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Old 12-07-2012, 12:06 PM   #1
stowrag
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Dual Boot System: What's the best way to partition the hard drives in my set-up?


A little about myself: I'm Linux curious, and I recently assembled my first computer, which includes:
  • a 240 GB SDD,
  • a 1TB HDD,
  • 16 GB of RAM (with the very real possibility of doubling it in the future),
  • and a 2 TB external HD.
I was told Dual Booting would allow me to explore and play around with Linux while not forcing me to give up the Windows I'm comfortable with. I've also been told isolating Operating Systems (on the SSD) makes smart sense. I understand the basics of what Hard Drive partitioning is, but as for the best way to set up my particular system, I'm at a loss, so I thought I'd try to solicit opinions.

I hear a lot of talk about SWAP partitions, which I believe I understand the purpose of, (but I don't understand why Linux can't access the RAM I've already installed...).

This is my first home built machine, and it really doesn't have a purpose aside from "personal computer": I might use it for creative pursuits (video editing?), work, gaming, and (most certainly) as an all around media player.

If anybody has any thoughts or recommendations as to how many partitions, what their sizes should be, what they should be used for, and the best tools to use, please share.

Thanks.
 
Old 12-07-2012, 12:44 PM   #2
markush
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Hello stowrag, welcome to LQ,

as of the swap-partition, Linux uses this parition roughly spoken "when the RAM is full", but with 16GB of RAM you don't need one. Only exeption would be if you have a Laptop and want to hibernate, then you would need a swap partition where the system stores the content of the RAM when hibernating.

As for the partitions. You have enough space. You should at least create two partitions for Linux, one for / (the rootfilesystem) and one for /home. Useful size nowadays is for / more than 15GB, a recent distribution will need about 4-8 GB for a default installation. In /home you'll have your personal data.

Most distributions like Ubuntu or Mint which are recommended for newbies will suggest you a partition-scheme which you should use.

important: if you want to install Windows alongside with Linux, install Windows at first!, Linux will recognize your Windowsinstallation and put it automatically to the bootloader, whereas Windows is not able to handle an existing Linuxsystem.

Markus

Last edited by markush; 12-07-2012 at 12:47 PM.
 
Old 12-07-2012, 02:03 PM   #3
malekmustaq
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Quote:
I hear a lot of talk about SWAP partitions, which I believe I understand the purpose of, (but I don't understand why Linux can't access the RAM I've already installed...).

Who said so? <A soldier wrapped with heavy bandoleer doesn't mean his rifle is not loaded>

Quote:
This is my first home built machine, and it really doesn't have a purpose aside from "personal computer": I might use it for creative pursuits (video editing?), work, gaming, and (most certainly) as an all around media player.

If you plan to use the system for video editing while it is doing all around media player you'd better have swap partition.

Quote:
If anybody has any thoughts or recommendations as to how many partitions, what their sizes should be, what they should be used for, and the best tools to use, please share.

It is not for others to decide how much space and how many partitions, this is more of a personal decision; for a little guidance just consider these conservative points:

--you only need between 5 to 20 Gbytes for a linux system to run comfortably with all system directories within same partition;
--if you separate system directories (advisable for your video editing) into dedicated partitions here is conservative combination:
---/boot == 850Mb-1Gb
---/var == 5 Gb
---/tmp == 20 Gb --smooth editing and temporary storing of huge media files while at work
---/usr == 10 Gb
---/opt == 8 Gb [only for distros -RH, etc- that heavily use /opt --Slackware runs even without it ]
---/etc == 500Mb-800Mb
---/home == 250 GBytes
---/ == 2-3 Gb's including /lib
---other directories mostly of negligible sizes may sit together at the / partition.

You may want to put all your M$Windows 'affairs' at the SSD drive and some of generally static gnu/linux directories. Use the HDD for most of gnu/linux presence, while the external HDD may only serve as your data/file storage.

The rest of your hard drives may serve as data/file storage. Gnu/Linux doesn't need much space to function.

Another thing to consider: As you progress in Gnu/Linux learning you will crave to test run other distros, so in anticipation to this you should leave at least 300-500 GBytes of unformatted space in the Logical (Extended) partition, to be sliced and used as the need arise in the future.

Hope that helps.

Good luck and after Markush welcomed you, again I say Welcome to LQ.

Last edited by malekmustaq; 12-07-2012 at 02:18 PM.
 
Old 12-07-2012, 02:50 PM   #4
stowrag
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Thank you both for the support and welcoming.

I hear talk of SWAP partitions from many sources, but it sounds as though SWAP doesn't act just as a replacement for RAM but is also used to preserve data stored on RAM in case of system shut-off (or as when a laptop enters "sleep" mode)?

