partitioning questions

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cgriffin
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partitioning questions

#1 Postby cgriffin » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:05 pm

HI All,

I have a question about partitioning. When setting up a system to run multiple instances of Linux, is it possible for each instance to use the same swap partition (thus saving HD space), or should each distro have its own swap partition?

I read somewhere that if I have two physical drives and if I specify a swap on each, the kernel will actively use both and have better performance. I'm just wondering if it will be sufficient for me to use 2 4Gb swaps (one on each drive) or if each distro should have its own dedicated swap.

Another related question- if I am planning to run a distro in a VM that requires ext3 file system, should I also install the base OS on an ext3 partition, or can the base OS be an ext4?

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Re: partitioning questions

#2 Postby arjaybe » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:18 pm

Make one swap. They'll all use it. I don't know about two swaps on two drives, but it can help to have the swap on a drive other than the one the system is on.

It doesn't matter what your base file system is. The VM makes a "virtual" file system for the client OS.
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Re: partitioning questions

#3 Postby lucky9 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:28 pm

Swap is used so little that one is more than enough. If you're not doing a lot of video work or something else that has a huge amount of data that's needed in memory you really don't need more than 2 GB for swap.
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Re: partitioning questions

#4 Postby donquixote » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:15 pm

Interesting question! I have been trying with varying levels of success to install various distros on machines running XP and 7 and the partitioning issue was causing me a real headache until I stumbled on MEPIS 11. The installation guidance on partitioning and KDE Partition Manager were just so easy to follow and I learned that not only can different distros share the swap partition but they can share a home partition too!

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Re: partitioning questions

#5 Postby joany » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:37 pm

One swap partition is all you need for all your Linux installations. With Windows, the situation is a bit more complicated.

Windows uses a pagefile (the equivalent to swap), which by default resides in the Windows root partition (the "C:\ drive" using Windows parlance). This causes the pagefile to become fragmented, decreasing efficiency. Also, having a huge pagefile on the C:\ drive wastes a lot of space when making back ups of the partition.

When I used Windows a lot (I no longer do), I kept the pagefile in its own partition on a different disk. This provides faster access to the pagefile because it employs two different disk controllers (one for the OS R/W and the other for the pagefile R/W). Keeping the pagefile in its own partition also prevents it from becoming fragmented.

Concerning the OP's second question, the host OS can use a different file system than the guest OS. I believe you can even run a 64-bit guest OS on a 32-bit host OS and vice versa.
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Re: partitioning questions

#6 Postby lucky9 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:06 pm

donquixote wrote:they can share a home partition too!


Probably a good idea to have different Users for the different operating systems if you do this. Most of us do not share a single /home between OS's. Some do.
But I for instance use data partitions to share between operating systems. If you have a multi-disk system then things can be a lot faster also because using the other HDD for data allows the first HDD to keep on doing things.
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Re: partitioning questions

#7 Postby cgriffin » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:16 pm

lucky9 wrote:
donquixote wrote:they can share a home partition too!


Probably a good idea to have different Users for the different operating systems if you do this. Most of us do not share a single /home between OS's. Some do.
But I for instance use data partitions to share between operating systems. If you have a multi-disk system then things can be a lot faster also because using the other HDD for data allows the first HDD to keep on doing things.


Thanks Lucky, I hadn't thought about that. I had thought of putting the /home partition on a separate disk, and consolidating all of my actual data into a /home/common account that all logins for different distributions could symbolic-link to. Would that provide the same advantages as leaving home on the same disk and putting the data on a second disk?
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Re: partitioning questions

#8 Postby joany » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:36 pm

cgriffin wrote:I had thought of putting the /home partition on a separate disk, and consolidating all of my actual data into a /home/common account that all logins for different distributions could symbolic-link to. Would that provide the same advantages as leaving home on the same disk and putting the data on a second disk?

There's no advantage to putting /home partition(s) on a separate disk. In fact, the MEPIS installer won't allow you to split / and /home on separate disks, and you would have to manually copy /home to a different disk if that's what you really want.

You have the option of saving separate partitions for / and /home, or combining / and /home on the same partition -- on the same disk. It's really a matter of personal preference as to which option to use.

Concerning your question about keeping data on a separate partition with symbolic links to /home: that's an excellent choice, and one that many people use. I have a data partition for music, photos, documents, and in addition I have a partition dedicated just for e-mail, which gets shared between MEPIS and other OSes, and another partition dedicated to virtual machines. I set up the required symbolic links in /home to those other partitions. This arrangement keeps /home small (under 2 GB).

I have two internal HDDs in my computer. The newer, larger, faster HDD is my main HDD and the older, smaller, slower HDD is only for backups. I'm a firm believer in keeping your OSes and data on one HDD and the backups on a different HDD. An external HDD for backups would be another good option.

And as stated earlier, you only need one swap partition for all of your Linux installations. If you use Windows a lot, you may want to also set up a separate partition for the pagefile.
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Re: partitioning questions

#9 Postby lucky9 » Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:34 pm

As joany notes, a /home is going to be on the same disk. It can be moved but there aren't any big advantages. But a data partition on a separate hard disk is not a bad idea. Data on its own partition is a really good idea.
Using one hard disk as your operating system disk and the other for backups, data, etc. is also a good idea. There are many ways this sort of thing can be done.
I converted my old PATA drives to external USB drives when I had trouble with a mixed PATA/SATA system. They make great backup drives.
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