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Old 03-01-2010, 02:18 PM   #1
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Question How should a secondary,external hard drive be partitioned?

Having just moved to Linux from Windows, I have never considered whether or not to partition my 250 GB external hard drive. As of right now it will only be used for data storage. Should it be partitioned? If so, what size partitions?
Old 03-01-2010, 02:40 PM   #2
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That is completely up to you, do whatever you like with it.

If you are dual booting you might want to consider putting it into two partitions and keeping one NTFS for Windows and the other a Linux filesystem. Although with the new versions of NTFS-3G, Linux support for NTFS is pretty much perfect for the normal user.
Old 03-01-2010, 02:46 PM   #3
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This is probably more a matter of personal preference than anything having to do with Linux. I can imagine a lot of different scenarios that would call for different solutions. Here are a few questions to ask yourself, though, that might help you make a decision.
  1. Does the drive have valuable data on it now?

    You probably wouldn't want to partition/reformat it, in this case. That's fine. You can still mount it under Linux and use it, as is.
  2. Do you intend to use the drive with another Windows-based system?

    If this is the case, you probably want to stick with a Windows-compatible format like FAT32 or NTFS. Again, it'll work fine with your Linux system.
  3. Do you often store files on the drive that have a finite timeliness? (temporary files?)

    Here's a case where you might want to think about extra partitions - especially if you reformat the drive using ext3 or ext4. While ext partitions perform well even under somewhat fragmented circumstances, you can save yourself a little bit of performance hassle by creating a partition where temporary files can be saved. Then, you can reformat the partition once in a while as a poor man's "defrag." I use this strategy on my Mac for video/audio files that I'm doing processing on.

I think the biggest decision point is whether you need to use it with Windows or not, but then I tend to have a Linux-centric view of the world. :-)

I hope you find this helpful,
Old 03-01-2010, 03:21 PM   #4
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Sorry guys....I should have added that I'm done with Windows so that is not a concern. I'm new to Linux and it seems to be a totally different mind-set than Windows. I'm very happy that I finally switched but sometimes it's hard to ask a question when you're not sure what question to ask.
Old 03-01-2010, 11:07 PM   #5
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No worries, man. We've all been there. Heck, sometimes I still feel like I'm there! :-) You're on a good path. Hang in there, and I promise it'll be worth the effort.

Old 03-01-2010, 11:15 PM   #6
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Typically I would recommend just to use one partition formated as ext3 on external drives.


Old 03-02-2010, 02:11 AM   #7
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It depends on what you will be storing on the external drive.

I tend to prefer having several partitions since it can be a pain to run disk/filesystem checks on a huge partition which can take a lot of time.
And if something goes wrong, by having multiple smaller partitions you may at least be able to salvage the other partitions' data.
After all we are talking about an external device here.

Multiple partitions can also be more versatile, eg you can use one of the partitions for installing other Linux distros to play with, without touching your primary one.

On the other hand, if you will be storing large files (eg video, database, etc), then you may want a single partition but in that case I would recommend using something other than ext2/3 to get better performance (that was the case for me anyways).

Just my opinion.
I am sure others can give you reasons for a single partition.
Old 03-02-2010, 02:36 AM   #8
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I know you are done with windows. Still you will need to consider if the drive needs windows compatibility for some reason. There are some things to consider in that regard:
  • Windows will only see the first partition in such a device, I discovered that the hard way. That means that if you make more than one partition in a usb stick or hd you will only see the first one from windows.
  • ntfs-3g support in linux is a bit tricky. It works well, mostly. But bear in mind that it will allow you to create files with characters that are illegal under some Windows versions. That means you won't be able to read those files from Windows. This can be easily worked around via shell scripting though. But you need to remember to filter all the files after copying them to the drive.
  • FAT is quite limited, no big files and such stuff.

If you truly don't want to share files with any Windows machine (friends, family, etc.) then just format it as ext3, tune2fs -m0 it to remove reserved space and be happy. You don't even need to partition it. Just format the whole device (i.e. /dev/sda instead of /dev/sda1).

Last edited by i92guboj; 03-02-2010 at 02:37 AM.


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