Just got myself a new computer and thinking of how set it up.

I have win7 HP and will probably install at least some version of Ubuntu on it shortly to have dual boot. Might come other Linux distros too in the future.

I have a 1TB HDD and my question is what's the smartest way to share files on all OS's? In what format?

I was thinking of ~100GB for Windows for apps and games etc. ~20-50GB for Ubuntu and some third partition, where I store my common files like media, pics, docs, downloads and stuff, taking the rest of the free space.

What filesystem should the shared partition be?

Is there some smart way to get windows home directories and linux home directories to point to the same place on the shared partition or would it be recommended to just keep them separated?


Easiest thing - A nas network share that will just work in both or a USB pen drive!

Apart from that, As Ubuntu can read from NTFS but Windows can't read from EXT2/4 etc.

In your setup, I would personally have a 50GB partition for Ubuntu and then you have a choice:

The rest for Windows and simply access the NTFS partition from Ubuntu (which should work) or creating a new drive of a few GBs, format with NTFS or Fat32, and use for sharing files.

I personally wouldn't share home directories cross operating systems, it may work - but in my books, it is asking for trouble later on.

  • Yeah, a NAS would be my dream, but it's not reality quite yet. Sounds reasonable to not share the home directories. If I make a big NTFS and r/w that from Linux I can use the needed folders pretty easily from both OS's. – Jonas G Jan 26 '10 at 8:41
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    Windows can read and write ext2/ext3/ext4, I installed ext2fsd driver on Windows XP, it works well on read, and I write a little files to ext4 partition, current everything seems fine. – LiuYan 刘研 Mar 27 '13 at 1:23

As far as interoperability goes, FAT32 is the one that's most likely to 'just work'. However the linux implementation of NTFS is pretty solid, so either a NTFS partition or a FAT32 partition will be good enough.

You can also install an ext driver on windows, for accessing the linux partition if needed

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    FAT32 is so old that I'd like to avoid that. Any idea if the EXT-drivers for windows are stable enough to trust them fully? – Jonas G Jan 26 '10 at 8:25
  • the matt wu one is what i use. haven't had any data loss yet. I prefer ntfs on linux, personally – Journeyman Geek Jan 26 '10 at 9:33
  • the ntfs for linux used to have a speed bottleneck around 20 MB/s I think – n611x007 Nov 9 '12 at 21:52

I was having the exact same problem you are having now.

  • Virtual machines are not an option for me as I'm a developer and need access to the physical hardware.
  • FAT does not meet my requirements as I often have to create DVD images - I would get stuck with this (FAT32 only allows files with a maximum size of 4GB).
  • I did not want to use NTFS, because the native Linux support for it isn't complete (writing is not fully supported) and the NTFS-3G driver uses too many resources - downloading a file from the Internet with a 100Mbit connection almost freezes my Core i3.
  • ext3/4 would be a good solution, but I'm using TrueCrypt to protect my data, and the ext-driver for Windows causes a BSOD if you try to mount a TrueCrypt volume.

This is the solution I've came up with:

  1. Install Windows + Linux

  2. Make your data partition ext3/4

  3. Setup your data partition in Linux (create fstab entries)

  4. Get QEMU or VMware for Windows. Install a minimal Debian system and assign the physical data partition as a second hard drive to that.

  5. Setup Samba within the new VM, allow it to share that partition to its host. This way I can use the partition under Windows, and I don't have any of the above hassles with FAT or NTFS under Linux. I can also use TrueCrypt!

  • This is great, but doesn't it use a fair chunk of resources to run VMware and the VM? And isn't a bit of a pain to fire it all up? (Start VMware, start vm, login (perhaps), start Truecrypt, type passphrase. Sure some of these steps can be combined, but it can't really be automated, unless I'm wrong. – ScoBe Jul 26 '11 at 3:03

I used an NTFS partition for this. It's the easiest and safest I think. FAT32 is probably an even safer option, but FAT32 doesn't support files larger then 4 GiB (I think?). There are ways to make Windows read EXT partitions, but the ones I've tried didn't feel too safe or stable... might have changed by now though, but I don't know :)

  • Hmm...so, the prefered way would then be to make Linux distro(s) read/write NTFS? Not make Windows r/w EXTx. Perhaps I'll go with that as a filesystem solution then at least. But if I do it like that, then I don't need three partitions, two's enough: NTFS for windows and EXT3/4 for Linux. And make the NTFS large enough. – Jonas G Jan 26 '10 at 8:39
  • correctly. its much easier to make linux read ntfs than to make windows read one of filesystems of linux. since you do not need any additional stuff like a nas or usb-stick or whatever .. this is the simplest solution :) – akira Jan 26 '10 at 8:41
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    @Jonas: I would have 3 partitions either way. Having windows and software installed on one partition and your data on another is a good thing. If you lack space for that you should get another hard-drive cause they are pretty cheap these days. I always hate upgrading the os or something like that when the data is not on it's own drive. And the data is much easier to back up as well when it is in its own "container". – Svish Jan 27 '10 at 14:49

Dont Multiboot. Use virtual machines. Virtualbox is enough, and you share a folder of the master installation (which should be 64 bit so you can have 64 and 32 bit guest OS).

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    VM machines are useful also, but I really want to boot to the OS I'm working on. For some minor development and stuff I use VM's also, but for full blown usage I prefer booting to the OS I'm about to use. At least if there's some reasonable way of sharing files even with multibooting. – Jonas G Jan 26 '10 at 8:43
  • Isn't it also possible to access physical partitions from VirtualBox and running them as they were VM's? That way you can choose wether to hard boot to Linux or just run it inside the VM. – Jonas G Jan 26 '10 at 9:07
  • @JonasG: Yes, I can boot from my physical Xubuntu partition directly and run it as a VM. – oKtosiTe Mar 26 '13 at 10:29

In my personal experience I had the following problems:

  • ext3: It works fine on linux but in windows always I was having issues. I could mount with EXT2 Ifs, but with the time I started to have some data loss, or corrupt files. At the end I only could see just garbage folders and files from Ubuntu. Discarded
  • NTFS: It works fine too, but the big problem with that is that in windows I´m really get used to hibernate my session, so in another moment just start my ubuntu session, make some changes on the partition and when I came back to windows, all the changes done on Ubuntu were completely lost, besides all the corrupt files created. This is because NTFS works with a caching system of the last changes in RAM See here ¨Caching and Data Recovery¨. Discarded again
  • FAT32: The most stable for me, the only ¨but¨ with this approach is the 4GB size limit.

So, like in each kind of partition I found problems, I decided to make a big FAT32 partition, where I put most of the files and another smaller NTFS partition to any circumstance where I need to record any file bigger that 4GB.

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    The NTFS issue is a little bit strange. Try the issue the command sync in terminal before hibernation! – KovBal Jan 14 '12 at 12:03

i use "Ext2 Volume Manager" on my windows (XP) system to mount ext2 and ext3 drives and have never had any issue at all. works smoothly and speedily. i highly recommend it, as it's open source as well.

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