I have been using Ubuntu for a few years and usually my partition set up was the following:

  • Ext3 or Ext4 partition for the system itself (20 GB);
  • A 10 GB swap partition;
  • a big FAT32 partition to store movies, photos, work stuff, etc. (depends on the capacity of the disk, but usually it is what is left from Ext3+Swap, currently it is more than 200 GB).

Does this setup sound right?

I am considering to switching to one big Ext3 partition now, because the problem with Fat32 in Ubuntu has not gone anywhere:

  • for example, right now I can access my 'big' partition with a 'Data' label only through /media/_themes?END. Pretty strange name for a partition, isn't it?
  • some Linux software fail to read/write on this partition. For example, if I want to play around with rebar and build/make/compile things on this FAT32 partition, it will always complain about permissions and won't work (the same goes for many other kinds of software);
  • it is not stable, I can not refer to some files on this FAT32 partition, because after the next reboot it will be called not '_themes?END', but something else.

On the other side I usually begin to run out of space on the Ext3 partition after a few months of usage.

So, the question is - what is the best setup of partitions for an Ubuntu system? Should a FAT32 partition be used at all?

  • Why 10 GB for swap ? And are you dual boot user? – Tachyons Apr 8 '12 at 11:41

I'm assuming this is your desktop box. If it's so, don't split your filesystem into various partitions (separate /usr, /home, /var, ...) because sooner or later you'll run into a problem of having no space left on /var and /home has tons of gigs (or vice versa).

So, create one big partition, and have another one for swap. If you have a decent desktop (4+ GB of RAM) you're safe with a gig or two of swap (unless you want to use 'hibernate', then have swap double the size of your RAM).

Use ext4, no need to stick with ext3 these days. Also, using fat32 is also not needed, unless you're sharing your setup with Windows installation (even then, it's better to use NTFS in windows, and use ntfs-3g or something like that to read/write those partitions from linux).

So, to sum it all up: one partition for all your files, another for swap. No fat32.


I can't think of a single reason I would use fat32, except maybe on some memory cards if you want to use them with cameras or similar. If you're dual booting with Windows, I'd probably use an NTFS for your shared data. If not, I'd use an Ext4 or a BtrFS. (BtrFS is very cool, but very new, so there might still be bugs)

If you're not using BtrFS, I'd normally recommend using a separate filesystem for your home directory. But I think Ubuntu is now able to keep home on root even if you're doing a fresh install, which makes it less important.

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