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Old 08-06-2011, 10:57 AM   #1
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Triple-booting Windows 7, Debian (6) and OpenSUSE (Newest: haven't installed yet)

As the title makes clear, I'm going to try to install Windows 7, OpenSUSE and Debian side-by-side. I haven't started the process yet, and am using the freshly (not by me) installed windows 7 Ultimate on a new computer (thinkpad e40(14"), but the specifics shouldn't be awfully important) to research the installation process before destroying something. I'm not completely new to Linux: I have been using Ubuntu casually (e.i. not meddling with the settings too much) for about a year now, but want to try something new.

Anyway, the thing I have the most problems with is the partitioning of the hard drive. I have a 300GB hard drive (I might be getting an external one for long-term storage), in which I'll install everything.

The problem is that I have two primary partitions: the Windows 7 one and a 100MB one with a chinese title, which I figured out is some kind of a system restoration thing. The problem is that I don't have space to have all OSes as primary partitions (of which I can only have 3(?) if I want logical partitions), yet I heard from somewhere they have to be (?).

So, how should I partition the disk? Can I install a Linux on a non-primary partition?

The second problem is file (music, movie, text) storage. Can I have the /home of both Linuxes on the same hard drive, in addition to the windows files? I have understood the standard Linux file system (ext3(?))can't be opened with Windows. So can the Linux /home partition be a windows file system (fat(?))? It would be highly preferable to have all files accessible from all OSes, because I plan to use them all quite often.

Right now my partition s etup would be this:
100 MBxxxxx29 GBxxxxxx20GBxxxxx20GBxxxxxxx230GB
系统保留xxxxWindows 7xxDebianxxxOpenSUSExxStorage

Does this setup look good? Should I make the Debian partition extended as well and make the storage primary?

One more thing: the bootloadper. Which should I use, and which partition should I install it in? I have little knowledge about bootloaders apart from their existence and that GRUB is what I'll likely use.

I understand this is quite a mouthful, but any amount of information (or links) would be very helpful; I hope I can piece them all together to get something coherent.

PS. I might be making this into a tutorial when I get the process done, so helping me should help the community as well

Thanks in advance,


Last edited by Omnilogist; 08-06-2011 at 02:18 PM.
Old 08-06-2011, 11:27 AM   #2
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You can use a single partition for the /home directory for both Linux distros. I'd recommend using a different $HOME directory for each distro however. One distro's desktop environment might overwrite the settings for the other. You could however use symbolic links so the Documents, Downloads & Music directories of one are used for the other. If you do this however, make sure your user has the same user ID (UID) in both distros. Some distros start with 1000 and some start with 500.

I wouldn't recommend using fat32. It isn't a native filesystem and so it doesn't contain the ownership and file permissions on the filesystem itself. Plus fat32 isn't a very good filesystem, as fat was originally written for floppies. You could have a separate filesystem, fat32 or ntfs that both Linux and Windows accesses and use that for your music & documents.

Just an FYI, I mainly use my laptop. It has OpenSuSE on it.
> df / /home -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda6              29G   11G   18G  37% /
/dev/sda7              74G   29G   45G  40% /home
The system is using about 11G. /usr uses 8.8G of that. I probably install too much stuff from my repository, so you could probably use less. You might try 10GB for each Linux distro with a 20 GB /home partition used for each.
An advantage of having a separate /home partition, is that you can re-install, and keep your old /home partition. I rename my old /home/user/ directory (adding -old), perform a fresh install, and then copy files to my new /home/user/ directory.

Last edited by jschiwal; 08-06-2011 at 11:41 AM.
Old 08-09-2011, 09:17 AM   #3
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Thanks for the answer; I really appreciate it.

I followed your advice and made a 12GB boot partition and an about 20GB home partition for each Linux. However I'm still unsure how and where I should install the bootloader. Should I use GRUB or GRUB 2? Which partition should I install it in?

Thanking for all the support this far and eagerly awaiting some more,

Old 08-09-2011, 04:31 PM   #4
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12 GB is way to large for a /boot partition. My recommendation was to try 10GB for each distro's root partition (/) and a larger common /home partition. If a distro uses LVM such as Fedora uses by default, then you want a separate /boot partition, or opt to not use LVM. My /boot partition with one kernel uses well under 100M. 100M would probably be a good size for /boot. It has room for several kernels. On my netbook, I didn't make it large enough and sometimes have to manually uninstall old kernel versions before a kernel security update.


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