Newbie questions about partitioning for dualboot

Need help deciding the order and the size of partitions for dualboot OpenSUSE and WinXP and possibly another Linux.
How big should the boot partition be?
What would be a convenient order of partition on the HDD?
I’m completely new to Linux.

How big is your hard drive? The SUSE installer will typically suggest partition sizes for you, which tend to be okay. Obviously, if you plan to work/store files with one more than the other, you would want that partition to be larger.

Here’s the storage being used by my computer:
SUSE root: 12.9 GB
SUSE home: 4.8 GB (all my personal files, including email with Thunderbird)
XP (everything, including very few personal files): 12.4 GB

The selection of programs installed on both systems are very similar, so you can see the space required for installation is about the same. For the typical user, I would say that about 15GB for each OS is fine, as long as you don’t plan to store your multimedia files on the same partition.

Tnanks juliannay. The hard drive is 160Gb. I don’t plan to store files on system partitions. To the contrary, I’d like to make the imaging of system partitions easy.

Are there any recommendations for the order of partitions? That is, should it be:
WinXP on C:,
OpenSUSE on D:,
a swap partition on E:
home on F:
or what it should be?

Hi, Wayra.

That setup looks good, and will probably be what the SUSE installer will recommend. I’m pretty sure that by default, the option for “recommend a separate home partition” is selected by it.

Keep in mind that the SUSE partitions won’t have the drive letter assignment the way Windows has. Also, your SUSE files won’t be accessible through Windows (I usually just put files on a USB drive if I want them shared), but if you’re installing SUSE 11.0, your Windows files will be accessible through SUSE.

Here’s what the partitions would look like in SUSE

And what your Windows files would look like in SUSE

If you already have Windows installed on your PC, shut it down, then restart with the installation disk in the computer, and the installer will do all the partitioning for you. That’s all I did, and it worked like a charm!

I’ll have the HDD repartitioned and and the OSs reinstalled.
This driver is for reading Ext2 from Windows Ext2 IFS For Windows

What about /usr, /var, should I make separate partitions for them also?
What the separate /boot partition size should be?

What is a good read on this specific subject?

First, take a careful read of this from the ext2 driver site Ext2 IFS For Windows: FAQ. What is happening here with this driver is the same thing in reverse to using the Linux ntfs-3g driver to access a Windows NTFS partition from Linux. That is, in both cases, the driver does not support journaling. It is very important to understand what this means. IMO, either approach (shared data on NTFS or shared data on ext3) is acceptable as long as you are not doing a large number of writes from the other OS. And, if that shared data is static user data. But doing heavy writes to OS files without journaling is inviting risk, and so it may be better to just share a FAT32 partition - FAT32 does not support journaling at all (so the same situation as the two above), but it is very mature and reliable from both OS’s. It’s major disadvantage, beside no journaling, is its 4GB file size limitation.

Putting /var and /usr on separate partitions was a practice on PC’s in the past when disks were much smaller; with today’s PC disks it’s rarely necessary. This is still done on large scale enterprise disks, but that is a completely different situation.

Using a separate /boot partition has also been discontinued by nearly all users. The original intent was to solve the problem with older disks where it was not possible to boot from a sector beyond cylinder 1024. That problem was resolved long ago. Having said that - I still use a separate /boot partition because it gives me flexibility and greater reliability on my workstations and servers; for example, I mirror /boot in a RAID1 so that I have a failsafe for booting. I also have anywhere from 3-8 OS’s on a single system, and there are advantages of a separate /boot in that configuration. But for the typical PC user, and certainly for a new user, not having a separate /boot is probably the best way to go.

As far as other reading . . . there is a ton of it. Google is your friend. Just keep in mind that desktop Linux has changed enormously in just the last few years, and a lot of the data out there pre-dates that, so it no longer is relevant. SuSE used to have a lot of documentation on various partitioning schemes and filesystems; that is now on the Novell site intended for corporate users. My old beloved Gentoo and the warhorse Debian still have IMO the best system level reading, but again, that’s mostly for old geeks like myself or server admins, for those who really want to build the entire OS from the bottom up.


a) /usr is the directory where most of the software will be located.
Thus, it is a good candidate to have a separate partition of its own mounted on it. Be generous when assigning its size: starting 4-5 Gb is ok.

b) /var definitely should have a partition if you are planning to provide internet services to your users or if your system will be on-line most of the time.
Keep in mind the vital system daemons together with userland applications store the activity related events in logs located there.

2Gb is ok. If more space is needed, you can remove old logs when the need arises, after getting backup copies.

c) /boot used to have a small partition of its own in the old days, when some bootloaders (lilo) had to tackle with the so called 1024 cylinder limit problem. This is not more an issue in modern systems and modern releases of lilo.
Anyway having a /boot partition of about 200-300 Mb is a always good option if you plan to keep copies of several kernels y/o initrd, just in case, specially before updating a system.
It also enables you to configue /etc/fstab to mount it in read only mode to avoid that any basic object needed to boot the system can be accidentally removed.

Notice that all the above sizes are rough estimates.

That being said, if you are not very familiarized with those concepts, I’ll suggest to stick to the defaults or, better yet,
read the chapter Advanced Deployment Scenarios -> 2.1 Using the YaST Partitioner of the reference guide, available here:

Novell Documentation

Important: Never move out of the root partition (/) the following directories: /etc, /root, /lib, /dev, /bin, /sbin.
It could render your system unbootable.