Advantages of separate partitions.

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exploder
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Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by exploder » Sun May 24, 2015 7:08 am

I installed LMDE 2 Cinnamon a while back and set it up with 3 partitions, /, /home and swap. I was testing Cinnamon 2.6 because I wanted to help test it and because I really wanted to see it for myself. :D One of my friends has shown interest in Linux and I wanted to show him LMDE 2 in it's present stable state on my main computer so he could see for himself what he would get.

Well, I needed to reinstall to do this and in the installer I chose to use the same partitions I had created and did the install. When I rebooted nearly all of my settings, wallpaper, passwords, contacts, data, Firefox extensions and just about everything was just like it was before. All I had to do was change the MDM back to the one I liked, install updates and install 3 applications, that's it!

This saved me a lot of time and this is by far the most painless reinstall I have ever done. If you ever wondered if there was any advantage to having a separate /home partition the answer just might be yes. I use the the same OS and the same applications so for me this is an ideal solution! It took me a little over a half hour to have the system back to it's previous state compared to the three hours or so it would have taken for me to do a clean install.

I wanted to share this because people have asked about the pros and cons of having separate partitions.

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Pjotr » Sun May 24, 2015 7:17 am

A separate /home certainly has advantages..... But also disadvantages:
- inefficient use of disk space (especially important on small hard disks);
- retained user settings are useful when re-installing the same Mint version, but they can be problematic when installing a far newer version.

Apart from that: you need to backup your data on another, external medium anyway, so you could easily include the user settings in that external backup. That removes the main advantage of a separate /home....
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by MartyMint » Sun May 24, 2015 7:20 am

Too many people use "separate home partition" as a substitute for drive backup.

You should be doing drive imaging, especially before a major operation like system upgrade. I don't bother with separate home partition because I backup my drives regularly, in their entirety.

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by exploder » Sun May 24, 2015 8:12 am

A separate home partition would not be ideal on a really small hard drive. Creating backups is better, especially if the hard drive should fail. I often find myself without back up media, always seem to be out of DVD's when I need them the most.... I also will not use on-line storage for my data ever.

Having a separate home partition works for me. I have 1 TB of space so I might as well use it. If I were to have created / with more space than I really needed I can easily change it with gparted. There are pros and cons to having separate partitions, I was just pointing out how quickly a person could get back up and running if they find themselves needing to reinstall. I do create backups of my data in case of a hard drive failure.

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Pierre » Sun May 24, 2015 8:39 am

A separate home partition is typically setup as a three partition Linux installation,
& is done here, as one method of a standard installation.

- it also allows for an easy re-installation or upgrade
without a large loss of users /data
8)
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by altair4 » Sun May 24, 2015 8:56 am

Never been a big fan of separate home partitions probably because I used to be a habitual multi-booter ( now I'm a habitual VBox user ). Besides the next user question in the forum would be how to increase it's size when it runs out of space.

I can achieve the same thing with a Data partition recreating the standard home subfolders then bind them to the new install. It won't bring with it all the settings you have in all the hidden directories but you probably don't want them after an upgrade anyway since they may no longer be valid.
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by richyrich » Sun May 24, 2015 9:07 am

It's funny how users stick to 'what works' for them. I've been a 4 partition user for many years now. Root, Home, Swap, and Data. even on an old pc with a 80Gb HD.

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Flemur » Sun May 24, 2015 9:34 am

What altair4 said.

Putting data (mp3's, etc) in /home, whether /home is a separate partition or not, mixes regular data with OS settings = bad.
Please edit your original post title to include [SOLVED] if/when it is solved!
Your data and OS are backed up....right?

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by killer de bug » Sun May 24, 2015 9:41 am

Flemur wrote: Putting data (mp3's, etc) in /home, whether /home is a separate partition or not, mixes regular data with OS settings = bad.
Why? Your settings are personal data? Aren't they?
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by killer de bug » Sun May 24, 2015 9:42 am

Pjotr wrote: - inefficient use of disk space (especially important on small hard disks);
I don't understand your point here? Could you please explain?


