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I'm having a 250gb disk and 4gb ram. Planning to use:

/ (15GB)
/swap (8GB)
/home (the remaining)

My question is, for root and home, what file system should we choose. I see to many options... should I go for FAT32?

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Thank you all. :) Installing... :) – MEM Aug 19 '10 at 18:19
Even for a windows partition you would not want to use FAT32, but perhaps NTFS. FAT is useful for removable media such as floppies (remember those?) and USB sticks that made be used with a variety of operating systems not predictable ahead of time. – mickeyf Aug 19 '10 at 22:18
up vote 6 down vote accepted

You must go for a Unix-filesystem, supporting permissions and inodes, for Unix to work correctly.

FAT32 doesn't support all the things Unix needs, so it will simply not work well.

Unless you know exactly what you are doing and/or have plenty of time to spare, I would use the installation procedure suggestion.

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Absolutely do NOT go for FAT32!

You need a real Linux filesystem to have correct permissions available. ext4 is the default in Ubuntu nowadays and very good for SSDs. If you want something with a bit more testing under its belt, go for ext3.

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I do not intend to start a debate, still, why such a categoric answer about not using FAT32 ? – MEM Aug 19 '10 at 18:06
I answered that with this sentence: "You need a real Linux filesystem to have correct permissions available." FAT32 isn't a Linux filesystem. It doesn't support setuid, setgid, sticky bits, 3-bit owner permissions, 3-bit group permissions, and 3-bit world permissions which are absolutely essential to the unix/linux security model and without which parts of the system will break. – maco Aug 19 '10 at 18:21
Thanks a lot for the clarification. – MEM Aug 20 '10 at 8:45


I would recommend the default ext4 or ext3; here is a summary of their advantages and disadvantages.

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please inline external resources to make answer selfstanding. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 17 at 14:04

Definitely use ext3 for root and home. It's well tested and performance is fine for the vast majority of users.

fat32 has many, many deficiencies when used with linux as others have pointed out. For example, it's case insensitive, so it can't tell the difference between "Foo", "FOO", and "foo".

The one case where FAT32 has some usefulness (really, the only reason it's available as an option), is for compatibility with Windows such as if you're dual-booting and want to access documents between them. If you really do need that, I would suggest making a separate FAT32 (or maybe NTFS) partition just for those shared files, and mount it as /srv/Shared/ or ~/Windows or some such.

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Nice point about FAT32 on a dual boot environment. thanks – MEM Aug 20 '10 at 8:46

Even Microsoft has walked away from FAT32 these days. Windows machines use NTFS, and I remember hearing about a different low-level file system for small devices coming from MS. People use FAT32 because they're going to plug their thumbdrive into their Windows, their Mac, their Linux and their Blu-Ray player and want something that everything can read. If you're talking dual-boot, there might be some reason to have /home do FAT32 so that both OSes can read it, I guess, but unless that's the case, ext4.

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For what it's worth, this isn't an easy question to answer, there's allot of different possibilities, but I've been doing some reading on the subject. But there are some consensus points, no matter what distro you're using. 1) Most distros will provide docs that detail exactly what they recommend. /,/usr,/swap,/tmp,/boot, /home and /var 2) Most distros use ext3 or ext4 3) Most distros won't boot without a root and a swap (minimum) 4) generally, doing a test install with the default options will show you the minimum of what the distro requires in terms of complexity.

To provide a sense of perspective, after chatting a bunch of different people, and perusing a bunch of different blogs and forums here's what I eventually settled on, and am running. a) 250mb boot b) 4gb swap c) 10gb root d) rest (330GB) home {Ubuntu 10.04}

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