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I'm getting a new laptop in a few days time and am wondering how to partition up drives. I'll have 2 250GB drives.
What I want to do is have 2 Windows partitions( Vista, XP), 1 quasi-Windows partition (FAT32 to share music and other media around all of what I want. This will be one hard disk. Which I'm fine with setting up.
The trouble comes with the second hard disk (or first depending) on the advice I get. I want to have several other installations, one general use Linux (Debian or Ubuntu), one random version of Linux that I can play around with to see how the kernel works, and possibly an OpenBSD installation as well, just to try out.
I'm not sure how to partition this other drive.
From what I read, I can share swap space (how big should it be?)
Can I share /boot folder? how big should that be?
Can I share other parts of the file system? (apps/data/config)
Should I install Linux on first hard disk as it will have MBR and stuff? or does this make any difference?
The most important advice I can give you is to
learn as much as you can about partitioning
and whatever boot loader you plan to use
BEFORE plunging ahead, especially if you are
going to use your system for live data. What
you want to do can certainly be done, but if
you follow other people's advice to set up a
configuration of this type before you yourself
have a good handle on things, you could easily
make a mistake at a later date and wipe out a
partition, for example if you are installing
another distribution to play around with.
There is a commercial product called Partition
Magic that has a wizard that is very helpful
at visualizing what's going on in your computer.
You might want to consider using that.
swap space: limited to 2GB per swap partition. The old rule that swap = 1.5 to 2 x RAM is outdated. Unless you want to suspend/hibernate, you will be fine with 2GB and if you have over 2GB of RAM, you may do without.
FreebSD: as pointed out, should be installed in a primary partition. Bear in mind that if you want to access your data saved under BSD from Linux, it would be better to install it on drive 1 and Linux on drive 2 - unless you are going to use only one or two partitions for each. The reason is that Linux cannot access more than 14 partitions on a drive. If you install BSD, you will find that it fits all into a single primary partition, but BSD uses "slices", which are like partitions within its partition; these will be mapped to the end of the drive. So if you have, say, two Linux partitions that have 4 partitions each, a shared data partition and a shared swap partition, then you may find that your BSD home partition maps beyond partition 15, which makes it inaccessible from Linux.
If you use Vista, do not install GRUB on the same drive unless you have no other choice. There have been several reports of Vista SP1 messing up computers badly if it finds that GRUB is installed on its drive.
I do not see any reason to limit partitions to 50GB. It would be massive overkill for most partitions, that's true, but I have data partitions that are as large as 900GB.
For a filesystem, I would recommend XFS - it is simply the fastest one and it does not bother you with boot time file system checks ever so often - unlike most other file systems. However, it is a bad idea to place a boot partition on XFS (or JFS for that matter) so if you select either, you'll need to create a separate small boot partition (say 80 to 120MB) that uses ext2 or ext3. You can even share a single boot partition among your distros (only Linux, not BSD) if you find yourself approaching the max number of partitions.
Another good idea to save on the number of partitions is using a single data partition. To do this, do not create a separate home partition but leave home under /. Then create a single partition that you can mount on a directory inside your home directory. You could put all of your home partitions on a single partition, too, but that could get rather messy as it will then contain different configuration files. One way of avoiding this is making a different user for each but that has its own issues.
Linux reads ntfs (writing fine too) so FAT32 is not needed. You can read your files that are under Linux from XP if you install a windows ext2/ext3 driver. This implies, of course, that you use ext2 or ext3 for your Linux partitions.
My typical layout would be (for a single install):
/var 2GB (or larger if you intend to run servers)
/home anything left if not placed under / (in the latter case, you may want to make / a bit larger).
For the Linux/BSD partitions, you might consider giving them only 10GB each, and the using a large partition as a data area that can be used no matter which you boot. For MS stuff, you're kinda stuck. Give some thought to how much you will really need to access from Vista/XP and use that as a common partition for the MS operating systems. To misquote Bill Gates: "Why would anyone need more than 6.4GB for Windows?"
Oh yeah, here is another suggestion. Install windows first on drive 1. When both are installed, go into BIOS and make the second drive the bootable one. Then install Linux. This will prevent GRUB from overwriting your windows bootloader. If you decide to install BSD to drive 1, do so only after flipping boot order in BIOS. BSD does not take kindly to such changes so it is best to install it only when you have everything in its proper final order.