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[SOLVED] Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 2:45 am
by FamCompKid
Let me preface this by saying I might never acquire even the most basic Linux skills most of you guys have. I'm coming to accept the fact. (Just putting that out so you know I'm a noob of that kind, maybe I should put that in my sig :mrgreen:)

TL;DR:
  • Is there a way to identify how many GB I should allocate for the OS partition? Disk User Analyzer (on LM 19.3) shows that / has 681.4 GB Available from 983.4 GB Total...
  • Common traps when partitioning?
  • Common conflicts brought by keeping a "personal files" partition?
--

I ordered a 500-GB SSD and it's arriving in a few days. My first ever SSD, will be installing LM 20.

After some reading and knowing that SSDs could last basically forever, I realized I need to have a separate partition for my /home or "data"--I don't really understand how these two are treated around here. But it might be best to just state my objective and the way I save files.

My objective: Create two main partitions: one for the OS and one for all my personal files. My only reason is that I don't want to touch the personal files whenever I clean-install a major release, or at least have that option. (Just for the record, I'm aware that personal files in a separate partition will never replace backups. I have an external backup system set up.)

How I save files: I save absolutely everything in my /home/user directory. By "everything" I mean files I would back up. Most of the time I don't bother with hidden dot files, e.g., .thunderbird, but I recently learned that I should probably back them up, too.

I know there's a warning that partitioning is not for novices but I'm willing to bork my PC now (reasonably, to me) if it means it will make my life much easier down the road.

I just upgraded my other PC to LM 20 and I'm thinking about clean-installing there again. That I had to move personal files out and then back in was the reason I didn't like clean installs (lazy, I know, I know). Hope that's gonna end now.

Thank you!

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:19 am
by kato181
You can make / any size you want but most say allocate at least 60gb
/home again you can make any size I have a 512gb SSD drive and my / size is 200gb and my /home is 312gb. If your email program is Thunderbird then you need to back that folder up.
The life of a SSD is depended on the amount of writes it does. No drive lasts forever.
If a manufacturer says their SSD has a TBW of 150, it means the drive can write 150 terabytes of data. After the drive hits that threshold, it's likely you'll need to replace it. Your 200gb drive would have a life of 500tb.
If you only have Mint 20 as your one and only O/S then follow the prompts with installation. You can resize your partitions before installation.
Read the following, it will help you. If you have any problems all you have to do is ask and there are great people here who will step you through and even advise you on what best to do and to how to go about doing it. Clean installs are the best and safest way to go, doing upgrades can cause some problems. Always make sure you backup your important files to another drive first.
https://linuxmint-installation-guide.re ... en/latest/
Good luck.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 4:35 am
by FamCompKid
Thanks, kato181.
kato181 wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:19 am
most say allocate at least 60gb
Re allocation: Can't I make a guess based on my current LM 19.3 system? E.g., look for directories and get their sizes :?
kato181 wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:19 am
No drive lasts forever.
I ordered a Samsung EVO 860. I don't do ultra-huge writes on a daily basis. It was a hyperbole but for my use case I think it will last a really long time, I hope.
kato181 wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:19 am
If you only have Mint 20 as your one and only O/S
Yes, it's my only OS. No plans to distro-hop whatsoever. I'm also the sole user.

Thanks again. Gonna watch some videos on it. I guess the most important thing to me now is allocation size. I don't want to be resizing it after install cos that seems way harder.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:42 am
by Pierre
you can use the Gparted program from the LinuxMint Live media,
- to partition that 500Gb SSD .. before you actually do any Installation.
:)

