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I have a dual-boot Mac that currently has three partitions... OSX, Win7-64 and Data. I have shrunk the data partition to make some free space. I've then installed rEFIt as the new boot menu. My plan is to install Ubuntu 11.10 or 12.4 in the newly-freed 20 GB of space via a single partition, but every single install documentation I've seen says Linux needs three partitions... system, user and swap.

Now I know Ubuntu can be installed on a single partition because I'm using a VM with a single disk image and it runs fine. However someone else set that up and I don't know how.

Also, this is a very minor-use install (we just have two utilities that have to run on Linux) and this system has a SSD, so I'm not really worried about speed here. I just want a single partition instead of three.

So how can you set that up?

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"Single VM disk" Thats because the multiple partitions (as set by default) are within that disk – Simon Sheehan Mar 7 '12 at 2:10
I'm pretty sure that isn't the case and it's a single partition, but I could be mistaken. – MarqueIV Mar 7 '12 at 2:23
Why would you want to install Ubuntu on a Mac? Macs are Unix based and can pretty much do anything that Linux based computers can (generally speaking). – kobaltz Mar 7 '12 at 3:37
Honestly, if you're just wanting to play around with Linux, download VirtualBox and install Linux in a virtual environment. – kobaltz Mar 7 '12 at 3:39

Yup. Install everything as a single partition - ubuntu dosen't do the /home / separation anyway, nor does anyone who isn't a crusty old school unix user and handle disk partitioning and mountpoints manually. DO NOT add a swap partition at this point.

You can use a swap file instead - which should let you do everything in one partition, though hibernate/suspend won't work, and you can't use btrfs - more details on ubuntu's swap wiki page

OTOH, you could simply recompile and run the linux tools in OS X with a little work, or use a Virtual Machine of some flavour. Both options would be simpler

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Can you set Ubuntu up with no swap? Also could you elaborate on the steps to do what you're suggesting? – MarqueIV Mar 7 '12 at 2:25
You can setup Ubuntu without a swap. However, you will run into issues if your computer runs low on physical memory. When you go to install Ubuntu, chose the custom option when partitioning your drives, Select the whole partition that you wish to install ubuntu on and then format it to / with EXT3/4. – kobaltz Mar 7 '12 at 3:36
Basically set up your partitions manually, rather than automatically partitioning them. Set one partition as / and thats it. Then boot into the system and set up a swap file there instead. Ubuntu does one partition for / and one for swap by default anyway, rather than seperating /home and such – Journeyman Geek Mar 7 '12 at 4:15
I have 16 GB of RAM and this is just an OS to play around with, so I really doubt that will be an issue, considering that's larger than my Windows RAM and swap file combined. Voting yours as the answer for the other info. – MarqueIV Mar 9 '12 at 7:49

As best I can remember, Ubuntu will split your single partition based on its own needs. Whenever I installed Ubuntu, I just pick the single partition I want to install it on, and then if I remember correctly it will ask you where it's ok to create the other partitions, and you just pick the single partition you have available.

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