Re-partitioning drives can be confusing. The trick here is one needs to be booting up off of a different drive than the one they are altering. Make sure your connection is good and the unit has enough power. If you can use an external power adapter as some systems can't supply enough power and will cause hangs like this. If you got a dual plugin USB cable with the drive make sure you use it and plug in Both plugs!
As to different OS-X versions. If you are altering an external drive (one that is not bootable) the OS-X version on the most part is not an issue (Lion or newer) all of these OS's use the same low level formatting. What can happen is the external disk might have a Windows based format (FAT) that has limits even though your Mac can work with it the alteration of the partition maybe beyond what the FAT format can support.
Here's some Apple TN's on OS-X formats and limits:
And lastly, here a good breakdown on the different Windows format types: NTFS vs FAT vs exFAT.
If you are planning on making it a bootable drive (swapping it out for the older internal drive) make sure you have the version of OS-X you want to install on your system. You really can't install a different version of OS than what you have booted up with. And you can encounter problems with a drive that is setup with too high a level of OS than what the system can support.
You make comment of a MacBook and a MacBook Pro do you have both here? If you do then you could be creating a problem if you are setting the drive up under your MacBook Pro to then install in your MacBook (OS wise).
You can also have an issue with the systems SATA I/O speed. Many of the MacBooks systems can only support SATA I (1.5 Gb/s) HD's is the drive you are trying to install a SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) or SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) drive that can't have it's I/O speed lowered to SATA I (1.5 Gb/s)? You may need to get a different drive.
I do recommend checking and updating if needed the systems firmware as Apple has addressed some HD issues in the firmware. Follow this Apple TN:EFI and SMC firmware updates for Intel-based Macs
Lastly, be careful on how your drive is partitioned many have a small boot partition to hold diagnostic utilities as well as OS installers (newer Mac internal drives).