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I had had many issues regarding data loss due to GRUB breakage & unable to boot in my OS e.g see my latest mishap here: Grub rescue unknown filesystem...the ultimate hopelessness

The problem lies in the fact that I want a stable yet portable OS able to boot in computers of varied hardware profiles. So far in my experience of 3 years or so the best was offered by Debian (precisely Crunchbang)! It never got corrupted & provided an overall stable performance though the lack of latest technologies incorporation made me to look towards LTS Ubuntu versions.

What I want is a stable partition profile with atleast one NTFS partition that will act as buffer storage b/w Windows & *nix OS. I mostly use mechanical 2.5' hd encased in portable casing therefore I want an advice for the best stable partition profile to ensure consistency

For instance my Crunchbang layout is:

Disk /dev/sdb: 31.4 GB, 31440961536 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 3822 cylinders, total 61408128 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0007199b

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1            2048    42975231    21486592    7  HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sdb2   *    42975232    60792831     8908800   83  Linux
/dev/sdb3        60792832    61407231      307200   82  Linux swap / Solaris

/dev/sdb1: LABEL="CRUNCH" UUID="0618C75418C74183" TYPE="ntfs" 
/dev/sdb2: UUID="351b88b1-0c89-4ce2-ae29-3d2986f4c67f" TYPE="ext4" 
/dev/sdb3: UUID="63aedc80-77c3-4ce4-9533-8bc3bd6496b9" TYPE="swap"

Further Notes: My company is primarily Intel powered so by "varied hardware profiles" I don't mean AMD only Intel x32 but you know this includes Pentium D onwards to i7

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Most likely the issues you had experienced in the past are not due to partition layout as such. Most likely the bootloader configuration and not using UUID to reference the partitions in fstab. Those were problems, but those have been solved long ago and I think most modern distro's will use UUID to reference partitions by default now.

I'd simply start with a fresh external HDD, install Ubuntu to it but manually partition the disk when prompted. Leave space at the end of the drive for NTFS.

Then install Ubuntu.

Later, using gparted you can create an NTFS volume at the end of the drive for use in windows.

You'll need to install the ntfs-3g fuse drivers later to get ntfs support under ubuntu.

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I would recommend a simple, but working layout.

/dev/sdb1 - / - 20G - ext4 - Mount Read only by default
/dev/sdb2 - /home - ext4 - Lots O space - Mount Read/Write
/dev/sdb3 - /media/fat - fat32 - Some Space - Mount Read/Write
/dev/sdb4 - swap - whatever you need -

In /etc/fstab Just mount / read only and /home read/write. It will be a pain to update, you will need to remount / read/write. That said, it would be exceptionally stable, even if you yank the drive (still don't recommend it). That said you will end up with a USB disk that you can (in theory) boot from that will contain the entire OS, and still allow you to move from one computer to another.

Important notes:

  • You still need to do backups.
  • If you yank the drive while in use, there is a lower chance that the / partition will have issue but /home still has a high chance. You should always be able to boot though.
  • I choose fat32 or NTFS swap it out if you like, but fat32 is still more portable if you can live wit it's limitations.
  • You may want to look into how live CDs use a ramdisk for /. That could let you write to / temporarily, Without it, you WILL have issues with directories like /var or /tmp. You can ramdisk /tmp, but /var is going to be tricky. You could make another partition for /var, but the liveCD style option would be a bit better.
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I'm not positive what your looking for, but I can suggest to you what I use.

If you are running off an /sdb I assume there is an /sda of similar size. You can run RAID 1 which will backup your data in the event a hard drive fails.

If you do not have a second hard drive built into your computer, you can pick a cheap external HDD up at BestBuy or another electronics store. With this, you can still configure linux raid and be portable at the same time!

when setting up raid, It will create a partition that acts as one drive which you can then partition out to other needs.

Hope I helped!

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actually Matt, raiding from internal to external is not that bad at all. With USB 3.0 the speeds are nearly identical to a built in HDD. I use something similar to this in my company. So, if you would care to research a bit yourself before being so libril with your down votes, that would be wonderful. – HairTriggerHosting Dec 6 '13 at 0:11

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