Before installing my Linux distro I did some pretty lengthy research on partitions. This was a concern for me since I was not doing a fresh install, but installing Linux right beside Windows with a dual boot installation.
If you want to have your entire computer Linux-only, you will not have much to worry, the automatic installation can handle everything by itself. But, if you want a dual boot with Windows, or want to leave some space for other operating systems, it is wise to study a bit about this topic before starting your installation.
Note: Since Windows is a bully and doesn’t play very nice, it always needs to be installed first, before any Linux installation. If you want to have Windows and Linux on your machine, make sure that Windows is there first.
Back to the main topic. First thing to know is that Linux will need at least two partitions: SWAP, and the system’s partition.
- SWAP partition is recommended to be twice the size of your RAM. But usually no more then 2GB is needed.
- the main system’s partition (in ext3 filesystem) doesn’t need to be that large. I currently have an entire Linux installation plus dozens of software occupying just 5GB. Just to be safe depending on the distro you use, set aside a minimum of 15GB.
Now, if you want to be even better you can have a third partition for your /home files. This is where all of your personal settings, configurations, and files are stored. Putting your Windows-hat on, it is almost equivalent to your “My Documents” folder. The size of this /home partition is really up to you, depends on how much file space you’ll need for your document files.
With a separate partition for your /home you will be able to reinstall your Linux distro without major losses, your files will be kept safe. In the installation procedure, you will be asked if you have a /home partition already created.
As a tip, after working dual boot with Linux and Windows I’ve found that it is much easier to have all of my files (docs, spreadsheets, images, music, etc) in one common partition. The main Linux distros are now being able to read and write from Windows’ NTFS partition. Since both can access this partition, leave all of the files you handle daily here so you can easily get access from whichever operating system you’re working with.
I realize there are ways to have Windows access with read/write permission an ext3 partition but to leave my Linux safe, I have not done it. If a virus ever gets to my computer while I’m working on Windows, there will be no way for it to do any damage to my Linux installation. So, if it doesn’t see it, it won’t harm it.
Believe me, this is one of the most complicated things to know about when installing Linux. The rest is so very easy.