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In case of system failure, it's nice to have /boot in it's own partition. Same for /home, /usr, /tmp and /var. If any of these reside in or on / and fill up for any reason, it can cause problems on your system. So if they're on their own partition, if they fill up, / isn't filled up and your system will still normally function properly.
If you have a separate /home partition, you can rename your home directory before installing a different distro, and not format the /home partition when installing. Then you can copy documents or whatever to your new home directory at your leisure later. I have run into the situation of my /usr partition filling up because I didn't reserve enough space for it when I installed Linux. That is the downside. You are fragmenting available space.
Another upside is that you can mount dedicated partition differently, such as using the "noexec" option for /tmp. For servers, you may have some partitions mounted read-only. The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (on the tldp.org website) has details on which system partitions can be mounted statically.
Well, if you can spare the partition, why not? It isn't as if if you're wasting a whole lot of space, is it?
But all things well considered, having a boot partition isn't exactly vital either. I used to create one for each of my distros but now that I've gone completely SATA, I'm facing a 15 (actually 14) partitions per disk limit and I prefer to do without them. I do have one left now but only because I needed an ext3 partition to hold my GRUB ( I use XFS for all the rest, which does not go too well with GRUB).
Yes, there is always the risk of / filling up. But when it does, it's usually only because you made it too small to hold all your software. It think it's far more important to keep var on a partition of its own. And if I ever face that situation, I can always boot into one of my other distros do some cleaning up from there.
Thanks for your answers! I think I'm going to keep my existing partitions (/, /boot and /home), and will do some research about Grub and XFS. I'm currently using XFS and Lilo, but after a recent MBR failure due to lilo, i'm going back to grub.
I used to create one for each of my distros but now that I've gone completely SATA, I'm facing a 15 (actually 14) partitions per disk limit and I prefer to do without them. I do have one left now but only because I needed an ext3 partition to hold my GRUB ( I use XFS for all the rest, which does not go too well with GRUB).
LVM would solve this problem for you on limitations.
For Fedora distributions, and others that use LVM by default, having /boot on its own partition is almost required since GRUB does not "understand" LVM partitions. That may change with GRUB2, but the project seems to be moving fairly slowly.