Tips & Options
BIOS vs. UEFI?
For purposes of the installer bug, what matters is the boot mode of the already-installed system. For Windows, a rough rule of thumb is that, if Win7 was the original OS, it will be BIOS mode (technically, an early version of UEFI set to legacy mode). Win8 generally will be UEFI and all Win10 systems (if the original OS, upgrade might be BIOS). To confirm boot mode in Win8 and Win10, press Win+R to open Run. Type
into the "Open" field; click OK. A System Information report will appear; BIOS mode is line fourteen. Remember, legacy mode = BIOS mode.
Confirming Win7 is more difficult, as its version of msinfo32
doesn’t report boot mode. Best method is to look at the system disk with GParted
in a Mint live session. (Make sure it’s the system disk, not a data disk.) Go to View > Device Information. Partition table: msdos
= MBR = BIOS format, whereas gpt
is the UEFI format. You can double-confirm UEFI by looking for a smallish partition (200 to 500 MB), usually at the beginning of the drive, formatted fat32
flags. That’s an EFI partition, so definitely UEFI install.
Linux is easier. To confirm boot mode, open Terminal and run
(ls = list). If “efi” is listed, you’re booted in UEFI mode; if not you’re booted in BIOS mode. It’s that simple. Alternatively, copy the following command into Terminal. Like magic, it will tell you the boot mode:
Note: If the main system boots in BIOS mode and the live session in UEFI, this means your firmware has a version of CSM which can boot either way, usually with preference to UEFI if the boot device supports it. Cross booting this way is a big problem for conventional dual boot, but not for installation to USB drive. The USB drive can have a different boot mode because it’s separate, with boot order specified by the firmware. So, you can force BIOS boot and install that way. Or you can stay with UEFI boot and install per the Unflag/Reflag method, leaving out the unflag/reflag part because there’s no EFI partition to protect. You’ll end up with a USB drive which boots in UEFI only.
Code: Select all
[ -d /sys/firmware/efi ] && echo "Currently in UEFI mode" || echo "Currently in Legacy mode"
. These are discussed in the Installation Guide (linked above), but I will mention for emphasis. On both, it’s almost always necessary to modify boot order so the USB port is used before the internal drive. On UEFI systems, you generally can run the installer without disabling secure boot, but I've had trouble
letting the installer temporarily disable secure boot to install third party software. It's just as easy and safer to disable secure boot in the firmware settings, then re-enable after installation if desired. If you want Mint to be able to access data files on the internal drive, also disable Fast Startup
, a Power Option setting in Control Panel. By the way, it's not essential, but if you'd like to know more about UEFI, How-To Geek
has a nice introduction. For a deeper look, see Rod Smith
and Happy Assassin
. Before starting the actual installation, I recommend highly that you create a word processing or notepad document for taking notes. Keep track of everything you do: every step, every setting you modify, every app you install and every app setting you modify. This document eventually will evolve into an installation script (in the non-technical sense), which everyone should have for whatever operating system they run. Into every life, a certain amount of reinstalling will fall. Don’t be afraid of reinstalls. Be prepared.
. To be clear, the procedures described above create a full install system which works the same as one installed the regular way to an internal hard drive. Persistence
is something else, useful in some cases but not as complete, stable or updatable. It only became a “thing” because USB storage used to be limited in size and expensive. IMHO, persistence is now mostly obsolete. If that’s what you want, I’d recommend Pendrive’s UUI
, sudodus’ mkUSB
), or MultiSystem
has a tutorial
using only standard Mint tools plus rEFInd, though it’s a bit advanced. Do not use the widely touted LinuxLive USB Creator; was last updated in Sept 2015, last worked with Mint 17.2, and has since been abandoned
by its developer (see 2/3’s down page). I’ve also had trouble with YUMI (Pendrive’s multiboot app), UNetBootin and MultiBootUSB, but YMMV.
. I’m not a fan of system encryption, though I do use container encryption (Veracrypt
) for the relatively small subset of data files I want secured. To install, run sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unit193/encryption
, then apt update
and apt install veracrypt
. If preferred, home folder encryption is easily done - it’s an option on the same screen as where select user name and password - but entails a performance penalty. LUKS (full disk) encryption is faster, but only supported in the installer when using the simple “erase and install” method (select both "Erase" and "Encrypt," which also selects "LVM"). I’ve tested this for BIOS Install and Unflag/Reflag, and it worked for both. From various threads on the Forum, e.g., here
, I believe LUKS can be done manually for the other options, but I’ve not seen a tutorial directly on point.
. If you want to be absolutely certain the install to USB drive can’t modify your main system, installing from VirtualBox will give you that. (Credit to Valsodar
for reminding me of this option; see askubuntu
.) Also, saves the effort of burning the source ISO to USB or DVD, as VBox will mount it directly to a virtual CD drive. This strategy is only worth the trouble, though, if you already have VBox installed and running, as the learning curve is substantial. Moreover, installation will take longer, which isn’t surprising as VBox tends to be slower than “bare metal” systems. Can run the installation from an existing VM (take a snapshot), but easier and safer to make a new one; allocate as much memory as feasible; don’t bother with a virtual hard drive (won’t be using anyway); insert source ISO to virtual CD drive; attach target USB to host computer. By default, VBox VMs boot in BIOS mode; if want to install in UEFI mode, select “Enable EFI” from Settings: System. Start VM, which will bring up a live session; turn off screensaver and display shutoff. From the VBox menu, select Devices: USB, then click target USB, which will be mounted to the VM (as sda
if the VM doesn't have a virtual hard drive). Double-click installer icon and off you go. Can use the simple “erase and install” method (with or without LUKS) or Something Else. If using an existing VM, it generally will have been installed in BIOS mode, so there will be no EFI partition to unflag when installing to USB drive, even though you have temporarily changed the boot mode. When install completes, shut down live session. If created a bare VM as suggested, can be deleted now or retained for future use; if used an existing VM, roll back with snapshot. Boot USB to test, then do post-installation tweaks mentioned above.
. As mentioned, one good use for a USB hard drive is a test box with multiple versions of Mint and/or other Linux systems. Easy to do now, with external hard drives so inexpensive. Be advised that managing multiple Grubs is a bit tricky. What I find works best is to pick one OS as primary and plan not to change it. That becomes the primary Grub. Then, when installing other OSs, put their bootloaders on the corresponding OS partition. So, if installing Ubuntu 18.04 to sdc7
, specify that destination for the bootloader also. Understand, you won't be able to boot the secondary OS until you update the primary Grub. As the secondary Grubs aren't used, you might as well disable os-prober
for their updates, so they will run faster; edit /etc/default/grub to add GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=true. See Ubuntu Help
, Item 16. Of course, don't do this for the primary Grub. Note: If have occasion to use Timeshift on one of the secondary OSs, untick reinstall of Grub or that OS will become primary. I’ve never tested multi-boot with the rEFInd Method, so don’t know whether it’s able to manage secondary systems without installing any bootloaders, but assume the answer is yes.
. I’m not going to try cover this here, but it’s a good idea for multi-boot systems and preferred by some for single install. There are many threads on the topic. I found most useful this tutorial
. FWIW, I like to put the Data partition early in the partition scheme, before the operating systems, so I don’t have to worry about moving it later, but that’s merely personal preference.
. Bear in mind, external hard drives fail the same as internal ones. And, as mentioned, full install will burn out a flash drive relatively quickly. The USB drive never should have the only copy of anything you care about. No drive should.