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What is the proper/best way to have a USB hard drive permanently mounted? I have done this using fstab using disk label as the identifier, but when I disconnected the drive and tried to boot the pi, it wouldn't boot (dropped to a root shell somewhere along the way) - I'd prefer it to boot even if the drive isn't connected. There are a couple of services (plex, squeezebox) that use the drive for their storage, which might complicate things more that just delaying the mounting till after booting has finished.

And what would be the typical/standard location to mount such drives to?

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using /etc/fstab is the proper way of doing this.

if you do not want your system to depend on the drive on startup in case the usb drive is missing you have to set the relevant parameter / options

from man fstab

nofail           do  not  report  errors  for  this  device if it does not
                 exist.

so your fstab should have an entry like this:

UUID=631 /mountpoint/ ext4 rw,auto,nofail 0 2 while only nofail should be the important option to you.

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