Consider a 500GB hard disk drive with two partitions, which were created exactly the same size, but have since then been adjusted (the first one slightly larger) with the diskmgmt.msc tool. The partitioning scheme is GPT. Both partitions are data only.

When moving this hard drive to another computer which runs a GNU/Linux system, the obvious thing to do is to re-format both partitions to a non-NTFS filesystem, but I'm curious whether the partitioning scheme itself needs to be adjusted or even re-done.

Is formatting enough, or is it necessary to re-partition the drive with a native Linux tool? Or maybe not re-partition, but run some command to adjust alignment or something?

There is a reason why avoiding re-partitioning is desirable in my case: one of the partitions is about full, and in order to backup its contents I would need another drive with enough space which I don't have at hand. Reformatting is less of a problem since the files can be swapped between partitions.


  • In theory, I don't believe its necessary. In practice however, the Gui tools for your distro's installer may do both tasks, whether you specifically ask them to or not. is there any particular reason you are worried about whether a partition is deleted and recreated in the same space? – Frank Thomas May 25 '17 at 22:35
  • @FrankThomas Sure, the first partition is about full (of files, mostly compiled libraries and experiments). Also the Linux system is already set up, so there will be no installer (nor GUI, since it's Arch shell-only). – Marc.2377 May 25 '17 at 22:47

Assuming you have some continued need for two partitions (since you are considering reformatting, you obviously aren't preserving the data currently on the drive), I would recommend repartitioning, because it's a very quick (and very destructive!) operation and will ensure consistency - but I don't think there is any important reason to do it.

The one reason for changing the partitioning would be if the partitions are not currently aligned with block boundaries, which can affect performance. See How to align partitions for best performance using parted for more.

I don't think there's any way to adjust the alignment of two adjacent partitions without recreating both partitions.

Using parted if you prefer a command-line solution, or your distro's partition editor if you prefer a gui solution.

  • Appreciate your insights and the suggested article. I updated the question to address why it's of interest to not loose the data if possible. – Marc.2377 May 25 '17 at 23:03
  • repartitioning is not a choice if you want to preserve data – phuclv May 26 '17 at 1:35
  • I went ahead with repartitioning, restored what I had from backup and rebuilt the rest from source code. – Marc.2377 May 28 '17 at 23:00

If you are going to reformat the partitions you should also change thier partition type markers. Linux ignores them but other operating systems may get confused when they see a partition type that would indicate NTFS but there isn't actually a NTFS partition on it.

Linux fdisk can change the partition type markers without needing to delete and recreate the partition.


The partitioning scheme does not need to be adjusted. In fact, you don't even need to reformat if you don't want to. There is an Stackexchange question that addresses NTFS vs Ext4 here, but as referenced in the answer, Wikipedia has an extensive breakdown of file systems.

In order to mount your ntfs partition, you simply need to make a mount point for it and mount as normal:

mount -t ntfs /dev/disk_partition path/to/mount/point

For instance, if you would like to mount it at /mnt/storage, you would use:

mkdir /mnt/storage
mount -t ntfs /dev/partition /mnt/storage

To make the system automatically mount this device in the future, add an entry to your /etc/fstab file using the steps in here

  • Although most Linux distributions provide NTFS drivers, using NTFS on a Linux-only system is inadvisable. The reason is that there are no good NTFS maintenance tools for Linux. Thus, when (not if) the NTFS partition develops problems and needs repairs, you won't be able to do it without jumping through hoops -- booting a Windows emergency disk or moving the affected disk to a Windows system. – Rod Smith May 29 '17 at 13:52

Low-level formatting only determines the size of the partition; the filesystem that uses that space is of course dependent on the OS being able to understand it. So, in your example, while you might want to reformat the partitions themselves to be Linux-native, you don't have to repartition unless you want to change the sizes of the partitions.

Now, here's the fun part. Since you're using these partitions as data repositories, you don't need to install any OS on either of them. Also, while NTFS is a Windows-based filesystem, most modern Linux distros can use it. So you might not have to even reformat.

  • 1
    "Low-level formatting only determines the size of the partition" -- Wrong, a low-level format never had anything to do with partitions. FYI there is no longer any format command (to perform a low-level format) in the ATA command set. The only "format" necessary these days is to setup a filesystem (within a partition), which would use ordinary write sector commands. – sawdust May 25 '17 at 22:48

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