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Hi everyone, this is my first posting.
My question concerns hard drives. I have two harddrives, a master and a slave in Primary IDE. Because they are removable drives in caddies, I will be able to install Red Hat 9 on its own Hard disk (when it arrives from Amazon.com!). My slave is a FAT32 (since I'm running Win98 ath the moment) and is full of data which I will need to access both on linux and Win (until I can persuade the family that this is the right way!). With its own Hdd, does linux still need to create more than one partition and will it be possible to view my fat32 disk on linux?
You need atleast a / (root) and swap partition for linux. Once you create these and install Linux. You can make an directory in /mnt called win98, or whatever you like. Then you mount the FAT32 partiton in that directory. Then you will be able to read/write to that partition. If you where to upgrade to XP and use the NTFS filesystem, you will be only able to read the file, you could write but it is not stable and you may loose data.
If you go with the partition layout that David Ross suggests (which is advisible), make the sizes like this.
/boot = 50 mb
/ = 500 mb to 750 mb
/usr = 3 gigs if you want to install a lot of stuff
/var = 500 mb should be plenty for a home system
swap = 512 mb
/home = The rest of the drive. This is where all user data is.
Yes looking inside the Windows thing should be no problem at all. You may have to edit the file fstab, /etc/fstab ??, i.e. file system table. This will be quite easy.
Windows will only work if it thinks it is on the first partition of the first hard drive, so if you put it on the slave you will have to trick it into thinking that - probably using the grub bootloader. There is a HOWTO about doing this, you use grubs 'map' commands.
I think Linux can be put on a single partition, but it is unusual to do so - hang on you will probably need a separate swap partition. If you have a free hard disk there is no big problem about just shoving partitions onto it, it is nothing to worry about.
Wow this is a happening site! MAny thanks for all the prompt answers. One thing though, apart from the boot and swapfiles is there a particular reason why the /usr/, /home/ etc directories reside in their own partitions?
IMHO - Puting /usr on its own should help programs start faster as programs will not be fragmented and puting /home on its own makes it easier to upgrade a system since you can leave you data partition (primarly /home) untouched and format all your other partitions.
Safety and security are probably the two main reasons for using a multi-partition scheme.
As David said, having /home on its own partition allows you to easily preserve user data during upgrades or reinstalls. A similar benefit appies in general- with multiple partitions, if one filesystem gets corrupt, you might lose the data on that partition, but the data on the other partitions will most likely be intact.
Also, you can lose access to a partition if it gets too full. This can happen with /var for example, if your log files get out of hand. Hackers have been known to use scripts which do this on purpose to choke your system. Of couse, if /var is just a subdirectory under /, this means that your entire / partition will get full, which will most likely crash the system, possibly making it unbootable.