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I'm getting a new laptop this summer and I'd like to dual boot between XP and Linux (probably Ubuntu). I'm wondering about partitioning my hard disk and specifically which file system should I use. I'd like to be able to read and write from both partitions no matter which OS I'm on at the time. If my computer comes loaded with Windows XP it will almost certainly come with the hard disk formatted in NTFS by default correct? I know that there are ways to get Linux running on an NTFS partion but I'm wondering if it will increase the difficulty of installing Linux greatly or decrease the stability. Also if I do decide that I should just install Linux on a FAT partition how easy is it to downgrade from NTFS to FAT when I'm partitioning the disk?
Have you considered only sharing some of the filesystem? You could have a third partition which is FAT32 that you can access from both OS's. Then you don't need to compromise XP by downgrading from NTFS to FAT (linux write support for NTFS is quite new), and you don't need to compromise linux by using a filesystem not well suited to it.
There are many other possibilities for partitioning.
NTFS support is not good for Linux - it's probably the worst filesystem you could try to install Linux on, TBH.
You'd be far, far better off shrinking the Windows partiton & using a Linux filesystem for Ubuntu. You can get third-party support for ext2 for Windows, or just use a FAT partition to share data as bernied suggests.
Use qtparted or whatever partitioning software your distro comes with to shrink the NTFS partition. Then create a shared FAT32 partition for shared data and ext3 partition for linux. And depending on how much RAM you have, you might also need a 512MB swap partition.
FAT32 and NTFS do not support linux permissions and so it is best to install using a native filesystem. As previous posts suggest shrink the existing NTFS and leave unallocated space for the installer to create and format partitions for linux.
There are many filesystems for linux ext2, ext3, reiserfs, jfs, xfs, minix and xiafs are the ones that come to mind. The last two are not used much anymore. Many distributions use ext3 by default but there are some performance differences. Lots of info on the web on the filesystems. For example reiserfs is better with lots of small files and xfs is better with lots of large files.
for partition if you dont have linux installed yet just have some unpartitioned space on harddrive and let the installer partition it for you. It will let you make ext2 ext3 etc... fat32 is a good idea for storage between OSes. There is some support for reading and writing on NTFS through linux but i would suggest not using it because sometimes it results in errors and corrupted data.