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I've heard that this is possible and I want to do this. I downloaded Ubuntu 14.04.3 LTS.iso(64-bit) file and used win32 Disk Imager to write it onto two SD cards to try and get it to work. The SD cards I used were a 64GB Class 10 SDXC card and a 32GB Micro SDHC card (with adapter). I formatted them as exFAT and FAT32 respectively and have tried to format them both as NTFS to see if that worked, completely formatting them with CMD each time I try. I also tried this on a 8GB USB drive formatted as NTFS and it worked just fine. Right now I'm using a Lenovo Y70 laptop with these specs:

Windows 10 Home (64-bit), Intel Core i7-4710HQ 2.5 GHZ, 16B GDDR3L, 1TB + 8BG SSHD, NVIDIA Geforce 860m (4GB DDR5), Card Reader (Support: SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC),

I have tuned safe boot off and turned legacy support on in BIOS and it still wont even recognize it as a bootable drive, I'm really not sure what I'm doing wrong.

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  • Welcome to SuperUser. Not very concise question, Does your BIOS allow booting to your Card Reader (SD cards ect)? I would not be surprised your notebook does not support booting from sd cards. Servers designed for VMware are sometimes specially designed to support booting from flash like SD or compact flash. Sep 9, 2015 at 0:18
  • Your remark about formatting NTFS, exFAT, FAT32 is not relevant since when you write the ISO image that is all erased. Better question title would be how do I boot my laptop off SD card. Then show what you researched already to solve the problem. Sep 9, 2015 at 0:19
  • This tool has worked well for me: linuxliveusb.com
    – user201262
    Nov 2, 2018 at 19:17

4 Answers 4

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I have the same problem. I've successfully installed Ubuntu 14.04 on USB, and it booted fine. However, when trying to install onto microSD card (through built-in reader) Ubuntu installs really slow, and just freezes before completing installation. Maybe it's something to do with SD cards themselves, because when I've tried to install Android-x86, it said installed successfully, but upon booting, it showed up in the boot device selection screen, but had a boot error. I've just been sticking to USBs. They're bulky, but hey, they work.

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  1. Try Ubuntu's recommended Pen Drive Linux installer and follow their directions. It should work on the USB stick and possibly the SDHC card.

  2. Stick with FAT32, as Ubuntu must install MS proprietary drivers to read exFAT (easy installed once you've got Ubuntu working). NTFS rewrites too much on the card and is likely to cause earlier failure.

  3. Have you changed the boot order to put the USB drive first? BTW, some BIOS types cannot boot from an internal card reader.

My experience with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Desktop is that it ran immediately on two very different laptops and a desktop. After testing it running from a USB stick, I found making a dual-boot installation worked well on the first try. N.B. Before attempting installation permanent, make a full disk image and verify it in case partitioning mangles the HDD.

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Do you want to just boot the ISO image off removable media, boot the ISO image and have it use a partition for persistence, or actually install ubuntu on the external media and boot from it with grub?

All 3 are possible.

For the first two, the process is the same, but for persistence you need to label an extra partition in a particular way (casper-rw or casper-home depending on what you want to have persistent). Easiest way is to download and use Rufus - https://rufus.akeo.ie/

To actually install is doable too - just start the isntaller, and when it asks if you want to install just ubuntu, set up a dual boot, or do something else, do something else. Then you can create a swap partition and a / partition on your external drive, and set the boot loader to write to the external drive itself (not a partition - so /dev/sdb or whatever not /dev/sdb1)

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Using Windows CMD as Administrator:

diskpart
List disk 
Sel disk #=micro sd
Clean
Convert MBR
cre part pri 
Sel part 1
Active
Format fs=NTFS quick
Assign or assign letter=“ whatever“
Exit

Now your micro SD card will be recognized as a local desk and will be able to boot on system start.

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