How to partition your hard drive

There are many ways to partition a hard drive, here i am going to go over a few basics and give a simple example.

The standard partitions scheme for most home Linux installs is as follows:

  • A 10-30 GB partition for the OS, which gets mounted as / (called “root”)
  • A smaller partition used to augment your RAM, mounted and referred to as swap
  • A larger partition for personal use, mounted as /home

These sizes are guidelines only, even if you install loads of software 20 GB should be enough for your root partition. In order for this to work best, though, there should be free space for between 25-35% of the partition.

Finally, whatever else you have should go to your /home partition.  This is where your personal stuff is stored. It is functionally the equivalent of the “Users” directory in Windows, housing your application settings, music, downloads, documents, etc, and those of any other users you have on your system.  It’s useful to have /home in a separate partition because when you upgrade or reinstall your OS, you don’t have to backup anything in this folder!  Isn’t that convenient?  To top it off, most of your program- and UI-related settings are saved as well!


If you’re running a server with a lot of users and/or a lot of media, you could optimize performance by using two hard drives.  A small solid state drive would be perfect for the OS to live on, maybe 32 GB at most, and you could throw the swap partition on the beginning of a 1 or 2 TB “green” drive that’s mounted on /home.

If you’re into more tinkering, you can even set up different partitions for things like the temporary directory (/tmp), for your web server’s content (/var/www), for programs (/usr), or for log files (/var/log).

When you get to the partition step in the install process you will be greeted by a screen similar to this :


Click “Add…” and on the screen that appears choose the type as “Primary” along with the size you want to allocate to the the root partition, select its position on the disk as well as the filesystem type and mount point :


Now to create a swap,  This time, as you can see, I’ve chosen a logical partition (the partitioning program automatically creates an extended partition for this).  Since this machine has a 512 MB of RAM, I’ve approximated 1.5 times that, and designated it as “swap area.”  Also note that I’ve stuck this at the end of the disk, which will help keep disk seeking times at a minimum.  Click “OK,” and let’s create another partition.


I’ve selected all of the rest of the space in the middle to be my /home partition.  The compatible file system I’ve chosen is again ext4.  Now here is the gray area: should it be primary or logical?  I went with primary because I know that I won’t be installing another OS on here, otherwise I would have gone with logical.  If you don’t plan on installing more than three OSs, you can just make it primary for simplicity’s sake.


When you’re all finished, you can resume installation.  Here’s my resulting partition table:


If you get cold feet, you can quit the installation at this point without fearing any data loss.  Nothing is actually done to your disk until you hit “Install Now,” so you can go back and edit things as you wish.


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