it. Drives are cheap. Have one dedicated to just TM. Otherwise, your misc files are never backed up to another drive.

    2/27/11 @ 7:21 pm

    That’s an interesting idea Gary: placing your virtualized Windows set-up on an external hard drive. I just purchased a MacBook and was planning on running it on the built-in hard drive via Boot Camp or Parallels.

    However, I have read that Windows won’t load onto an external drive. Is it the emulation software that makes it possible?

      2/27/11 @ 8:55 pm

      Right. You aren’t booting Windows on the machine, you are booting it in the virtual environment.

    2/28/11 @ 7:23 pm

    And therefore it doesn’t matter where that virtual environment Windows is actually located? It can be loaded onto the external hard drive and the emulation software makes Windows ‘think’ it’s on a C:drive sort of thing?

      2/28/11 @ 7:35 pm

      Right. It is a virtual environment. It doesn’t relate to your real hard drives and where they are.
      Now, there is one issue. External drives are much much slower than internal ones. So I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way unless you are using an eSATA external drive (hooked into an eSATA card on a Mac Pro or something). Think of how painful it will be to run Windows through a slow connection like USB2. Ouch.

    2/28/11 @ 9:03 pm

    Good point. Would FireWire 800 be sufficiently quick you think? Or maybe we’ll see a Thunderbolt ported external hard drive soon?! Now that would be awesome as I’m not particularly interested in having to purchase the eSATA card.

      2/28/11 @ 9:12 pm

      I’ve never tried it with FW800. Maybe. Thunderbolt, though, yes as it is as fast as an internal — it uses basically the same bus (PCIe).

    3/1/11 @ 5:34 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback Gary.

Comments Closed.