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I have done lots of searches, and found lots of useful advice on partitioning the Ubuntu system so that the Ubuntu operating system (/root ?) is in a separate partition to all my files, folders, photos etc. (/home ?). I have used gparted from the live iso disk to look at partitions. None of the previous questions I have viewed have been able to answer my exact question.

My gparted screenshot looks like this;

gparted screenshot apologies for poor quality image, grabbed it with my camera).

It seems to be that the Ubuntu system that came on my laptop "out of the box" is already partitioned? With sda2 as the operating system and sda3 as the rest of the disk space for storing files etc.? Is this the case?

Do I need to do anything else to ensure files etc. are only going to the sda3 partition? Perhaps I should check mountpoints somehow?

Any advice really appreciated.

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Please use the Stackexchange Imgur site for upolading images. You can access this by editing your question to click on the img symbol in the tool bar on top of your edit box. We can then easily include the image to your question. Thank you. –  Takkat Jun 12 '13 at 10:58
    
Update: under disk utility I can see that the 'OS' partition (3.2GB FAT, sba2) is unmounted and the larger partition is mounted as /. –  Emma Jun 12 '13 at 11:00
    
@Emma: If you go to your Google Drive page (drive.google.com) , right-click on the file and change the sharing settings to "Anyone who has the link can view", then people will be able to see it. At the moment they have to request access to be able to do so. –  Jez W Jun 12 '13 at 11:08
    
@Alvar: no, you don't even have to have a registered account to be able to upload an image. The upload will work, only the image will only be displayed after a higher rep user edited the post. –  Takkat Jun 12 '13 at 11:09
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@Takkat the StackExchange Imgur site is no use - "you need a certain level of 'respect' (can't remember the exact term) on this forum before it will allow you to post images. –  Emma Jun 12 '13 at 11:20

2 Answers 2

Default Ubuntu partitioning

In a default installation Ubuntu will create three partitions on an empty hard drive:

/sda1 boot and root partition mounted on /
/sda2 a small unmounted extended partition
/sda5 a swap partition mounted as /swap

This is likely the partition scheme you have from your laptop coming with a preinstalled Ubuntu.

In your case Dell added two additional FAT32 partitions probably with custom tools which seem of little use for Ubuntu. These partition however may be needed for booting (hard to say when we dont know much of their content). As your laptop now has 4 primary partitions no additional primary partition (but still secondary partitions) can be added. This further complicates repartitioning in your case.

View partition layout

You do not need to run gparted from the live CD to just view the partitions. We can do so by running the Disk Utility (search for "Disk" in the Dash on pressing Win-Key), or with the following command in a terminal:

sudo fdisk -l

Change partition layout

You can change the partition layout not so easily as shrinking the existing partition to allow space for a new partition is needed. Then we may also need to move our home to this new partition.

There is nothing wrong with having Ubuntu system files and your HOME on a single partition, even though some people believe it is ieasier to maintain, backup or reinstall your Ubuntu if you keep HOME on a separate partition.

Reinstall easier?

In case your installation is new, and you have not yet filled it with important data you may want to consider a fresh reinstall where you can choose the partition layout during installation to create the HOME directories on a separate partition. You may then have to install some hardware specific drivers in addition.

If you plan a reinstallation you may also want to see if you want to install a 64-bit Ubuntu or a newer release as your factory installation may be a 32-bit older release only.

What will give me least headaches

Whatever you plan to do, the least troublesome experience for a beginner is to just leave the system as it is. Make yourself familiar with Ubuntu, and keep regular backups from all files in your /home directory. Then you can always change the partition layout any time later, upgrade, or reinstall your OS.

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So, from what I can tell in your image, your setup is as follows:

/dev/sda1 is a system diagnostics partition, probably accessed by some function in your system's BIOS if you need to put it into recovery mode.

/dev/sda2 ("OS") is an image of how the system was when it left the factory. It's not mounted, but can be used to restore your PC to factory settings if needed (again, probably from some functionality in the BIOS)

/dev/sda3 is the partition Ubuntu is actually installed to (hence being mounted as /)

/dev/sda4 is an extended partition; this comes about due to a limitation in some filesystems that means they only recognise four partitions. An "extended" partition works sort of like a folder for storing more than this number. (At least, that's how I understand it. This is used here only to store /dev/sda5.

/dev/sda5 is your swap, which essentially acts in the same way as Windows' paging. It provides the system with virtual memory, and allows you to hibernate the system. I'd say it's excessively large here (beyond a couple of gigabytes of physical RAM you probably only need swap >= total RAM), but having more never hurts if you're using the computer for anything memory-intensive.

As for unallocated, this is space on the disk which hasn't been assigned to any partition, and won't be used (there'll almost always be a little left over after partitioning, but 1MB out of ~500GB is nothing worth losing any sleep over)

So, to put it briefly: yes your laptop has come with partitions - but the only one that anything will actually be stored on is /dev/sda3. If you're really desperate to, you could probably reinstall Ubuntu and repartition so that your /home folder was on a different partition to /, but to be honest I don't see this as being at all necessary.

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Thanks - all very useful information - I have my laptop as I'd like it now! Emma –  Emma Jun 23 '13 at 14:43

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