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I am setting up a tripple boot HD and was going to use a 4th partition to share files between OS's. I was wondering if there is any point in having much space on each OS partition to store files or if I just make the shared partition big and put everything on that? Is there any difference in speed between accessing files on the shared partition vs the native files? Are there any other benefits/disadvantages of having files on either the native/shared partition?


OS's in question are Windows 7, Ubuntu 12.04, and OS X 10.7.4.

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The most important consideration will be the filesystem type. Is there a good filesystem type which all of the OSes you intend to use are able to read & write reliably and with good performance? Also, what do you mean by "native" partition? Do you mean root filesystem? If so, there would be no difference... – Celada Jul 5 '12 at 17:53
Using "native" I was trying to distinguish between the partition that the OS is on and the shared partition. Are there any other benefits to having files in either place? It seems I should just make the OS partition big enough to fit the OS and then put all my files on the shared partiton. – James Jul 6 '12 at 3:08

The trick is to find a filesystem type that will be well supported by all of the different operating systems you want to run. The choices are poor: Linux supports ext2/ext3 very well but MacOS X supports them only in userspace (poorer performance) and MS Windows may or may not support them at all. NTFS is well supported by MS Windows but, while ntfs-3g can mount it under Linux or MacOS X (only in userspace), it is a proprietary undocumented filesystem so there are no guarantees. HFS+, surely the best filesystem to use in a MacOS-only environment, is surely a non starter as well.

You're left with a poor lowest common denominator: FAT. And you don't really want to put all of your important files on a FAT filesystem.

So you're probably better off with big filesystems in each OS of an appropriate type for that OS, and small shared FAT filesystem in a separate partition.

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