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Partitioning

When I first started playing with Linux almost 20 years ago, there was little information, and I had no internet access to find any. I think it was in 1995-6 before I could get a dial-up connection, and joined a mailing list where people used and played with Linux. Over a period of time I learned a little from O'Rielly's "Running Linux" and from Linux User Groups. In those days, the recommendation was to use separate partitions for most of the root folders. We finally got over this, now we have gone just one step too far for 'normal' Linux users, who keep fiddling with their installations. The /home directory contains all the data you generate, be it photos, documents, music, and your settings, email and browser stuff. If this directory is on a separate partition, you can re-install without losing this data, and most of us DO need to re-install, sometimes! Using this structure has saved me and many others, many hours of work.

Slash ”/” is the root directory of the file system. If you decided to use the entire drive for ”/” then all the directories such as /boot, /etc, /home, /opt, /root, /swap, /tmp, /usr, /usr/local, /var would be included under that directory structure.

If you allow Ubuntu-based installers to 'use the entire disk', or 'install along side' it will make one primary partition for root (or /) of most of the available space, then an extended partition, containing a small swap partition. I don't understand why an extended , then a logical, for a swap partition. I always use a primary if I can.

Let's explain some terms.

In the world of DOS / Windows, partitions are known by letters . usually >C: is your main partition known as 'C' drive , followed by D ,E, F,…..partitions which may be on the same or separate hard drives, or optical and USB drives. ( 'A' and 'B' were for floppy drives.) if you are old enough to remember.

In the Unix, and Linux world, the first hard drive is known as /dev/sda, second as /dev/sdb, …. . If you have 3 hard drives, the third is /dev/sdc . USB drives follow the same naming format, but optical drives mount in /media. In Vinux 4 USB drives are shown toward the bottom of the Launcher.

The partitions on a given hard drive are called by number, so /dev/sda1, /dev/sda2… . or /dev/sdc1, .

There are 2 types of partition. You are allowed a maximum of 4 primary partitions. If you want to multi-boot , and want more than 4 partitions, you can make a special type of primary partition called an extended partition. This is a container for logical partitions, which will allow you to have a maximum of 16 partitions altogether, using an Ubuntu based distribution, like Vinux.

Windows has used FAT16, FAT 32 and now NTFS. When I started out, Linux used EXT2, EXT3 and now EXT4. There are other available file systems but I'm happy using EXT4. It's a journalling file system which can unscramble my hard drive when the power fails!

If I am installing Vinux, as the only operating system on the computer, I will create 3 primary partitions, /, /swap, and /home. Depending on disk size, I use 10-30 GB for /; 1-6 GB for/swap, and the rest of the drive as /home. I ALWAYS partition my hard drives manually!

Some examples.

A simple vinux install on an 80 GB disk drive ( /dev/sda )

/dev/sda1 EXT4 20 GB / Primary Partitions

/dev/sda2 swap 5 GB swap

/dev/sda3 EXT4 55 GB /home

Next is a install of Windows and Vinux, still on an 80 GB drive. Windows must be installed first, but it is very much a secondary OS in our house. Partitions are set with gparted, and let Windows re-format the ntfs to keep it happy. It doesn't realise there is anything else on the computer.

/dev/sda1 NTFS 30 GB Windows

/dev/sda2 EXT4 15 GB /

/dev/sda3 swap 5 GB swap

/dev/sda4 EXT4 30 GB /home All primary partitions

This is roughly what Vinux does when you tell it to "install along side Windows". It will resize the NTFS to about half the drive, and install itself in a large / partition, small swap, and NO separate /home. You can manually resize the NTFS, and partition the reclaimed space as above, from Gparted in a live install of Vinux.

When Vinux is installed, it will detect the Windows install, and put it in Grub menu on the bottom line. For the above drive the menu would have 4 lines with Vinux, Vinux -recovery mode, memory test, and Windows. There is no speech when this menu appears when booting, just a beep a second before. The top line, Vinux, is the default, and will start after some seconds. If you wish to start Windows push the down arrow after the beep 3 or more times, (Arrowing down will only go to the bottom, it doesn't wrap-around) then press enter key to start Windows. Vinux will always remain the default, unless you change it deliberately, but the number of lines will increase as kernels are updated in normal updates. Windows will remain on the bottom, just arrow down further, if you find you are not getting Windows to start. Once you press the down arrow the first time, you have disabled the timer; even if you go back to the top line, you need to press enter to start your choice.

I do a lot of testing, and often have multiple Operating systems on one drive. I still set up separate /home partitions, only 1 swap, and a / for each operating system. I am using an 80Gb hard drive, so you can see how I divide it for testing.

/dev/sda1 EXT4 10 GB / operating system 1) Primary Partitions

/dev/sda2 EXT4 10 GB / operating system 2

/dev/sda3 swap 5 GB swap

/dev/sda4 extended 55 GB

/dev/sda5 EXT4 10 GB / operating system 3 logical partitions

/dev/sda6 EXT4 15 GB /home operating system 1

/dev/sda7 EXT4 15 GB /home operating system 2

/dev/sda8 EXT4 15 GB /home operating system 3

You will notice the extended partition uses one of our 4 primary partitions, and all the space inside it is available for the logical partitions. Ubuntu based distro's actually hide it, but the number is used. If you have more than 4 partitions and can't find one, this is probably the explanation.

I have tried to keep this as simple as possible for beginners, but this is a dangerous and compicated area where a wrong action can loose a lot of data, so I have had to explain side issues that have made it a much bigger document than planned.

Prepare a plan before you start, and if you have any doubts at all, ASK. The support mailing list is friendly, and there are people on mangler / ventrilo and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) who are willing to help. Both these last have a default entry for Vinux, just add a user name, or nick, and go for it.

Ubuntu and in turn Vinux offers a user friendly partitioning method using both the installer and the Gparted tool.

partitioning.txt · Last modified: 2013/04/2621:10 by Bill

partitioning.txt · Last modified: 2013/07/03 14:27 (external edit)