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adasiak 10-02-2007 07:43 PM

How to partition, if you expect to switch distros?
 
How would you recommend partitioning a hard drive, if you thought you might want to change distros someday, but didn't want to lose the hard work you'd put into your current one?

Having played for a while with Debian, Kubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora, I may be ready to wipe my hard drive clean and settle for now on MEPIS. But what if I change my mind later? What if MEPIS starts cranking out dog-turd distros, or stops cranking them out entirely? What if I become a Slackware nerd? I'll have put some labor into downloading software, adding users and groups, and tinkering with preferences -- and I don't want that all to disappear just because I thought using Gentoo would make me more of a man.

Can folks suggest some partitioning schemes? I'm running a 512-MB RAM, 80-GB HD, desktop-dedicated, non-server machine.

--Paul

SlowCoder 10-02-2007 07:56 PM

You should only need 3 partitions total.
#1 - location of your root (/) directory. 10-20 Gigs of your hard drive should be sufficient for current, and future installations for a few years.
#2 - Swap partition. 1-2 Gigs of space should be sufficient.
#3 - location of your /home directory. Give that whatever's left of your hard drive space.

With this configuration, you should be able to blow away your Linux installs whenever you want, and your data should be safely on the /home partition.

Note that you'll probably want to back up your /etc directory periodically to preserve any system settings. However it should be noted that different distros may have different configuration files and locations within the /etc directory.

This is just my opinion. It's worked for me.

Sepero 10-02-2007 08:57 PM

I partition similarly to how SlowCoder says, except I have 2 partitions for #1 (root).

That way I can have two root distributions installed at the same time. It let's me test a new one out, while I keep my original.

PS.
I've never had a Linux #1 (root) partition need more than 7GB. I think 10GB should be more than enough to last the life of your computer.

jschiwal 10-02-2007 10:02 PM

I would recommend having a separate /home partition. You could either give yourself a new username on the next distro or rename your home directory such as appending "-old" to the name. Then install as normal but make sure you don't format the /home partition. Some distro's like SuSE use a different regular user UID range of numbers. So you may need to use chown to change the permissions on your old user home directory.

If you have produced a number of packages from source, you might want to backup your old /usr/local/ directory. Installations usually work better if you delete the old partitions that will be replaced and let the installer reformat them. Usually you have to use the expert formatting option.

jlliagre 10-03-2007 01:25 AM

I would recommend also to spare primary partitions and create the Linux filesystems on extended ones.

This would allow you to install, should you want to, non Linux O/Ses which are almost all requiring a primary one, like *BSD and Solaris based distributions.

2damncommon 10-03-2007 01:38 AM

I currently use 6GB partitions for total trial installs and 10GB partitions for preferred distributions. Swap can be shared. I have a data partition I can move shared data to and burn cds or dvds as needed.
On an 80GB drive I would reserve 20-40GB as a data partition, create swap as 2x RAM, and split the rest in 5-10GB chunks as I saw fit.
The next time you do it you will know better what you want.

adasiak 10-03-2007 04:36 PM

User-installed software stored where?
 
Thanks for your suggestions, friends.

As some of you have suggested, I already partition into (swap), one / (root) partition for each distro, and a /home shared among the distros.

I think jschiwal cuts closest to the heart of my question: when I install new software (e.g., Opera, Google Earth, or w3c's Amaya), where is the program itself kept? Surely not /home? Is it always in /usr/local?

To use a Windows analogy: in Windows, there's a "Documents and Settings" folder that seems analogous to /home. There's also a "Program Files" folder with the .exe, .dll, and other program files not related to a specific user. That's the stuff I want to avoid losing if I decide to change distros.

Is there a single place in the filesystem standard where user-installed software is kept? If not, in which places is stored? Or, if so, what else is store there? anything distro-specific that would start making my new Fedora (or Linspire, Slackware, etc.) OS start behaving like my old MEPIS OS?

SlowCoder 10-03-2007 07:50 PM

You would need to read the documentation for each program to determine where it installs.

But ...

You will need to reinstall all of your programs when you change distros. Typically, when a program is compiled, it is compiled to work with a specific kernel, and may only work in the current distro. Hence, saving the programs themselves would be a waste of your time.

AceofSpades19 10-03-2007 07:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SlowCoder (Post 2911150)
You should only need 3 partitions total.
#1 - location of your root (/) directory. 10-20 Gigs of your hard drive should be sufficient for current, and future installations for a few years.
#2 - Swap partition. 1-2 Gigs of space should be sufficient.
#3 - location of your /home directory. Give that whatever's left of your hard drive space.

With this configuration, you should be able to blow away your Linux installs whenever you want, and your data should be safely on the /home partition.

Note that you'll probably want to back up your /etc directory periodically to preserve any system settings. However it should be noted that different distros may have different configuration files and locations within the /etc directory.

This is just my opinion. It's worked for me.

What do you do to take up 1-2 gigs of swap space, I only have 256 mb of ram and I use 30 mb at most of swap space

Sepero 10-04-2007 03:32 AM

There is no transferring of programs with Linux. If you switch distros, you will need to reinstall ALL programs. Reinstalling all programs may seem like a big deal, but it's not because of programs like apt-get/Synaptic. It allows you to easily select all the programs you want installed, then it downloads them all and installs them. easy

All of your personal settings for each program will be saved in /home. So as soon as a program is reinstalled, you're automatically back where you left off before.

There are many reasons programs aren't transfered. One reason is that different distributions can have different names for the same files and different locations for installing them.

(You may ask "Why are they different?", simply because sometimes people disagree.)

RamanaRao 10-04-2007 05:20 AM

How to partition, if you expect to switch distros?
 
Hi

Have you thought about using VM Ware on Top of Linux.
You can have a base Linux version [ as a Standard ] and rest all are guest OS es just in case if you want to explore.

The day you want to throw it out it's matter of throwing out one or more files.

How ever you may need to get more RAM on your system.

Cheers...

RamanaRao

SlowCoder 10-04-2007 06:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AceofSpades19 (Post 2912425)
What do you do to take up 1-2 gigs of swap space, I only have 256 mb of ram and I use 30 mb at most of swap space

I have 2Gig of RAM, and 1 Gig of swap. It's all just a matter of opinion. However, I calculated 1-2G swap for him because he doesn't know what he might be doing with his computer in the future. If hard drive space is not a huge issue, I don't see where it is bad to have that much.

Sepero 10-04-2007 11:25 PM

I have 2GB swap. I've never used it all, but if I had, I'd probably increase it. I run virtual machines sometimes and it helps.

AceofSpades19 10-05-2007 06:36 PM

For people that just run everyday apps, I don't see why someone would need more then half a gig of swap

saikee 10-05-2007 07:14 PM

Typically I would leave the primary partitions sda1, sda2 and sda3 for the MS systems, BSD and Solaris.

Thus the sda4 is used as an extended partition. I like putting swap at the front so it would be sda5, size 1Gb as it is easy to remember.

When Pata hard disk could have 63 partitions I chopped the remaining hard disk space in logical partitions of 5Gb each. Now that Pata can have only 16 partition I increase the partition size to 10Gb each.

I always use one partition for one Linux and amend the first distro with Grub to boot all the empty partitions. The empties won't boot of course but if one is fill it boots immediately.


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