Considerations before you install

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Considerations before you install

Postby Fred on Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:48 am

I think many of us could truthfully say that if we had known a bit more about the basics of Linux installs, we would have installed a little more wisely than we did initially. My intention here is call attention to some of these basics and make a few helpful suggestions that may aid new users in their first journey into Linux.

Things that could/should influence your partitioning layout:

1) Partitions closer to the outside of the hard drive disk, ie. at the top of your partition table and to the left in the Gparted graphic, are faster than partitions on the inside of the hard drive disk, or closer to the bottom of the partition table.

2) Smaller partitions are faster than larger partitions.

3) Swap partitions don't need to be any larger than 2X your system ram. And, the sum of system ram and swap shouldn't exceed 4 Gig. If it does, reduce the swap partition size to get back to 4 Gig. or less. If you have 4 Gig. of ram on a 32 bit system like Mint, make a very small swap partition anyway, as the kernel expects to have a swap partition available. Not having a swap partition slows the kernel down in certain situations. For this purpose, there is no need for the swap partition to be over 256 KB at most.

4) If you have more than one hard drive, split your swap partition up between all your drives, creating a small swap partition on each drive. Linux will recognize and combine them all and your swap will be much much faster when you need it. It is almost like a raid 0 set-up. Swap will strip across drives.

5) Journaled file systems like ext3 are much better at maintaining read/write data integrity in case of power failure or some other unexpected crash or failure.

6) Journaled files systems also represent more overhead to the kernel and take more space on the hard drive for the file system structure itself. There is no advantage to using a journaled file system on a partition that will rarely be written to. /boot is a good example of this. It is almost never written to, so if you use a separate /boot partition, it should be ext2 and not ext3.

7) If you use a separate /boot partition, it doesn't need to be more than about 256 MB. This still leaves plenty of space for extra kernels and boot notes.

8) Your data should be isolated from your main install to protect it and easily enable upgrades and reinstalls.

The truth of the matter is that all the installer routines that I am familiar with do a pretty poor job of doing a default install. They just aren't very smart. They work, and serve the purpose of enabling a successful install in most cases. But they don't install very smart. They usually put everything in one partition and spread it out across all the available space. Looking at the above list you can see this is a bad idea for a variety of reasons.

I guess due to natural curiosity and the understandable lack of familiarity with Linux, most new users will break their installs at least once in the first six months and need to reinstall. As most are aware, this leaves you in a position to loose your data or jump through lots of hoops trying to save it, if you have done a default install.

I am going to suggest two very basic partitioning schemes for general purpose desktops that will give you good speed, conserve hard drive space, and provide reasonable data integrity and isolation, and a safe upgrade path.

The first is the well know method of using a separate /home partition. All the user's data is in /home so putting /home on a separate partition effectively isolates it from the rest of the install, the part that most often breaks. This eases upgrades too, although it isn't a perfect solution.

swap -----Formatted as swap ----per above rules
/ -----------Formatted as ext3 -----10 – 12 Gig.
/home ---Formatted as ext3 ------Whatever you need

The other method uses dedicated data partitions that aren't part of the Linux install at all. This is the safest, fastest and most flexible method, and makes for almost painless reinstalls and upgrades, but is a little more difficult to set up initially.

swap ----Formatted as swap -----per above rules
/ ----------Formatted as ext3 ------10 – 12 Gig.

Data Partition1 ----Formatted as ext3 -----sized for data
Data Partition2 ----Formatted as ext3 -----sized for data
Data Partition3 ----Formatted as ext3 -----sized for data

You can have as many or as few data partitions as you see fit. You would mount them in your /home directory, let's say as Multimedia, Pictures, and Documents, as an example. They would be easily available in your /home folder but the data itself would be safely on its' own partition or partitions. If you had a Windows XP install, one of your data partitions could be formatted NTFS so that it could be easily shared.

You could of course combine the two methods I showed above, but I see no advantage in doing so. You could also have a separate /boot partition, which would make either install slightly faster, but with modern equipment you probably wouldn't notice the difference.

This was not written to give you step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish these set-ups but to give you something to think about before you jump into your first install, or perhaps your first reinstall. :-)

Fred

EDIT - Clarification: viewtopic.php?f=90&t=11872&p=218227&hilit=fred+hibernation#p218227
Last edited by Fred on Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby jokersloose on Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:50 am

Thanks for the info Fred. Maybe they should put a "read me first" file in the live CD's and have this in it. ;o) I know I would have done it different "if" I had a better understanding of this very topic. And it would have saved me a ton of time when I did the install and the 3 re-installs on my son's laptop. But hey you live and learn, right?

Thanks again,

James
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby deadguy on Mon Apr 28, 2008 3:15 am

very useful info here Fred. :D

I use your second method and it works quite nicely :wink:
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby T J Tulley on Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:23 pm

Thanks a lot Fred -- I notice that you advise ~ 10 - 12 GB for / - the advice given with the Bianca installation was that 2GB would be plenty - these things grow!

Your advice about the underlying disc mechanics is particularly valuable.

