HD free space - allocated within the extended partition or not?

I had already partitioned my hard drive for an install of Debian, but had to give up on Debian because it kept freezing at the login screen and iceweasel seemed inclined to quit quite a lot.

I read that it was a good idea to keep 25-35% of your total hard drive capacity free, so that linux can ‘clean’ your hard drive, and I formatted all partitions therefore as Ext3 with journalling. (Aside from the Swap partition obviously).

When I formatted my partitions for my debian install, I had assumed the free hard drive space should be unallocated - that is, was not part of my extended partition.

Now, when I came to install opensuse 13.2 amd 64-bit, I noted the recommended partitioning scheme was allocating all the hard drive space within the primary and extended partitions, but did not use all of the available space within the extended partition.

My question is this - was my earlier debian partitioning incorrect, in that you should specify all of the hard drive capacity within the primary and extended partitions, but it’s not necessary to use up the entire HD space when specifying your partitions?

I guess I’m thinking that might make sense. Is unallocated free space not available to linux in terms of disk cleaning?

Thanks for any insight you can offer me.

Robert Blake

The best thing to do is to give the installer free (that is NOT partitioned) space. It will then offer you to use it in what it thinks is the best way (for swap, / and /home). You do not have to accept that offer, you can then still change to your liking.

What I understand from your post is that you are not multi-booting (with e.g. Windows). That means that it is best to free your disk totaly. That is: no partitions at all. Or you can tell the installer (at the partitioning offer) to use the whole disk (I do not know where exactlt, try clicking around a bit on things like own setup or expert or how it is called). Then the installer will also ignore the existing partitioning.

The installer will offer you to use Btrfs for / and Xfs for /home. You can also change hat. E.g. to ext4 (I would not use ext3, why?)

I do not know what that story about :keeping 25%-30% free comes from. IMHO: forget it.

In other words: let the installer do the thinking for you.
And remember: as long as you do not proceed with the installation, nothing will be done to the disk. So, when you are in any doubt, stop it and ask here first.

I’m not sure how I can give the installer free space as you say. When installing OpenSuse just now, the installer proposed to use all of my HD capacity, with the primary and extended partition. Hence, my question.

The ext3 option was chosen based again on something I read. I am new to Linux but figured the best way to learn might be not to simply go with installer options, so I did some research. This research (various web sites) talked of how Linux never needs defragmenting because it cleans itself - but that this worked best with either Ext3 or Ext 4 with journalling and if 25-35% of the disk space was free - but I was unclear whether the free space should be allocated and formatted within the extended partition or unformatted and unallocated.

Anyway, I’m happy to forget that info and happy to go with default options. But I do remain unsure what you mean by the installer free space. Given I’m still experimenting with various Linux distros, I can’t do too much damage data wise - I’m backed up. I’ve lost track how many times I installed debian over the last few days.

One other annoyance - this behaviour has happened in Linux Mint and OpenSuse (plus other distros I’ve tried) - the keyboard does funny things as I type in forums. The right click context menu appears and the cursor will jump around within my text as I type. Given this behaviour is manifesting in so many Linux Distros, is it more likely to be a hardware issue, a laptop setting in bios even?

Note: I haven’t done any substantial work -e.g. typing in LibreOffice to say that the behaviour is there too - and I don’t see it when creating plain text files - KWrite, Gedit or Mousepad. But I do see plenty of forum threads in google with folks having similar issues. I realise it’s impossible to troubleshoot hardware issues remotely - but this behaviour in all Linus distros did not happen when I had Windows 7 installed.

BTW - I’m not dual booting - I’ve left windows behind and trying lots of linux to see which is best for me.

Robert Blake

The keep free space may refer to some SSD drive. No need to do that for spinning rust drives :wink:

When you want comment on what the installer proposes, please give us the exact information. “the primary and extended partition” is not something I can interprete (of course I know what primary partitions are, what the extended partition is and what logical partitions are).

It might be that they point to the fact that a very full file system (of probably any type) will not perform at it’s maximum. But that is about free space inside the partition. Not anywhere else.

Free space is not allocated to any partition. Thus when you want the installer to use the whole disk, remove all partitions before installation. (Or tell the installer to use the whole disk, you must be able to find that setting by experimenting a bit). And as said, tell here what the installer proposes like: x GB for swap on sda1, …) and we might comment on it. We can not on tthe basis of vague information.

