3.5: Partitioning the hard drive
Before starting the install, you may wish to prepare the partitions on your hard drive to install MEPIS Linux 7.0. You can do this during installation, but it is recommended that you do it before starting the install. Note that some older hardware may require a restart after the partition tables are edited.
To prepare the hard drive for MEPIS Linux 7.0, it is recommended that you create three partitions: one for the root of the filesystem, one for the user home directories, and one for swap (virtual memory). You do not have to create a separate home, but it makes upgrades easier and protects against problems caused by users filling up the drive.
How big should the partitions be?
Root partition: The minimum size for the root partition is 2.5GB, however, this size will not allow you to install many programs, and may cause difficulty doing upgrades. Depending on how many programs you wish to install, you may want to allot between 5 and 10 GB.
Home partition: The home partition is where the documents and configuration data for all users is stored. Typically, you want to make this partition as large as possible, especially if you store a lot of pictures, music, or video data.
Swap partition: The swap partition is used by the operating system to store the contents of RAM when programs ask for more RAM than the system has. As such, while swap space should be analogous to the amount of RAM in the system, it becomes less necessary the more RAM you have. A good rule of thumb is to make the swap space double the size of your RAM, but no more than 1 Gb (1024 MB).
Hard drive names in MEPIS Linux
Before you begin editing partitions, it is critical that you understand how MEPIS Linux (and other Linux operating systems) refers
to hard drives and hard drive partitions.
Unlike Windows, which assigns a “drive letter” to each of your hard drive partitions, MEPIS Linux 7.0 assigns a short
device name to each hard drive or storage device on a system. The device names always start with sd plus
a single letter. For instance, the first drive on your system will be sda, the second sdb, etc. Within each drive every partition is referred to as a
number appended to the device name.
Thus, for instance, “sda1” would be the first partition on the first hard drive, while “sdb3” would be the third
partition on the second drive. It is important to understand the difference between referring to an entire device
(such as sda) and a partition on the device (such as sda1).
Resizing an NTFS partition
Resizing an NTFS (Windows NT File System) partition with Gparted is generally a painless and simple procedure. However there are some small risks, particularly if your hard drive is old or very full. You can mitigate these risks by taking the following steps on your Windows installation (consult your online Windows help (F1) if you are unsure how to perform any of these tasks):
- Back up all your data, if you haven't already!
- Run the disk cleanup wizard to delete unnecessary files. You may also want to run a third party cleanup tool (example link below). Make sure there is enough free space on the drive so that it will still have several gigabytes free after you resize it.
- Check the filesystem for errors using chkdsk.exe or scandisk.exe (depending on your version of Windows).
- Defragment your hard drive.
- If you are using Windows Vista: Use the “Disk Management” tool in Windows to resize the drive. Be warned: this tool does not respect standard hard disk partitioning conventions and it will often leave a small unusable portion of the disk at the end point of the shrunken partition that will show up in the standards-based partitioning tools like those provided with MEPIS Linux.
- From the LiveCD click KMenu --> System --> Filesystem --> GParted. NOTE: if for some reason GParted doesn't work right, you can try a similar program QTParted that's also installed, and cfdisk is a good command line utility.
- In GParted select the drive then select the partition. Note that you can only resize the partition where MEPIS Linux itself is installed by using the LiveCD.
- Right-click on the partition and select “Resize”. Choose the new size of the partition. The free space that will remain will be used for MEPIS Linux installation; make sure the “free space after” resizing is larger than the minimum required size for your version of MEPIS Linux (see minimum/recommended specifications). Click “OK”
- Right-click on the “free” partition and select “Create”.
- Select Partition Type: linux-swap. Enter the size you have chosen. Click “OK”.
- Right-click on the “free” partition and select “Create”.
- Select Ext3 and allot the amount of space you have chosen for root. Click “OK”.
- Repeat the last steps to create a partition for home.
- Click on the disk icon or go to File --> Commit, respond “Yes” to the dialog. GParted will now
repartition your drive; at the end you should get a message that the operation was completed successfully.
- Very Important! Note down the partition numbers/names as displayed in the new partition layout (e.g., sda3). You will need this information when choosing what partition number/name to install Mepis on, and to ensure that you do not overwrite your Windows partition!
Other partitioning considerations
A single hard drive can have only 4 primary partitions. If you need to have more than 4 partitions on the disk, you need to create an extended partition, which you can then break up into logical partitions.
Many home computers are sold with a “diagnostic partition” and “restore partition”, in addition to the factory OS
install. If you see multiple partitions showing up in gparted that you were not aware of, they are probably these.
- Some computers need to be rebooted after changing the partitions before they can access the new partitions. If you are having trouble installing or formatting your new partitions, restart the computer and try again.
- After resizing an NTFS partition and booting back to Windows, Windows will claim the drive is "dirty" and do a disk check. This is normal, and no data corruption should result from the resize. Allow the check to run its course, and your drive should be fine after that.
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