My practice of using my old Windows partitions for data evidently complies.
Yours hopefully -

Theo Tulley.
Using a PC with 2GB RAM, 3 hdds and a 1.7 GHz Celeron cpu.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby rhvkl on Mon May 05, 2008 2:22 am

Hi, i would install mint v4 and upgrade to v5 in a few weeks. Actually usin windows (no need to keep this if winehq works :) ) on a 250gb sata1, 3gb ram and saving my photos on sata2 and other media on sata3.


does my install should look like this on my sata1 (mint):

swap -----Formatted as swap ---- 1Gig.
/ -----------Formatted as ext3 ----- 20 Gig.
/home ---Formatted as ext3 ------ rest of the space (~ 230 Gig.)


If i install an application where is the default installation path? / or /home ?
same question with winehq / or /home?
... if the default or lets say the recommended installation path is just / ... this isn't much of space for my applications after all?
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby Ede on Mon May 05, 2008 3:04 am

rhvkl: First off, the software itself is called wine. NOT winehq as many believe. Winehq is just their web-adress. Nothing more.

Second off, software is installed in /. Not in /home, unless you specify that when you compile stuff.

Third, wine install windows-software in /home/username/.wine/drive_c/ , unless specified otherwise.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby rhvkl on Mon May 05, 2008 5:24 am

a community driven dist. :) ... love this already, thx for the fast answer.

so i need probably much more space in / as in /home
is it recommended to build a wine-partition in ntfs ?

In Windows it looks like this:

MyDocuments 4GB
Program Files 60GB
Games 30GB
WINNT 12GB


if i compare (first try!):

/home/ = MyDocuments
/ = Program Files + Games + WINNT


... should it look like this?

swap -----Formatted as swap ---- 1 Gig.
/ -----------Formatted as ext3 ----- 80 Gig.
/wine ---Formatted as ext3 ------ 40 Gig.
/home ---Formatted as ext3 ------ rest of the space (~ 120 Gig.)

... or like this?

swap -----Formatted as swap ---- 1 Gig.
/ -----------Formatted as ext3 ----- 20 Gig.
/wine ---Formatted as ext3 ------ 10 Gig.
/virtual-machines ---Formatted as ext3 ------ 80 Gig.
/shared-win-mint ---Formatted as ntfs ------ 20 Gig.
/home ---Formatted as ext3 ------ rest of the space (~ 120 Gig.)

I have no idea, sorry :-( (10h back in time, i thought, that i just use the whole 250gb hdd like i do now: not splittin up anything and makin incr-backups on sata3)
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby ed@Mint on Mon May 05, 2008 5:41 am

hi rhvkl,

Your first config is the one to go with :
swap 1Gb (2Gb would be even better)
/ 20Gb
/home the rest
Softwares in Linux take much less disk space than in windows. With 20Gb you'll have plenty of space to install all the softwares you'll ever need.
You don't need a share partition. If your other sata disks are NTFS, Mint will be able to read/write them with no problem.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby tawan on Mon May 05, 2008 11:33 am

hmmmm

due to a random set of events I have this layout

10gb (unused) | 61gb / (half used) | 2.6 swap

and then an external 30gb with all the important stuff from above backed up

----

I'm now looking ahead to Elyssa and see that my swap will be best moved to the start of the drive for speed

so I am considering... (i have 2 gig ram)

2gb swap | 20gb / | the rest as /home

or would it be best to have

2gb swap | the rest as / and /home combined

or

2gb swap | 20gb / | 20gb /home | the rest

choices choices and i'm sure there are more :) i can't see any major advantages here - but I am new to Linux

so any comments and advice welcome please :D
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby Fred on Tue May 06, 2008 5:14 am

phonicboom,

If you are asking for my advice.
2gb swap | the rest as / and /home combined

Definitely not.

2gb swap | 20gb / | 20gb /home | the rest


This is the best and simplest one to install that you are considering. I would suggest that you trim your root back to 10 - 12 Gig. however. I have everything but the kitchen sink on my install of KDE, which is larger than Gnome, and my / weighs in at 7 Gig. Unless you are going to do a lot of development work and compile very large programs, you will never use 20 Gig. You are just slowing your install down for no good reason. You can add to your partition later from your unallocated space if you find that you need it.

If you are doing a lot of development work, none of the partitioning schemes in this thread would be appropriate for that kind of work.

Fred
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby mplumridge22 on Fri May 09, 2008 5:19 pm

Hi

Following on from Fred, I don't know if my experiences are of any help to anyone but like most people i like to try the latest distros.

I have tried virtually every 3.5.9 KDE and 4.03 distro going and none of them will boot on my laptop.
Sony Vaio, dual core t5300, 2 gb ram and 120hd so not an old system by any means.

None of the forums (Kubuntu, Mandriva) have been able to resolve.
Having tried Most other distros, as most of us have, Mint is by far the smoothest and easiest install and operation i have encountered

My advice is, don't read too much into live CD's of the latest distros and how they run on your machine, they all worked on my laptop but none would boot when installed.

If you find a distro like mint that runs perfectly on your pc....STICK WITH IT!