Otherwise, I totally approve the post from explorer. But anyways, a lot of users here knew my position on this topic. :lol:
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Pjotr » Sun May 24, 2015 9:52 am

killer de bug wrote:
Pjotr wrote: - inefficient use of disk space (especially important on small hard disks);
I don't understand your point here? Could you please explain?
On a small hard disk, you'll relatively quickly run into space shortage on either the / partition or the /home partition. Then you'll have to move space from one to the other, sometimes more than once. Obviously, if you have only one partition containing both / and /home, you have no such problem. :)
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by jahid » Sun May 24, 2015 9:57 am

Pjotr wrote: - retained user settings are useful when re-installing the same Mint version, but they can be problematic when installing a far newer version
I never had such problems, even when changing distro (from LM to Ubuntu and vice versa)... You can probably even change to debian or LMDE without having any significant problems....
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killer de bug
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by killer de bug » Sun May 24, 2015 10:02 am

Pjotr, I'm not fully convinced. This only concerns small HD (less than 20Gb).
Additionally, if you are running out of space, you are creating worst problems than just resizing your partitions problems: fragmentation, reduction of system speed, ability to upgrade is reduced... and worst of all... you can't log in anymore!

In fact I would say, that, if you have a small disk, you have to have a separate / partition, in order to be sure that it will not become full and that you will still be able to boot.
Therefore my conclusions are exactly opposite to yours Pjotr :mrgreen:
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Pjotr » Sun May 24, 2015 10:11 am

killer de bug wrote:Therefore my conclusions are exactly opposite to yours Pjotr :mrgreen:
Let's agree to disagree. :mrgreen:
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by xenopeek » Sun May 24, 2015 1:02 pm

The ext4 filesystem reserves the last 5% of disk blocks for the root user. You may not be able to log in as a regular user, but you will always be able to use the recovery console as root and free up disk space from there to allow regular users to log in again.
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Cosmo. » Sun May 24, 2015 1:28 pm

Beforehand:
MartyMint wrote:Too many people use "separate home partition" as a substitute for drive backup.
Too many people don't bother about backups at all. Do you have a hint, that there is a difference between users with and without a separate home partition? I do not see that.

If you mean, that a separate partition is not an replacement for a backup, I am fully with you. In fact, installing the backup software is one of the very first steps I do in a new installation.
Pjotr wrote:A separate /home certainly has advantages..... But also disadvantages:
- inefficient use of disk space (especially important on small hard disks)
I absolutely disagree with "especially". If there is enough room, I see no inefficiency at all.
Next question is, how do you define "small hard disks"?
On the other hand, nowadays it is not so seldom, that a machine has 2 drives, a SSD and a magnetic hard drive. Quite obviously the argument against a separate partition is not valid in this case at least.
Pjotr wrote:- retained user settings are useful when re-installing the same Mint version, but they can be problematic when installing a far newer version.
For a long time I had the same opinion, but in the last year I have changed my mind, and my experiences confirm my changed mind.

In fact, the question, if existing user settings are problematic or not do not depend from the question, if there is an upgrade of the Ubuntu-base (the last one 1 year ago with LM 16 -> LM 17), but if the user profile (the hidden files and folders in ~) is defective or not.
If the user profile is defective even a new installation of the very same version of Mint may be problematic. If the user profile is stable, also an upgrade installation works perfectly. After long considerations and some tests I did that for my production machine when I moved from LM 16 to LM 17. And I found not one single problem.

During my considerations I read this blog of Clem about upgrading again and again and I wondered, what did he really describe.
In short he describes the following: He made a backup of his profile without excepting anything than 2 non-hidden folders (he excluded not a single hidden file or folder). After the installation he restored the backup (mintBackup does not allow to exclude files or folders during restore). That means in the consequence: All settings are restored after the installation.
To remember: This is about a stable user profile!
So retained user settings are not problematic, as long as the profile is problematic itself.

