As you can see from my screenshot to which I am incessantly referring, after my Linux swap partition, I appear to have a partition labelled “W95 FAT32 (LBA)” that’s about 9.5GB as well. This is a FAT32 partition. Now, you may think this is a collossal waste of space (particularly right after I was just quibbling over 1 or 2 GB in my swap partition discussion, above) but I had a purpose for this when I made it.
I don’t use any 3rd party apps that can write easily back and forth between Windows and Linux, so I made that big FAT32 partition so that if I needed to, I could transfer up to 9.5GB of data at a time between the two, since both Windows and Linux can read and write easily to and from FAT32.
After the FAT32 partition in my scheme, you finally see the first non-swap Linux partition. In my example the two main Linux partitions are both “ReiserFS” as the filesystem, and one of them is marked “boot” in cfdisk.
In this particular case, the first ReiserFS partition (the one marked “boot”) is where my root system lives. I gave it a generous 11GB or so, because I wanted to install large things like Dropline GNOME (mostly to make installing gtk apps easier, not because I use Dropline as an environment; I prefer KDE 3.5) and OpenOffice.org, and because I’ve run out of space on my root partition in other Linux systems in the past, and it’s an uncomfortable situation to rectify.
The last partition on this particular system is where I mount my /home directory, so that big, remainder of the disk is dedicated to userspace.
Now, for systems which I am not dual-booting anything, my scheme is very similar, just without the Windows partition (I put swap first), and without the FAT32 partition.
I go for simplicity in partitioning. A lot of folks like to have /var and /boot and root all on their own partitions, and some folks even create more than that, but in my experience, for a desktop or a laptop computer, it really just isn’t necessary to go that granular in one’s partitioning scheme. As always, of course, your mileage may vary.
Primary versus logical
When selecting the partition type, cfdisk will prompt you to choose between “primary” and “logical”. As a rule of thumb, Windows can only live on one of the primary partitions, so make sure you select that for Windows if you’re creating a multi-boot system like the one I’ve been discussing. You can only have 4 “primary” partitions, so you’re safe in selecting “logical” for any of the others.
What does this mean? Not a lot, truth be told. You can do your own research if you really want to dig into the nuts and bolts of primary versus logical partitions, but for my purposes, I don’t fight with it much.
In the end, I urge you to experiment with partitioning a bit and ultimately find whatever method works best for you. In this post, I really just wanted to demonstrate how I normally do things and provide a little bit of reasoning behind the choices I make when setting up my desktop Linux boxes. Never be afraid to ask questions of experts in whatever Linux community you find helpful, but remember… don’t be dismayed if you ask a partitioning question and you find yourself the spark that started a small flamewar.
It happens sometimes. Just take what you need out of the discussion and find whatever works best for what you do with your computer and you’ll do fine. One great place to find answers of this sort is LinuxQuestions.org. I’ve found that often I don’t even need to post a question there. If you do a quick search of their forum for “partitioning”, you’ll most likely find far more answers than you even had questions.