I dual boot installed Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 7 on a hard drive before. I remember Windows has to be installed on a primary partition which has to be at least of certain size.

Now I get a new hard drive of 1TB. I would like to install Ubuntu 14.04 or a later version on it, and then some time later (not now) install virtualbox and Windows under virtualbox (although I haven't completely ruled out installing Windows 8.1 as dual boot yet, but if that happens, shouldn't I install Windows before Ubuntu?).

Could you suggest me how to design the partitions of my hard drive, such as

  • what must be put on primary partitions?

  • how many partitions for what purposes, at least how much size, and logic or primary?

  • where should I leave unpartitioned free space, so that later when one of the partitions runs out of place, it is possible/easier to add more free space to the partition?

  • what else do I need to know?


  • virtualbox is a software program that will run in Ubuntu. Windows will run inside it from a virtual hard drive (partition) that will be just a huge file in your Ubuntu partition. – user68186 Feb 23 '15 at 22:45
  • How shall I design my partitions to meet some common requirements? – Tim Feb 23 '15 at 22:46
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    There is no partition requirements for running VirtualBox and Windows (or any other OS) inside VirtualBox. Whatever partition scheme you choose for Ubuntu should be fine. Go with the default if you want. – user68186 Feb 23 '15 at 22:49
  • Which is better (leaving more flexibility etc): leave some space unpartitioned (then where to put the unpartitioned space relative to partitions?), or partition the whole hard drive? – Tim Feb 23 '15 at 22:51
  • If you know that you will need the space later for another partition and do not need it now, I would leave some space between the last primary partition and the extended partition (which contains the logical partitions and which I would create at the end of the drive). – Byte Commander Feb 23 '15 at 23:11

For that kind of setup, you don't need to do anything special. It's essentially just a normal desktop installation of Ubuntu, so at minimum all you need is one big partition, plus some swap space (usually in another partition).

Unless you have any specific requirement that would require something else, I'd recommend just going with the default partitioning that the Ubuntu installer suggests.

I acknowledge the suggestion from others about separate root (/) and /home partitions, and that this is totally about personal preference, but having one big partition doesn't prevent you preserving your home directories when reinstalling, it just makes it slightly less convenient depending on how you're going to do it. If you're not literally going to be re-installing the system all the time, I'd downplay the need for it. This may be going against traditional Linux wisdom, but having one big partition for all files follows current Ubuntu thinking - they haven't made this the default in their installer by accident or neglect but because they specifically chose it as a suitable default for most people.

As for your Virtualbox installation, that's gonna put large "virtual hard drive" files somewhere in your home directory. Unless your hard drive is pretty small, this probably isn't going to significantly impact your partitioning strategy even if you do opt for separated partitions.

Note: I have run Virtualbox inside Ubuntu before and found it frustrating, and I don't do it anymore. If I need Windows I boot into it. But if your only need for it is the occasional software testing, then I guess that makes sense.

  • Many programs will store their configuration files on /home. For storing and backing up user-created data and other purposes, are they generally all stored on /home or another partition? Is there case when it becomes better to create a different partition than /home to store user-created data? – Tim Feb 24 '15 at 0:10
  • /home is a directory, not a partition (whether you mount it on a separate partition or not, Ubuntu doesn't mind). That said, I don't understand the rest of the question. – thomasrutter May 5 '15 at 3:18

Sometimes I look at this notice from time to time when installing Ubuntu on different PC devices, just to be sure in case I forgot something. :) I think this is plenty enough about partitioning.


This is where things start to become a matter of personal preference and recommendation. Unless you have special purpose for a dual boot system, I found switching back and forth tedious. But that is a matter of style and organisation. I use Virtualbox for those Windows only applications that don't cut Wine and avoid the reboot interruption.

The Linux system should have at least 3 partitions, /(root), /home, and swap (10-30GB, the bulk, RAM size equivalent, repectively) . This allows one to completely screw-up a system and not loose personal data. It allows pithing the old root and grafting on a new. It allows switching distributions without too much drama.

A step in any direction precludes diverging options, but partitioning a drive, while having constraints, is not a permanent decision.

With a 1TB drive you could always allot 40,60-100GB to the first partition , for storage, and later,(as I've heard Windows is persnickety about placement, IDK, the last I used was XP). If you want a dual-boot Windows partition, it's just a matter of moving the boxes out of the garage and putting in carpeting. Resizing generally is only a matter of time.

...but, like I said, it's personal preference.

Edit: As neon_overload suggested, if you're not going to be under the hood tinkering, one partition (two, with swap), be done with it. But if you like to bang on the pipes and rearrange furniture - compartmentalise.

  • (1) For Windows run under VirtualBox, do I not need to create a ntfs partition for data sharing between Ubuntu and Windows? (2) Is it better to create a different partition than /home to store user-created data? – Tim Feb 23 '15 at 23:58
  • No, it is so easy it's scary. In the VM you'll create 'shared folders', e.g., /home/nodak/Downloads becomes something or other in the VM. Those shared folders are your easy exchange interface. You can also have bi-directional clipboard...frightening. – Nodak Feb 24 '15 at 0:03
  • Your making an ntfs volume in the virtual box. Do you not know how to make one ? – Virusboy Feb 24 '15 at 0:05
  • Many programs will store their configuration files on /home. For storing and backing up user-created data and other purposes, are they generally all stored on /home or another partition? Is there case when it becomes better to create a different partition than /home to store user-created data? – – Tim Feb 24 '15 at 0:32
  • @Tim, really only if you're a glutton for punishment. Defaults tend to be good for a reason...if nothing other than not having to muscle your way through every stinking decision. – Nodak Feb 24 '15 at 4:35

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