But even if the user settings are a problem: For an experienced user it would not be a problem, to delete (e.g. from the live system) the hidden files and folders (as far as needed). In the not-hidden objects there are never settings, that are relevant for the system. So there is no need to delete GB of user-data by formatting the partition, just to remove problematic settings files - and consequently there is no need to restore GB of user-data afterwards. (A backup shall be made in any case, see my first 2 paragraphs.)

Furthermore, only a minority of the hidden files and folders contain settings, that are relevant for the system. There are objects with no settings at all, but probably very important data as GPG-keyrings, seahorse-passwords, ssh-keys. There are profiles for browsers, e-mail-clients, libreoffice, gimp and others, which have nothing to do with the system or with the user profile-settings, but may again contain important data. So, the majority of the hidden objects are not even in theory problematic.

At the end one thing about possible advantages with a separate home partition in the future. In this interview Clem said, when it came about upgrades:
Clem interviewed wrote:Now with this said, things can certainly be improved. We should probably insist on people creating a /home partition during the installation, ... there's definitely work to be done for upgrading to be made easier.
I have no hint, at what time this will get relevant. But I can imagine, that in the next year, when we reach LM 18, the fact, that in the past the users had 3 times used the in-place upgrade with LM 17.x could lead to the consequence, that the upgrade from LM 17.x to LM 18 should be easier than in th past.

My conclusion: As long as there is nos specialty as e.g. an only minimal left storage space a separate home is IMHO absolutely advisable.

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Ark987 » Sun May 24, 2015 1:53 pm

An advantage for people who store and move a lot of files on a setup like SSD+HDD, by putting the /home in the HDD could extend the live of the SSD a little bit, but this is a particular case.

In any case retaining settings and personal files after a complete reinstall is good for convenience and time saving.

I share Pjotr point of view but that situation used to happen but very long time ago when disk where below 40GB and you chose a very small size for your /home not thinking that you will save your personal data which is quite big :roll:

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by MartyMint » Sun May 24, 2015 6:00 pm

Cosmo. wrote:
If you mean, that a separate partition is not an replacement for a backup, I am fully with you.
Yes...that is exactly what I meant.

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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by Pjotr » Mon May 25, 2015 4:41 am

Another question is: how often is a separate /home really useful?

The main advantage of a separate /home is that you save some time when re-installing the same version. Or when doing a version upgrade which requires a clean installation of the root partition.

Personally, I never have to do a re-installation on my important computers, because I don't experiment on them. And version upgrades within the 17-series have become trivially easy and don't require a re-installation of the root partition.

So the only times when you could save some time with a separate /home, is at the end of the five year lifespan of your current series (for the 17-series that's May, 2019), or every two years when you want to upgrade to a newer series as soon as it becomes available (for the 18-series that'll be around June, 2016).

Let's say a separate /home might save you two hours of work, either once every five years or once every two years.... That doesn't amount to much advantage. :)
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Re: Advantages of separate partitions.

Post by killer de bug » Mon May 25, 2015 5:07 am

Pjotr wrote: So the only times when you could save some time with a separate /home, is at the end of the five year lifespan of your current series (for the 17-series that's May, 2019), or every two years when you want to upgrade to a newer series as soon as it becomes available (for the 18-series that'll be around June, 2016).
Not everyone is using it's system for 5 years. There are some distro hoppers here, who likes to try new things. They are guys here for the fun who like to experiment and may break a few things. There are guys using distro less stable than LM and these guys may need to reinstall faster than expected. There are a few users, beginners, who may break their LM system by trying to fix something or when applying an update. For them it may be easier to reinstall.

My first install had no separate /home partition. It lasted 2 weeks. I broke it by testing things. I learned the hard way that having a dedicated /home is the best solution. Today it's my best advise to new users. If I had only one advise to give to people, it would be this one.

I understand that some users may disagree, but not for the reasons given above.
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