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I have 2 primary partitions installed: 100MB system reserved (NTFS) and 230GB Windows (NTFS).

Can I make a linux /home partition so that different distros can point at it and use it's files? And will it also make backing up my files easier?

And what is the purpose of a /boot? I was told "The reason for a separate boot is if you're encrypting all of the rest of your system, you will need someplace to boot to temporarily where you can give your credentials to decrypt the root partition." Is this so? What are other reasons to create a /boot?

I'm thinking all I will need is a /, /home and a swap? I have 4GB of RAM and 230GB of free space; I'm thinking I will leave a little unallocated space in case I want to install another (non linux) operating system (maybe 32 GB or so).

I think I will make an 8GB swap as I might add 4GB more RAM, I'm just not sure how large to make / relative to /home? What are the factors the influence that? What are your recommendations?

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3 Answers 3

This Lifehacker tutorial suggests that a separate swap partition may be unnecessary. But you may want a "storage" partition for documents and files that you want to access in both OS.

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You're correct that /boot must remain unencrypted to have whole-disk encryption on the rest of your files, but I don't know much use for keeping it separate other than that.

One big benefit to having a separate /home partition is that you can reformat the entire OS and not lose any user settings or files. I've learned this the hard way when an OS "upgrade" broke quite a few things that could only be fixed by reinstalling fresh.

And I personally have a windows NTFS partition, my linux ext partition, and then one big NTFS partition for storing movies, music, etc. so that it's accessible to both OSs, but still independent so I can format either if needed and not have to move large amounts of unnecessary files.

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You are right, a /boot partition is not essential. In fact, I don't think I have ever had one.

/home is where you keep your personal stuff so you generally want to have it as big as possible. / will have your base system and any software you later install. There is no specific size it needs to be relative to /home. So, given 230 - 32 = 198GB to play with, I would partition as follows:

/       30  GB   ext4
/home   160 GB   ext4
swap    8   GB   swap

Of course, this is just a suggestion and you can modify it to suit your needs. Unless you are thinking about a minimal install, I would give / at least 20GB to have space to grow. The recommended size of the swap partition depends on whether you want to be able to hibernate. According to Red Hat, the recommended size of swap to allow a system with 8GB of RAM to hibernate is 2 * 8 = 16GB. If you don't need hibernation, keep it at 8GB. I have 8GB of RAM on my laptop and am quite happy with my 8GB swap partition.

My suggestion also assumes that you will be using Linux as your primary OS. If you will be switching back and forth between windows and Linux, you may want to have your personal data (documents, movies, music etc) in a shared NTFS partition. In that case, make /home much smaller. Something like:

/       30  GB   ext4
/home   30  GB   ext4
/data   130 GB   ntfs
swap    8   GB   swap

If all your personal stuff is in /data, it will be read/writable by both Linux and Windows. In fact, in this scenario, you can make /home even smaller if you wish. Most of the things that will be placed in /home will be simple text files, configuration files for your various installed programs. What can take up more space will be your browser cache files, and various other databases set up by, for example, music players and the like. This will all depend on your specific needs and usage.

Finally, yes /home and swap can be shared between distributions with no problem. / cannot, you will need to format it or use a different partition to install another distro. As for backing up, yes having your personal data in separate partitions is always a good idea. It will make your life much easier.

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