I just got a Raspberry pi 3 with a WD usb external pi hardrive. The hardrive comes with a bootberry sd card with really confusing and contradictory instructions that installed (old outdated versions of everything) but was a pain to setup. I think I just bricked the OSes I had on it by changing the names* in the bootberry window, or something, anyways two out of the three will no longer boot.

I have way more experience with noobs, and have never been disappointed. Can noobs work with external hardrives? How would I do that? I want rasbian, some elec, and some emulator OS. I would like rasbian, elec, and the emulator OS to be able to share files if at all possible.

*The list of OSes had their version number, since the updates were extensive I though their were probably outdated, so clicked rename to just rename them to their base name, sans version number. You think their would be some warning that I was changing not only the menu designation, but key features of the OSes that they depended on.

  • Update. when I loaded up noobs it had an option right on the front to pick the destination drive and the hard drive was listed. So it seems noobs allows hardrive installation by default now. But I had already decided the the easiest method would be to just install to the SD card, and then use the hardrive for storage. Will leave this question up, and wait for someone with real information on installing to HDD, because my google searches seem to agree to 手塚リン.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


I have a NOOBS system card with Raspbian on the hard disk.

pi@RPi0:~ $ lsblk
sdb            8:16   0 931.5G  0 disk
└─sdb1         8:17   0 931.5G  0 part /
sda            8:0    1   7.3G  0 disk
└─sda1         8:1    1   7.3G  0 part /media/pi/boot
mmcblk0      179:0    0  29.3G  0 disk
├─mmcblk0p12 179:12   0    66M  0 part /media/pi/boot1
├─mmcblk0p2  179:2    0     1K  0 part
├─mmcblk0p10 179:10   0    66M  0 part /boot
├─mmcblk0p9  179:9    0   6.9G  0 part /media/pi/897d2cca-c97f-4ee8-ba6d-c4c2cff
├─mmcblk0p7  179:7    0   1.9G  0 part
├─mmcblk0p5  179:5    0    32M  0 part /media/pi/SETTINGS
├─mmcblk0p13 179:13   0   7.5G  0 part /media/pi/root0
├─mmcblk0p11 179:11   0  10.2G  0 part /media/pi/root1
├─mmcblk0p1  179:1    0   1.4G  0 part
├─mmcblk0p8  179:8    0   512M  0 part /media/pi/6801-27D7 
├─mmcblk0p6  179:6    0    47M  0 part /media/pi/RISC_OS_Boo
└─mmcblk0p14 179:14   0   512M  0 part /media/pi/data

Understand how NOOBS works is the key to using the hard disk. mmcblk0p1 is a FAT (FAT16) partition for NOOBS to boot first. In my case mmcblk0p10 is the Raspbian boot partition, also FAT (FAT32), that is booted second to load the root partition on the hard disk. The mmcblk0p11 is the installed root for Raspbian that I copied to the hard disk and changed the /boot/cmdline.txt file where root=PARTUUID=cf93980c-01, which is the partition on the hard disk. All of the different OS boot partitions are of type FAT. NOOBS makes all the root partitions of type Linux (ext4), check with sudo fdisk -l command. You could format the hard disk in many different ways to fit your needs. To share data with the different OS, make a data partition on the hard disk, make filesystem (mkfs.ext4 -L data /dev/sda1) - if /dev/sda1 is the data partition just created, and mount it in each OS /etc/fstab. You may wish to see How can I backup my whole SD to an img file usable with Etcher to restore later? for more ideas.


NOOBS does not currently allow for installing to and booting from an external drive. Berryboot (what the drive came with) is the only way that I know of to achieve this with the pi. Note that Berryboot allows you to install systems from the internet much like NOOBs does.

Note that NOOBS can work with USB drives on a pi3 natively if you enable USB boot in the OTP bits from a working raspbian SD card and the program_otp command line.

As for the installed OSs being outdated and requiring massive updates at first boot; that's to be expected from anything that isn't an online install. Offline install packages can't be updated without plugging them into an online system, so it makes sense to just let the system upgrade itself at first boot (or in the case of debian-installer, let you download newer packages at install-time)

  • It sort of was a network install. It was really confusing... The documentation for the drive said, ~unhook the network before installation~ Nothing about when to plug it back in, or anything about ignoring requests by the installation to plug it it. But the first thing the installation said was to hook up the Ethernet cable or wifi. So it did, so I think it downloaded a bunch of stuff. But then the retropie installation was so out of date all it did was error constantly until I ran an update.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 18:46
  • 1
    @John, Download a fresh copy of berryboot and it should work fine. Installing it works the same as NOOBS, but can it install to, and boot from, USB drives without any special tweaking. Note that pi3 can boot natively from USB if you program it's OTP bits to enable the new bootROM features (there's a howto on the wiki)
    – BaconWaifu
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 3:43

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