I'll be reinstalling OS X on my MacBook and I would like to use both ubuntu and OSX. can I make 3 partitions, one for each OS and the third for /home and mount the /home partition on both OS-es? Is there any better way to do it? I want to keep everything as clean and tidy as possible.

Thank you.


It is not a good idea to use a home partition to be used by both operating systems. There are permissions problem in the first place, and also solving these, Ubuntu does not support writing to HFS+ filesystem and MacOSX does not support writing on EXT4 filesystem.

What you can do is create a shared partition with a filesystem supported in both reading and writing , such as NTFS, and use that partition to exchange data between the two operating systems.

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    Actually, Linux can write to HFS+ partitions, although write support is disabled by default when such a partition's journal is active (as it is by default when OS X creates an HFS+ partition). Permissions issues can be overcome by aligning the OS X and Linux UID and GID numbers. That said, IMHO it's better to create a separate non-/home partition for sharing data. I'd use unjournaled HFS+ or FAT for this, though, not NTFS. Neither OS has decent NTFS maintenance tools, so NTFS is an exceedingly poor choice for this unless Windows is also installed on the computer. – Rod Smith May 22 '14 at 0:55
  • @RodSmith absolutely, but do not have journaling support is like having no write support. HFS+ without journaling for shared partition can be a choice, but the FAT filesystem is limited, especially in terms of file size (max 4Gb), which is why I suggested ntfs. – girardengo May 22 '14 at 10:07
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    When (not if) an NTFS partition is not safely unmounted or otherwise develops a flaw, you're likely to lose all access to it until you check it with Windows' CHKDSK utility. That makes NTFS a very bad choice on any computer that doesn't have a working Windows installation. NTFS also performs poorly in Linux (I'm not sure about OS X). The lack of a journal on HFS+ or FAT is relatively unimportant; that slows down disk checks, but at least you'll be able to do them in either OS X or Ubuntu. – Rod Smith May 22 '14 at 12:05

I can only answer from the Ubuntu side, since I have no experience with OSX.

I'd recommend to have separate $HOME folders for both operating systems. So, while your idea will definitely work, you should probably name your users differently, so that the configuration files for the installed programs are separated. Otherwise some programs, which are available on both, Ubuntu and OSX, yet in different versions, might get confused if one is editing the configuration of the other. In order to avoid permission issues, I would try to make sure that your user has the same UID on both systems, so that effectively both home folders belong to the same user. In order to keep everything tidy, you can then symlink the relevant subfolders in one of the home folders to the corresponding folders in the other one (e.g. that /home/linuxuser/Documents is a symlink to /home/osxuser/Documents or the other way round).

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