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I want to use multiple OS (not at the same time) and I don't want to install all OS in one HDD. So I want to use an external USB 2.0 box (my Dell T3500 only supports USB 2.0) and several HDDs. Each OS for one HDD. When I want to switch OS, I can just shutdown the current OS, replace the HDD, then boot it.

My concern is about performance. Will it have significantly performance downgrade? Thanks.

P.S.: I also tried a 3.5" SATA HDD box but the CD/DVD bracket is 2~3mm smaller than the 3.5" SATA HDD box so I can't install the HDD Box in it. :(

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It will be deadly slow, IF you can get your OS to install on USB. It is generally not recommended, because of the speed.

If you are using Windows 7 or later, I would recommend making use of VHDs for installing your Operating Systems. If you are using older versions of Windows, or using Linux, I would check out virtulization programs, such as VMWare Workstation or VirtualBox (free)

Another issue, depending on your operating system, is whether or not it will load USB before the boot loader, which should be on an internal hard drive. Finally, does your BIOS support booting from a USB hard drive?

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Thank you, Luke. I have confirmed BIOS supports booting from a USB hard drive. For the virtualization solution, sorry, I had to use a software which can't be installed in an virtualized OS. I didn't tried the VHD solution but I guess it's like running a guest os on top of Windows. So it's not applicable for my case. :( Anyway, thanks for your suggestion! ;) – Landy Jun 21 '12 at 7:02
@landy You can boot a vhd on your system without starting windows. It's a method that helps testers keep their systems the same. to delete an os, delete its vhd file and it's gone – Canadian Luke Jun 21 '12 at 14:52

I did it with SLAX on a Dell C521 AMD X2 a few years ago. Was going to make this the box's configuration with a thumb drive hooked up to internal USB jumpers. It actually worked quite well. IMHO, your performance will depend on the quality of the USB stick. I have a couple USB thumb drives I boot Ubuntu Live OS from and performance is acceptably fast, nothing as miserable as trying to run from a live-CD.

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Assuming you have a good USB flash drive, yes, this method is great. I believe the OP is asking about hard drives though. I did upvote nonetheless, as USB flash drives are great for troubleshooting compared to CDs – Canadian Luke Jun 20 '12 at 23:55
Ha! Didn't even notice. Anecdotally, a HDD I removed from a laptop when I installed linux got put into an external case and then inadvertently left plugged in. I was more than disturbed when that laptop rebooted to XP. I noticed no difference in performance (while shutting down). – Chris K Jun 20 '12 at 23:58
@ChrisK Thanks for your suggestion. As Luke said, I need to install OS on hard drives. It's a good news that you didn't notice difference in performance. – Landy Jun 21 '12 at 7:06

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