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Yes, this has been asked numerous times here, and Ive carefully read all the related questions. But very few focus on some of the issues that concerns me the most. So, given we now have a new Ubuntu 11.04 and new Linux Mint 11 recently released, its time for some upgrades! :D

I have Mint 10 installed, and would like to upgrade it to 11, and also install Ubuntu 11.01 Natty side-by-side in a separate partition.

Here is my current setup:

  • 10 GB NTFS Win XP (gaming performance)
  • 30 GB NTFS Win 7 (rarely used, im considering changing to Virtual Box instead)
  • 30 GB EXT4 / Linux Mint 10 (my main OS)
  • 5 GB swap (i have 4GB RAM)

And on sdb:

  • a bazilion GB NTFS /dados (docs, music, videos, pics, ISOs, and all OS-neutral data)

That means /home currently holds basically only config files in the ~/.hidden folders.

My questions are:

  • If my data is already in a separate partition, would a separate /home partition be any useful? Why and how?

  • How would different (but similar) distros (Mint 10, 11, and Ubuntu Natty) behave when sharing the same /home partition? What about config files? Would, for instance, FireFox 3.6 (from Mint 10/Ubuntu Maverick) play nice with FireFox 4 if they both use the same ~/.firefox config folder? What about "system" setings like ~/.gconf, ~/.gnome2, ~/.config, etc? Wouldnt it be a nasty mess if a separate, shared /home is used? How that should be dealed with?

  • Same goes for /boot: If each OS mounts it, wont they also change/upgrade them? Since each uses a different grub version, wont that mess it up? Any chances of version mismatch between the bootsector image and the /boot contents due to different Oses mounting / updating it?

  • What about username / user ID / stored passwords? Would all distros behave correctly? I know the first user created in Ubuntu have some unique tweaks (ID=1000, tweaked permisions, etc). How would it be if Ubuntu is presented with a separate (and already existing) /home with a user at install? Would vault, for instance, works?

Im the only user of my computer, so multi-user flexibilty is not an great issue (but it would be nice if possible)

Given that, I would like some opinions, warnings, or any input that might help me to set up a good partition scheme. This is not an objective question, im looking for subjective suggestions and things to consider. Moderators feel free to change to community. Words on how ~/.config files work for different software versions in a shared and/or upgraded enviroment are greatly apreciated.


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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted
  1. Seperate homes for any linux is advisable. Even between the same Ubuntu I would advice that. For instance: Ubuntu 11.04 classic and Ubuntu 11.04 Natty use the same files for ubuntu software center. See this: Why are my two ubuntu installs on separate partitions sharing the same apt-get data?

  2. The potential for messing it up is not worth the risk (to me).

  3. Yes, it can mess it up.

  4. AFAIK yes it would work. If it doesn't all you need to do is change the UID of that user to the same UID and all should be normal.

Ask yourself what you need inside your home folder. MY setup would be like this with 2 320 Gbs in my notebook:

/ 10 Gb Ubuntu
/ 10 Gb Fedora
/ 10 Gb Mint
swap 5 Gb 
/home Ubuntu 10 Gb 
/home Fedora 10 Gb
/home Mint 10 Gb
/datapartion remainder Gb
/datapartion2 320 Gb

I then remove ALL directories inside all these /homes and recreate them in /datapartition. So /datapartion/Desktop /datapartion/Downloads /datapartion/Pictures etc and then use a symlink inside the /homes to have all desktops share the same files.

ln -s /datapartion/Desktop ~/Desktop/
ln -s /datapartion/Downloads ~/Downloads/

Side effects:

  1. Removing 1 system does not affect any of the other setups;
  2. Adding another Linux does not affect the other setups;
  3. Formatting the whole system lets me keep all my files (you format all the /'s and /homes and after re-installing your same desktop is 1 symlink and 1 F5 away.
  4. I use seperate home partitions: if you want to reinstall 1 OS but KEEP the home settings you can just mount home (It seems you can do this from the installer nowadays so this might be obsolete but I keep forgetting that).
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Nice! Thanks for the suggestions and opinions! Im getting fond of this "/data" partitions with symlinks idea. Questions: would it be a problem if /datapartition is NTFS? Also, why separate /home partitions for EACH OS? If they are independent, isnt it easier just to let each under eachs own "/" partition? –  MestreLion May 27 '11 at 23:11
What do you mean by "1 F5 away" ? –  MestreLion May 27 '11 at 23:13
@MestreLion The functon key F5 (refresh). After you make the symlink you need to refresh the desktop. –  Rinzwind May 28 '11 at 3:16
@MestreLion seperate homes: added a side effect 4. This seems to be obsolete but my old habits seem to die hard ;) –  Rinzwind May 28 '11 at 3:19
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