You mean, when you compose a post in the (inclusing these) forums? Not when typping in othet web-sittes? Which context menu? In any case, that is a complete different subject. And when you want the maximum of exposure to a problem, you better look for the correct (sub)forum to start a thread with a good telling title and more detailed information for it. It does not ring a bell with me.

Thank for the confirmation.

I can’t really think of good reasons why ext3 would be anyone’s first choice, at this stage.

There have been discussions of discontinuing ext3 support in the next kernel release; this, in itself, shouldn’t put you off necessarily, but you should be aware, however the actual discussion ends up, that ext3 probably doesn’t have the longest of working lives ahead of it. Basically, there aren’t advantages over ext4, so there aren’t any reasons for supporting it, going forward (even though there will be people still using ext3, for legacy reasons).

Assuming spinning rustware, sensible choices at this point seem to be ext4, BTRFS and XFS. There are a couple of others that you might consider for an SSD, but I wouldn’t be straying outside of that list for a conventional Hard Disk.

BTRFS has some advanced features, but is slower in some use cases (disk drive speed is not susceptible to easy, one number, summaries and what results you get depends very heavily on exactly what you measure. Also, it is the most recent of the filesystems, and probably has more bugs and rough edges (difficult to be exact, but based on recent historical progress, and based on the idea that the future is the same as the past).

Depending on use case, XFS might be slightly faster than Ext4 (although that probably reverses in other use cases, and it won’t be the biggest difference) but I don’t have a lot of experience with it. On the other hand, I do know that ext4 is pretty robust, and survives a fair bit of abuse, and that is worth something.

With respect to the advanced features of BTRFS, if these really hit your hot button, you could reproduce many of them by using LVM over a more conventional filesystem. I suspect that they don’t, but it is a possibility.

The subject of ‘needing’ defragmentation is interesting; ‘needing’ is probably the wrong word, but ‘getting an advantages from defrag’ is probably more easy to process, logically. Usually (massive over-generalisation coming), Linux filesystems are laid out in a way that makes defrag less of a necessity than on some other operating systems. On the other hand, most systems get some advantage from defrag, even if that is very small (on spinning rustware - defrag on SSDs is usually just a bit stupid).

I read that it was a good idea to keep 25-35% of your total hard drive capacity free, so that linux can ‘clean’ your hard drive,

It probably is a good idea to keep that sort of percentage free, but there is no active ‘cleaning’ going on. Once the drive (actually, the partition) gets sufficiently full, it gets difficult for the filsesystems driver to use heuristics to lay out files to minimise the problems caused by scattering blocks around the disk.

The suggestion to keep space open is not on the *drive, *but on the partition. Linux does absolutely nothing with free space on the drive. It must be formatted to a file system first. As for fragmentation, it is not possible on ext2 or ext3 due to their lack of support for extents (fragments). I agree that there is no reason to use ext3 when you could use ext4. On ext4, defragmentation is not automatic, however, it is rarely ever necessary unless you have a *really full *drive. It can be defragmented with “e4defrag”, but this rarely shows many fragmented files anyway.

I agree with Obscurant’s thoughts.

Apologies for being vague re: installer options, I was trying to phrase my question in more general terms, but realise that can be counter-productive when seeking remote techie help :\

I’ve reinstalled, after deleting all existing partitions and went with the installer proposed partitioning scheme, so I can use Snapper as I install additional software.

You’re right, the keyboard issue is a different subject which needs it’s own thread - apologies.

FYI - the behaviour thus far has always been in the fields where you type texts in forums, not in forms nor text editors. The context menu was mostly the one which offers you to navigate forward/backward, refresh the page, bookmark etc…

Sometimes it was the one with the cut, copy, paste, select all, check spelling options.

Since this behaviour is manifesting in all linux distros tested thus far, clearly however irritating, it’s not sufficient reason to abandon a given distro. So, Ill persevere and post a new topic in the relevent thread if I’m convinced it’s not a hardware issue.


Robert rotfl!

Just my 2cents. I only use ext3 on legacy systems if dual-booting with older OSes with no support for ext4: not your case, go with ext4.
BTRFS with snapshots (OpenSUSE default) is quite prone to fragmentation due to its Copy-on-Write in some cases, the system journal being one of them. With slow disks (e.g. older laptop disks) you may experience long delays after a while.

Sounds like a touchpad that is not disabled during typing. My OpenSUSE does something similar if I disable the touchpad with the Fn keys, but is OK if I use the settings menu for mouse and touchpad.