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How would you format a disk for an installation of Centos or Redhat ES 4? And which file system would you use?
When I installed mandrake linux, I think there was an option during the install that allowed one to format the disk to the proper file system. Does the installation disk for Centos and Redhat allow for this? I have installed Redhat a year back, my recollection is that you set up partitions in the install but no formatting (installed it on a previously formatted system).
AND--keep it simple: 1 ext3 partition (~8-10GB) mounted at /, 1 swap partition (1GB)
Be sure to leave empty space (unpartitioned) for future changes/additions
Hmmm ... I mostly agree, but with a catch.
I've been goofing with Linux for a while now. I'm no zen at it, in fact I think I'm just about above noob myself. In my playing I've wanted to try multiple flavors. One of the things that has done me well is to do what pixellany says, except that I think you should create a /home partition also, which is where user data is kept. The reason is, as you're learning Linux you can install flavors, and not worry about the data and personal configurations you've already accumulated.
I'd recommend burning a cd with Linux System Rescue: http://www.sysresccd.org/Main_Page
This package has several programs (e.g GNU parted), that allow you to manage your partitions. It was really great and fast when I used it.
I always use a partition for /, a swap partition and a /home partition. This way, although you still need to make a backup to be absolutely sure, you can, in future update your distro or in some cases install a different distro while keeping all your data right there on the hard disk.
I've used this to update between suse versions and it was a very painless way to also keep all my configuration and tweaks and probably saved me many hours of work. It's worth planning for anyway.
I would definitely suggest at least 3 partitions as well. You should have /, /home, and swap at the very least.
Especially if you are still starting out with Linux, you are probably going to reinstall a few times, try out different distributions, etc. Being able to carry over your user-specific application configuration and your files between all of those changes makes things a lot easier.