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I have to create an Apache tomcat web-server on a Raspberry Pi.

However, I want to install Apache tomcat, java, mysql on an external hard disk and run them from there.

How can do this? Also, which OS is best for it, Raspbian or Arch?

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    One thing you could consider doing is putting the entire OS on the external hard drive. This will increase the longevity of the SD, make the files safer (less chance of corruption), and will make what you want to do (install software externally) a lot simpler. Just search the site, there have been a couple questions regarding running of a USB/external HDD device. – RPiAwesomeness Oct 15 '14 at 11:46
  • What do you mean by its good? – RPiAwesomeness Oct 15 '14 at 11:54
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    I really don't see an objective answer to the question "is arch or *bian better" on the horizon ;) I am using Archlinux with LAMP stack and its installation and configuration is more or less straight forward. – Ghanima Oct 15 '14 at 13:37
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Basically, you should be able to put your stuff on a hdd with Raspbian and Arch also.

There is a very good answer about how to transfer your stuff to an external hdd or usb flash drive for the question How can I use a USB HDD to extend the life of my SD Card?. I'd recommend using this together with an optimization of the use of the sd card, there is also an answer here: How can I extend the life of my SD card?.

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