Why does video editing and media player capabilities necessitate a SWAP partition? I wouldn't have imagined running iTunes/pandora/spotify and watching downloaded video or reading video from an optical drive would be all that taxing, and the only video editing I saw myself doing was likewise fairly light: assembling slideshows and removing, manipulating and reordering video clips. In summary: I'm not a power user. I'd certainly like to be given my career and education, but the laptop I used all through school was holding me back, and I'm hoping my new computer will grant me considerably more freedom to explore.

This is only my first foray into Linux, and I'm really interested in setting up a general environment that can take advantage of most of my system's resources rather than a very customized environment designed to optimize them.

Ubuntu was already recommended for a good place to start for a beginner, and if it's going to make a recommendation/automate (will it automate it?) the partitioning process on installation, I might just go with that. If I do get curious to try other distributions though, can the partitioning and Linux directories be easily relocated? If I eventually want to customize and specialize, how hard will it be to modify an existing machine running Linux?

And thanks for the tip regarding Windows. I've already heard many times before that Windows is particular about its location on the hard drive. It's actually already been installed, but I've been holding off on installing much else until I get Linux loaded.
 
Old 12-07-2012, 03:02 PM   #5
markush
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stowrag View Post
... If I eventually want to customize and specialize, how hard will it be to modify an existing machine running Linux?
...
Much easier as with Windows. You could only take a look at LVM (logical volume management) but I would recommend that you as a beginner make a "normal" installation and try it out. As long as you have your personal data on a separate /home partition, you can always change the distribution.

If you really want to learn Linux and are curious about other approaches than Windows, I'd recommend to install Slackware.

Markus
 
Old 12-07-2012, 04:11 PM   #6
jefro
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You have a third option also. I almost always use a virtual machine. Your system is either mostly supported or fully supported. It is a very safe way to test different operating systems. A fully supported should run linux at or near and in some cases faster than native speeds. You don't have to partition and worry about the recovery partition or the 100mb reserved.

Many distro's offer pre-made virtual machine images for download. Usually you download the file, uncompress and click on the image configuration file.


"SWAP doesn't act just as a replacement for RAM" No it is totally used for ram while powered up. It can be used for other uses.

Ram and swap in huge numbers may be required to edit complex images, audio or video. A 7G video is easy to work on. Each application has different ways to hold on to data in use and save changes during use and ways to modify.

Last edited by jefro; 12-07-2012 at 04:15 PM.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 10:16 AM   #7
stowrag
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Another semi-related question: When I went to install Ubuntu, the os didn't "see" the SSD I intended to install it on, instead it only recognized the standard hard drive I use for every day storage. Do I need to open up my box and physically disconnect my Hard Drive to force it to recognize the SSD or is there something else I can do?
 
Old 01-06-2013, 10:40 AM   #8
markush
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Hello stowrag,

which version of you Ubuntu do you install? as you know it should be recent enough to come with the necessary drivers for the SSD.

Markus
 
Old 01-06-2013, 11:32 AM   #9
stowrag
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I was going to use 12.04.1 LTS since it was supposed to come with longer term support, but to be honest I don't know how old that version is (or even how old SSDs are) so maybe I should go with 12.10? I'll try to find out which versions support SSDs. Thanks for the tip.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 11:36 AM   #10
markush
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stowrag View Post
I was going to use 12.04.1 LTS since it was supposed to come with longer term support, but to be honest I don't know how old that version is (or even how old SSDs are) so maybe I should go with 12.10? I'll try to find out which versions support SSDs. Thanks for the tip.
I'm no expert for Ubuntu, but as far as I know they come with a new release every half year, so 12.04 isn't older than a year. Also it is a LTS version, it should work. But I have no experience with SSDs, hopefully someone else has a better idea what's wrong.

Markus
 
Old 01-06-2013, 11:41 AM   #11
johnsfine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stowrag View Post
I've also been told isolating Operating Systems (on the SSD) makes smart sense.
I'm not sure what you mean by "isolating" and/or what you mean by "Operating System".

It makes general sense to put software on SSD and data on the hard drive. If you put the OS kernel and certain key software on the SSD, you system will boot much faster. That helps a lot if you frequently shut down, or if you frequently switch OSs (in dual boot). But once each system is booted, it tends to keep important software in cache, so it no longer matters whether it came from SSD vs. hard drive.

Quote:
I hear a lot of talk about SWAP partitions, which I believe I understand the purpose of, (but I don't understand why Linux can't access the RAM I've already installed...).
Linux does use the RAM. You might run some application (such as video editing) that uses more memory than you have RAM, so you might need swap space. You might want to use SWAP space for "hibernate". More likely, you want neither of those and have no real need for SWAP. But even when you don't need any SWAP, if you have plenty of hard drive space, it is a good idea to configure 2GB of SWAP on the hard drive (not SSD) so stale data in service processes can swap out to make more room in the file cache for current data.