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:44 am
by Moem
FamCompKid wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 4:35 am
Thanks, kato181.
kato181 wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:19 am
most say allocate at least 60gb
Re allocation: Can't I make a guess based on my current LM 19.3 system? E.g., look for directories and get their sizes :?
Sure. But I'm not sure that would be better than just going with that rather safe 60GB suggestion above.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:36 am
by FamCompKid
Pierre wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:42 am
you can use the Gparted program from the LinuxMint Live media,
Oh man I didn't know that was Gparted :D
Moem wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:44 am
Sure. But I'm not sure that would be better than just going with that rather safe 60GB suggestion above.
I was thinking 60 GB could be too small but still I have no idea.
FamCompKid wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 2:45 am
Disk User Analyzer (on LM 19.3) shows that / has 681.4 GB Available from 983.4 GB Total...
For example from my OP:
  • 983.4−681.4=302 GB Used.
  • My /home/user from Properties is 242.6 GB (some contents unreadable)
  • 302-242.6=59.4 GB How do I know how much of this is from /?
Also, are / and /home the only ones I should worry about? Those are "mount points," right? I shouldn't mind other File System directories like lib, media, mnt, opt, tmp, usr, var, and others?

I admit I need to do some more reading (outside LM's documentation), will be doing this before the SSD arrives.

Thanks for your replies!

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
by AndyMH
Pre-partition the drive with gparted (there is a copy on the mint installation media).
Use the 'something else' option in the installer, on the next screen you can point the installer at the partitions you created and tell it what to use them for (and tell the installer where to put the bootloader files - grub, it is a drop-down at the bottom of the screen).

The SSD will be blank. You need to create a partition table on it. Assuming UEFI boot, you want a GPT partition table. In gparted Device > Create partition table. Make sure that your SSD is selected (drop-down top right in the gparted window).

You will need three partitions*:
  • a small (100MB if mint is the only OS on the SSD), this needs to be formatted fat32 with the flags ESP & boot set. This is where the installer puts the bootloader files.
  • an ext4 partition of say 40GiB for /. I think 60GiB is overly generous. On a 240GB SSD my / partition is 32GiB and only 20GiB used (I have a lot installed, but don't use flatpaks or snaps).
  • the rest of the drive for an ext4 partition to be used for /home.
You don't need any other partitions.

I think it is still good practice to leave some space unallocated on a SSD, on a 500GB drive say 10GB. Others can correct me if I am wrong.

When you create the partitions, add labels - helps downstream - makes it easy to see what is what. In gparted right click on the partition and Label Filesystem.

Assuming you will still have your existing drive in the system, after you have install mint on the SSD, you can re-purpose the existing drive for additional storage or backup. One thing you need is an ext4 partition on it for timeshift snapshots.

* if you are booting in legacy mode you don't need an EFI partition and you need an msdos partition table not GPT.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 2:23 pm
by FamCompKid
Thanks again so much Andy, your detailed replies are always and really appreciated.

It occurred to me that I could play with this in VirtualBox, would that be a good idea?
AndyMH wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
an ext4 partition of say 40GiB for /. I think 60GiB is overly generous. On a 240GB SSD my / partition is 32GiB and only 20GiB used (I have a lot installed, but don't use flatpaks or snaps).
Thank you, that's a good direction. I too don't use (and like) Flatpaks and Snaps.

I just went over the program list I made and tried to get their sizes.

I have around 40 programs--those I installed and excluding those pre-installed like FireFox and Thunderbird. I bet you have more. Those I installed total to around 2 GB only (??) (Around 65% of those have negligible sizes, e.g. trash-cli, xsel.) What else affect the size of the OS partition /? If that's the case then 60 GB could be too big, then.
AndyMH wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
I think it is still good practice to leave some space unallocated on a SSD, on a 500GB drive say 10GB. Others can correct me if I am wrong.
What for? 500 GB is a bit roomy for me, but 10 GB is a bit huge I think :mrgreen:
AndyMH wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
Assuming you will still have your existing drive in the system, after you have install mint on the SSD, you can re-purpose the existing drive for additional storage or backup. One thing you need is an ext4 partition on it for timeshift snapshots.
AFAIK this laptop only houses one drive. Planning to put the old drive in some enclosure as an external storage. OTOH, I'll keep that in mind when I upgrade the desktop in the future.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 7:57 am
by FamCompKid
So I've been playing with VirtualBox as a dry run: installed LM 20 and played with the native Gparted.

