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I own a legacy PC with a 4GB hard drive and I frequently encounter low disk space error with the applications that I run on it. New PC replacement is NOT an option at this time and I would like to know how can I boot from a portable hard drive, if that is at all possible.
 

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First you may need to do some reading here:
http://www.ngine.de/article/id/8
As you can see it works with some combos and PC's and drives, but not others.
Also know that Microsoft does not officially support this.
The next thing to check is whether you BIOS supports booting from USB (just look in the menus). You may need to update your BIOS to the latest version to have that feature (or it may not be available at all if your PC is old enough).

Anyway, have you thought of simply unmounting the external drive and plugging it in internally? That'll void the external drive's warranty, but if it's urgent enough... (if it's not urgent, then never mind). Also it might not work if it the internal connectors of the drive are SATA (your internal drive is 4GB so that immediately tells me it's IDE, not SATA).

What are the exact specs of your PC? You can find 10-40GB drives on ebay for really cheap.
If you want your drive to be new, you can get an 80GB from newegg for under $40:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2010150014 103530096 1035907789&name=IDE Ultra ATA100
 
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