Last edited by johnsfine; 01-06-2013 at 11:46 AM.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 12:00 PM   #12
johnsfine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by malekmustaq View Post
if you separate system directories (advisable for your video editing) into dedicated partitions
I think it is a bad idea to split directories into their own partitions except when you have specific, well understood, reasons for each such split. Splitting without understanding is just extra effort up front to create extra inconvenience later.

The reasons to split /boot from / are when you will be using an LVM or RAID setup that grub won't understand. In this thread I haven't seen any good reason to use LVM nor RAID, so no reason to split /boot.

The most important split would be for video editing or any other application with very large data files. You don't want those in any of the Linux standard places. All Linux standard places (including /home) are difficult to keep stable across your next Linux upgrade or reinstall. You want your really big files somewhere more stable. In a dual boot, you probably want those really big files accessible from Windows as well. That is easiest if the big files are in an NTFS partition created by Windows. In the system described for this thread, I would hope that Windows software is installed on a C: partition on the SSD, and there is a big NTFS partition (D: or later letter) taking a large part (but not all) of the internal hard drive. That large NTFS partition would be the best place for your largest data files in Linux.

Next important reason for a split would be SSD vs. hard drive (assuming you figure out how to access the SSD at all from Linux). You want things that are read a lot and written rarely to be on SSD, while things written more often go on the hard drive. That might mean /tmp, /var and /home belong on the hard drive, which is easiest as three separate partitions. /boot, /usr, /opt, /etc are all better off on the SDD and if they are on the same media as / they have no reason to be split out as separate partitions.

You should boot into the liveCD mode of whatever Linux media you have and try the command
/sbin/fdisk -l
You might need sudo /sbin/fdisk -l
That will display all the current partitioning info as Linux understands it.
You can run a browser within that liveCD mode and copy/paste the output into this thread. That will help you get much more specific advise on several of your issues.

Quote:
This is only my first foray into Linux, and I'm really interested in setting up a general environment that can take advantage of most of my system's resources rather than a very customized environment designed to optimize them.
A very reasonable fallback to get you running sooner, is forget about the SSD for now. Install Linux on the hard drive with just a moderate size / partition and a small swap partition. Forget about splitting out /boot, /var, /home and other directories. If you don't create those as partitions, they automatically work just fine as directories.

So your hard drive would end up with a big data partition used by both Windows and Linux, plus a moderate size Linux partition and a small Linux swap partition.

Linux installs are very easy. Linux reinstalls are easy if your big data files are somewhere aside, such as that data partition shared with Windows. So install it; Play with it; Learn a little. Then if it boots too slowly (because you didn't use the SSD well when you installed it) you can reinstall once you know more.

Last edited by johnsfine; 01-06-2013 at 12:17 PM.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 12:16 PM   #13
stowrag
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I'm really still a beginner at Linux, not to mention file systems and partitioning in general, so I'll be very happy just to get a dual boot system confiured at all so I can play around and explore at my leisure. Unfortunately, I'm still having trouble getting my linux distro to recognize my SSD. As a matter of fact I just went in to give it another shot.
At first, the only drive the installer would recognize is my external 2 TB WD drive, but when I exited the installer and disconnect that, then it only recognizes my 1 TB Drive. So if I disconnect that...
I'm hoping that will force it to let me install to the SSD, and I'll be happy to take whatever partitions the system recomends, though I've heard seperating the Linux OS from a 40-50 GB partition for /home is a good idea as well. Maybe after that I'll use the rest of the SSD for games.

But anyway:

Forget everything else, that's all I want to do right now. I'd rather not open up my computer again, so I'll wait a bit to see if anybody knows something I don't.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 12:24 PM   #14
johnsfine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stowrag View Post
I've heard seperating the Linux OS from a 40-50 GB partition for /home is a good idea as well.
That is very common advise. In my opinion, it is very wrong advise.

I think you have misunderstood something the Linux installer is showing you. I have no guess why or whether it really can't see the SSD, but I don't believe having the external drive connected makes it not see the internal hard drive.

So I think it is very important to get some better info (from that fdisk command I suggested above, or by some similar method). So you know what Linux really sees for existing partitions before you start changing the partitions.
 
Old 01-06-2013, 12:31 PM   #15
johnsfine
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In liveCD mode of your Linux installer, there are a few things you want to find in the menu system:

1) A browser, so you can log in here and ask questions without rebooting back to Windows.

2) The GUI partitioning tool, so you can see your existing partitions in a readable form.

3) The terminal program, so you can type commands suggested by the experts here and copy/paste output back to this thread (including your partitioning info in a form easy to copy/paste)

I don't know Ubuntu well enough to tell you where any of that is. But the menu tree in liveCD mode isn't too large to simply look though it to find what you need.

BTW, if the fdisk command I suggested has problems, a more basic way to get most of that info is the command
cat /proc/partitions

Last edited by johnsfine; 01-06-2013 at 12:36 PM.
 
  


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