The most helpful tool in estimating allocation size for / has been Disk Usage Analyzer (except maybe for error prompts like Error opening directory '/var/cache/apparmor/26b63962.0': Permission denied Error opening directory '/etc/cups/ssl': Permission denied)

This is what my laptop shows, currently has only one partition and hasn't been formatted for around 1.5 years:
  • / 301.9 GB
  • home 242.8 GB
  • timeshift 35.1 GB
Removing home and timeshift, net size of / becomes 24 GB. I guess I'll be setting 50 GB. I'll be saving Timeshift snapshots in /home. It's also probably worth noting that I don't regularly "clean" my systems.

--

On VirtualBox with disk pre-partitioned and all my programs installed--via Backup Tool, PPAs, .deb, .run but excluding AppImages--/ clocks in at only 11.9 GB. (One timeshift snapshot saved in /home.)

--

Now I'm confused with how to use Gparted to resize partitions, which I think is somewhat inevitable. I understand that partitions need to be unmounted first.

Can I use my LM 20 live USB or do I have to use Gparted's live USB, upon boot? (I think I can't do a dry run of this within VirtualBox anymore.)

If I can use the LM 20 live USB, I read that it can also be used to resize partitions on other systems/distros--is this correct?

I mean, so a LM live USB also has Gparted in there? What else is in there?
AndyMH wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
* if you are booting in legacy mode you don't need an EFI partition and you need an msdos partition table not GPT.
I think I'll be sticking with legacy mode. Its limitations (as you said in the other thread) don't apply to my use case and any of my drives. And I like simpler.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 9:11 am
by AndyMH
Can I use my LM 20 live USB or do I have to use Gparted's live USB, upon boot? (I think I can't do a dry run of this within VirtualBox anymore.)

If I can use the LM 20 live USB, I read that it can also be used to resize partitions on other systems/distros--is this correct?
Yes you can use the LM20 live usb stick, it has a copy of gparted on it. Yes you can use it to resize other systems, although my first choice would be to use windows disk management tools if you want to mess with an installed win OS and change the size/position of C:. Other linux distros - not a problem.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:22 pm
by FamCompKid
Thank you!

In creating partitions, I just followed what Gparted showed:
  • For / >> Type for the new partition: Primary; Location for the new partition: Beginning of this space
  • For /home >> Type for the new partition: Logical; Location for the new partition: Beginning of this space
But since logical partitions were made to circumvent legacy's limit of 4 primary partitions, I can also set /home to Primary, right? Does it matter?

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:55 pm
by linux-rox
FamCompKid wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:22 pm
I can also set /home to Primary, right?
Correct, you can. And should, IMHO, if your partition scheme needs only four or less. Primary partitions are easier to maintain and/or modify

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:21 am
by FamCompKid
AndyMH wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
I think it is still good practice to leave some space unallocated on a SSD, on a 500GB drive say 10GB.
Maybe you were talking about over-provisioning here?

Found this post from last year, but then also found that for newer SSDs it may be an outdated practice.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:24 am
by FamCompKid
linux-rox wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 2:55 pm
Correct, you can. And should, IMHO, if your partition scheme needs only four or less. Primary partitions are easier to maintain and/or modify
Thank you. Haven't really dug into gpt, but I think I'll be fine with msdos. I'm reformatting this PC in a few.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:26 am
by FamCompKid
AndyMH wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:19 am
You will need three partitions*:

a small (100MB if mint is the only OS on the SSD), this needs to be formatted fat32 with the flags ESP & boot set. This is where the installer puts the bootloader files.

* if you are booting in legacy mode you don't need an EFI partition and you need an msdos partition table not GPT.
I was about to reformat my desktop (HDD) then I realized I may have misunderstood that bit! (The SSD I'm still waiting for is for my laptop.)

Is the 100MB FAT32 file system only for EFI? For my case I choose legacy so do I only need / and /home? Anyway I don't see the flags ESP & boot set. The mount points available for FAT32 file system are only /dos and /windows.