Martyn
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby tawan on Sat May 10, 2008 5:52 am

Fred wrote:2gb swap | 20gb / | 20gb /home | the rest


Fred wrote:I would suggest that you trim your root back to 10 - 12 Gig.


Fred wrote:You can add to your partition later from your unallocated space if you find that you need it.


Hi Fred, thanks - so it seems

2gb swap | 10gb / | 20gb /home | the rest
or
2gb swap | 10gb / | 30gb /home | the rest

would be good ?

...and I can add to the partitions from the unallocated space if needed - now that's useful - thanks :D
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby MALsPa on Sat May 10, 2008 8:50 am

Fred wrote:4) If you have more than one hard drive, split your swap partition up between all your drives, creating a small swap partition on each drive. Linux will recognize and combine them all and your swap will be much much faster when you need it. It is almost like a raid 0 set-up. Swap will strip across drives.


Thanks, Fred. I've always felt a bit sheepish that I have swap partitions on each of my hard drives because folks like to say that you only need one! This made me feel better!
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby kayakaholic on Sat May 10, 2008 1:43 pm

Im a tad confused with this NTFS thing.

I know you cant use an NTFS partition for home cos I tried it before but can you use an NTFS partistion for say /home/documents? That would save me useing that ext2 driver for windows which I can never get to work quite right.

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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby MagnusB on Sat May 10, 2008 3:52 pm

I would not recommend using a NTFS partition as a /home partition, as the performance of ntfs-3g is still not up to par. I would rather edit /etc/fstab to make it mount with read/write in /media/somefolder, make a separate topic if you want help with that.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby Fred on Sat May 10, 2008 6:35 pm

rhvkl,

You are thinking in Windows bloat terms. All the software you mentioned will easily fit into a 10 - 12 Gig. / with space to spare. If you want to add a couple Gig. to make yourself feel comfortable then thats fine, go to 14 Gig, Anymore would be just plain wasteful, and would slow the install down for no reason.

The virtual machines are stored in /home. You have two options here. Either have a big /home or put your virtual machines on a separate partition mounted in /home. I favor the second method.

In your case I would have a /home of about 10 Gig. and one or more data partitions to hold all the big stuff.

I would remind you that there is no law or rule that says you have to pre-allocate all your hard drive space. Allocate the space that you need, and leave the rest unallocated. you can always come back later and add unallocated space to the partitions that need it. Make your partitions large enough to hold you for the next six months. Remember, smaller partitions are faster partitions. Then come back and add to them as necessary over time.

Fred
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on the menu. Liberty is an armed lamb protesting the electoral outcome. A Republic negates the need for an armed protest.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby GuttaMan on Sat May 17, 2008 6:56 pm

Hey Fred, I remembered you saved me from a near disaster a few months back, lol. I wanted to install and check out the LM 5 Beta. So I decided to look at the board to see if I can find any tips on re-partitioning my HD, and I'm glad I stumbled onto this post before I got started with my first Linux upgrade/re-installation....Well first, I went and moved all of my data onto an external HD, and while that was going, I perused this thread along with another thread dicussing partition methods, took some pointers from each and then I got to work...

I tinkered around with GParted using these points:

  • I only gave my swap partition 8MB since I have 4GBs of mem in the system; Later on I set the swappiness to 0.
  • I've gotten familiar enough with VirtualBox and no longer saw the need for a dual boot, so I set up a separate partition for the Virtual Machine closer to the front of the disk.
  • Created separate partitions for the /usr, /opt, and /var folders.
  • For quicker, easier upgrades and re-installations in the future, along with the VM partition I've also created separate partitions for the "Documents", "Downloads", "Music", "Pictures", and "Videos" folders in my /home folder.

In the end I came out with something looking like this:

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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby Fred on Sun May 18, 2008 3:42 am

GuttaMan,

Looks ok..... might be a bit of over kill for a simple general purpose desktop, but thats ok. :-)

The only thing I see that I would change is the swap partition size. A 32 bit system like Mint can only address 4 Gig of memory total. Actually a bit less. Ordinarily you would not want the sum of your physical RAM plus swap to exceed 4 GIG. In your case you have 4 Gig of physical RAM already. The kernel expects to have a swap partition or file so you should have one even though you can't use the space in it. I would reduce the size of the swap partition to no more than 256 MB. 128MB would work just as well. Of course the 8 Gig. in swap isn't hurting anything since you can't use it anyway, but it is a bit wasteful, if you could use it elsewhere.

Fred
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on the menu. Liberty is an armed lamb protesting the electoral outcome. A Republic negates the need for an armed protest.
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby deadguy on Sun May 18, 2008 3:58 am

not to be a wise guy Fred, but thats 7.81MB :D
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Re: Considerations before you install

Postby Fred on Sun May 18, 2008 4:00 am

deadguy,

I stand corrected sir. :-)

Forget everything I said above. Bad eyes. lol

Thanks.

Fred
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and each time expecting a different result.

Democracy is 2 wolves and a lamb voting on the menu. Liberty is an armed lamb protesting the electoral outcome. A Republic negates the need for an armed protest.
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