I am looking to divide up a HDD for just Ubuntu, so the entire file system will be in ext4; there will be no file sharing with Windows so i'm not to worried about that. What I am wondering is if I arrange my partitions as shown (below) will I be able to update my distribution and keep my skins/settings/etc? Here is some basic background information:

The computer is custom built (16GB DDR3, i5 Sandy-Bridge @ 3.4 gHz) and has 2 HDD's and 1 SSD they are as follows (also the same chronological order in BIOS boot priority:

  • 64 GB SSD - Windows 7 64-Bit Operating System
  • 160 GB HDD - NFTS File System for program/storage space for Windows
  • 500 GB HDD - EXT4 (currently unalloacted) for Ubuntu 12.04

    Here is how I am planning on breaking up the 500 GB HDD for Ubuntu, once again chronological order from start of the disk:

  • 2GB (SWAP)
  • 25GB Operating System Directory (Primary)
  • Remainder ext4 home partition (Primary)

What I am wondering, and what I am hoping to achieve is the ability to upgrade my distributions while being able to keep my themes, settings, and files/etc in a seperate partition from the distro. Will this method enable me to do this? Or is there another method that I can take to achieve this? Is the location of my swap file correct? Is the swap file to small/large?


One thing you might consider is running Windows from an SSD partition of around 50 GB and installing Ubuntu into the remaining 14 GB. (Personally, I find Ubuntu runs easily in a 10GB partition.) This will give very fast boot times for both operating systems. You have lots of space on the HDD's for data files, etc.

If space is critical on the SSD, and since you have lots of RAM (which defines the size of the page file and hibernation file), you can move the Windows page file to the HDD. With 16 GB of RAM, you may never use the page file; however, I read that some programs insist on the file being available. On my desktop system I also erased the hibernation file since I never use that feature on the desktop machine.

I have Windows 7 (36 GB), a shared data drive (8GB), Ubuntu (10 GB) and a swap area (1.8 GB) all running happily on an SSD, with the Windows page file and tons of data/backup space on an secondary HDD.

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@CentaurusA got my +1 vote. Same with my opinion. / must go inside SSD. That would increase speed of system jobs dramatically. Like sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade. It would be much faster.

  • / - enough with 8G~15G. Mine was always 8G. Don't go far from 15G MAX.
  • swap - You don't need this. If your system need more ram than 16G, that's time for fix problem. Not turning on swap.
  • /home - Saprate home partition good for easy reinstall or upgrade.

Please give super sweet SSD to Ubuntu! :)

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The usual way to preserve your personal settings is to put /home onto a separate partition. Doing this will allow you to install a fresh copy of Ubuntu with the ability to preserve - and not format - your /home partition.

For updating an Ubuntu installation, this is less critical as it is not necessary to wipe out anything during the update. It can be a good idea to partition this way anyway.

Your swap could potentially be anywhere (even on the filesystem!) but at the beginning of the disk is fine - I always make it a primary partition.

If you are dual-booting, you may want to consider mounting your NTFS volume inside Linux and using it as a volume that is shared between Linux and Windows. It is even possible to share your swap space between Windows and Linux - although this requires formatting for Linux each time you want to use it.

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  • All my storage is located in a 16TB NAS unit, so I would prefer to keep Ubuntu in ext4. I didn't realize swap files could be assigned logical/primary partition status; I will be sure to do that. – RSX-1327 Mar 29 '12 at 14:30
  • That wasn't what I meant. You can mount the Windows NTFS partition in your file structure wherever you want, and then can use it to work on files that you created under Windows (and similar things). No need to "put" Ubuntu in NTFS. For instance, this NTFS volume could be attached to your home in /home/rsx/windows. This volume would also not be affected at all by an upgrade or even a reinstall. – Mei Mar 29 '12 at 14:39

Your swap isn't enough for hibernating, but if you don't want it, it's more than enough (because you have 16GB ram, it won't run out of memory) if you want hibernating, just use about 20GB or more.

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  • You don't need 16 GB of swap unless your ram is completely full when you try to hibernate. It's a bit of a moot point anyhow since they disabled hibernation in 12.04. – psusi Mar 29 '12 at 14:26
  • So your saying a swap isn't really needed with my amount of RAM? If I was going to put one, what size would it need to be? – RSX-1327 Mar 29 '12 at 14:26

You can have a /home partition if you want, but it really isn't needed. Upgrades never destroy data, and you can reinstall Ubuntu without formatting the partition, thus preserving your data. You just need to make sure that the format box is not checked.

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  • I have changes distro several times. Having a separate /home partition allowed me to just delete the root partition change its type ext3 ext4 jfs etc and install a new OS with out the need to restore from backup. – ctrl-alt-delor Jul 15 '12 at 22:19
  • @richard, most people don't jump around between different fs formats. As long as you are using the same format, you can reinstall Ubuntu on the existing fs without losing your data. – psusi Jul 16 '12 at 2:52
  • I started out on redhat, using ext2 ( I think ). I have used several other distros. I don't assume I will stick with Ubuntu or ext4 forever. – ctrl-alt-delor Jul 16 '12 at 8:24

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