Otherwise, FAT32 is also Primary?

I've seen that advice (100 to 500MB bootloader files) like maybe only twice. And I'm not particularly concerned about this desktop's boot time (if that's its purpose). It's on a pretty snappy i5 processor, I can't really complain. My understanding is that since / is now in its own partition, booting should be faster.

Just checked this desktop, boot mode is LEGACY+UEFI.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:41 am
by AndyMH
Is the 100MB FAT32 file system only for EFI?
Yes if you are booting in legacy mode it is not needed, so all you would need is a / and /home partition.
Anyway I don't see the flags ESP & boot set
If you have done an 'erase and install' option on a legacy system, there is a bug in the installer - it creates a useless fat32 partition and then puts the / partition as a logical partition inside an extended partition. Much better to format the drive yourself with primary partitions for / and /home and then use the 'something else' option when installing.

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:59 am
by FamCompKid
AndyMH wrote:
Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:41 am
If you have done an 'erase and install' option on a legacy system, there is a bug in the installer - it creates a useless fat32 partition and then puts the / partition as a logical partition inside an extended partition. Much better to format the drive yourself with primary partitions for / and /home and then use the 'something else' option when installing.
Yes that's what I did, I was thinking about reporting that too in the posted Issue.

My PCs are both UEFI-able. To end this rabbit hole I was thinking of restoring UEFI but it seems it still does complicate things and its advantages are rather minor, besides size and primary-only partitions.

Thank you so much again! These terms can make my head spin but tbh to me learning about partitions is a success :mrgreen: And I get to do it first on Linux machines, no less!

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 8:52 am
by AndyMH
Unless your drive is > 2TB, I would stick with a legacy install, it's simpler and your bios is already set legacy.

I wasn't the first to spot the legacy install bug with LM20, but wrote about it here:
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=326270&p=1855497&h ... 0#p1855497

Re: Partitioning for the first time. Please help a perpetual noob

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:53 pm
by FamCompKid
AndyMH wrote:
Thu Nov 19, 2020 8:52 am
Unless your drive is > 2TB, I would stick with a legacy install, it's simpler and your bios is already set legacy.
More questions :D Have nothing to do with the plan but wanna understand.

So my two PCs are UEFI-able. One is 6 years old and the other 1+. Since I'm dealing with partitioning just now, couldn't help but think that probably my disks were originally GPT but I didn't know.

6-year-old desktop PC was on Windows 8/8.1 (until last year). The other 1+ year-old PC (laptop) had Windows 10 pre-installed, after unboxing it I immediately ran Linux Mint 19.1 in a VM, and then totally wiped Windows 10 after a few minutes. On both PCs I used "Erase all and install LM 19.1".

Both disks are now MBR/msdos.

My questions are:
- Does boot mode automatically set the partition style upon install?
- If on UEFI, can you choose between MBR and GPT? (No options on Legacy.)

--

UPDATE:

Successfully partitioned both PC's! Thank you to everyone who helped and shared their knowledge!

Just wanted to post an update because there was some sort of a glitch that happened on my Lenovo Ideapad.

Apparently the laptop got confused between UEFI and Legacy. Upon installation, it wasn't until its second warning that I rebooted--had I not rebooted and ignored the warnings my SSD might have been partitioned with GPT. (I'm on Legacy.)
No EFI System partition was found. This system will likely not be able to boot successfully and the installation process may fail.

Please go back and add an EFI System Partition, or continue at your own risk.
It is normally required for you to create a separate partition...
Second warning was about bootloader files.

I've set and checked that this laptop was on Legacy; there are about 4 things I had to toggle in the BIOS. (Which was weird because I've only had to toggle 2 of them for my entire 1.5 years on LM 19.x) but oh well. Secure Boot was also disabled.

Anyway, just another lesson on the usefulness of a reboot. Apparently UEFI's Grub page has smaller fonts, Legacy's has way bigger.