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I'm planning to migrate a Windows system with 3 NTFS drives to Ubuntu Studio. The primary 80G drive will be primary and ext3, and I have 2 large NTFS drives with media and backups.

Is there anything I can do to prepare NTFS partitions to minimize problems accessing them from other systems, including Windows running in VirtualBox?

I know NTFS-3G is "stable", but will common Linux backup utilities have trouble using NTFS as a destination?

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3 Answers 3

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"will common Linux backup utilities have trouble using NTFS as a destination?" The only program that actually "uses NTFS" is the kernel, period. It doesn't matter whether it is a Linux backup utility, or Windows inside VirtualBox, or what, they will all be getting their data through the kernel, and there will be no significant differences or issues between these programs.

One big issue is NTFS can be bad for Linux backups unless you are backing up into tar archives because it does not support Linux permissions or filenames.

Also for multimedia you want maximum disk read/write speed (especially if multitracking or working with video, which are the two main reasons I could imagine you are using Ubuntu Studio), and NTFS is a poor choice for that, it has fragmentation issues even under Windows, not to mention Linux, and it is very far from being the fastest performing filesystem for a Linux system.

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Thanks. I want to start recording music again and the points about NTFS are helpful. –  Steve Clay Feb 22 '10 at 11:00

No, the NTFS-Drivers are not just usable, they're working (in my opinion). There can always be problems (even with Ext3/4, but we don't wanna pull Murphy from his hole, do we?). If you wanna 'prepare' the partitions in anyway, scan and defragment them before the switch using the windows tools.

Also, a tool/program does not care what filesystem it writes to (that's what the kernel and the drivers are for).

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You may want to go with a newer (also, faster) file system like ReiserFS. I've been using Reiser 3 for years and it's never given me any problems.

Anyway, since Linux file permissions do not hold on a DOS-based file system, one of the only options I've seen is to create a virtual file system inside of a file on the Windows partition using something like this:

# create a 2-gig virtual file system inside of NTFS
dd if=/dev/zero of=/path/to/mounted/ntfs/linux_filesystem bs=1M count=2M
# set up partition file system structures
mkfs.ext3 /path/to/mounted/ntfs/linux_filesystem

Then you'll have to specify something like this in your lilo.conf (see here for an example):

boot = /dev/sda
timeout = 20

# linux
## (this assumes you've booted to the virtual file system and have it mounted as /)
image = /boot/vmlinuz
root = /mnt/windows_drive/linux_filesystem
label = linux

# windows
other = /dev/sda1
label = windows

And in your fstab, you need to specify mounting priority:

# Windows partition, given highest priority
/dev/sda1                           /mnt/windows_drive    ntfs-3g    1   1
# virtual file system on the windows partition
/mnt/windows_drive/linux_filesystem /                     ext3       0   0

Oh! I almost forgot: you must have a kernel that is configured with the ntfs-3g file system support native in the kernel, and not as a module (because where's it going to put the module file?).

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-1. i'm having trouble understanding what you're recommending, and why. i think you've misread the question; he's installing linux to an ext3 partition, not to an NTFS partition. he just wants to access data on the NTFS partitions on other drives. –  quack quixote Feb 22 '10 at 2:28
The only reason to use NTFS on a Linux system is for compatibility - NTFS has fragmentation problems, and is not as fast or reliable as Linux native filesystems. I wouldn't recommend ReiserFS though, because ReiserFS is best for large numbers of small files, which is not the use case for storage drives for an Ubuntu Studio system at all. –  Justin Smith Feb 22 '10 at 6:05
Installing a Linux on a NTFS-Drive (with whatever hacks or tricks) is like building a house on quicksand...sure it works, but you're just looking for trouble. –  Bobby Feb 22 '10 at 8:15
@Justin @Bobby good points. i can only imagine this answer was hijacked and brought here against its will while on its way to another question. –  quack quixote Feb 22 '10 at 16:22

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