Retaining the same /Home for different versions

I have a PC with two hard disks, one sda dedicated to Windows and the second sdb for Linux. Plenty of space is available on sdb.
At the moment I have 13.2, 42.1 and 42.2 installed on sdb using same Swap partition. Each version has its own Grub, / and /Home partitions. I am to now delete the 13.2 version and do a fresh install of 42.3 in lieu. I now wish to keep a single /Home partitions for all the versions. As a start I wish to use the existing /Home for 42.2 for 42.3 also. I have to use the expert partitioner for the process. Deleting the 13.2 partitions one by one moves the proposed 42.3 partitions into those positions. How do I proceed from this point on?

Also is it essential that each version keeps its own grub partition? Will the problem be solved if I elect to write grub to and boot from the MBR of sdb?

Assuming you mean /home instead of /Home, you may be carefull about sharing it between different versions. Not so much about different version of openSUSE, but different versions of your desktop software.

E.g. a new version of KDE may convert old configuration files when it is started by a user for the first time and it detects that an old KDE version was used before. But the a backwards conversion is most probably not a feature, were it only because the old version was made before the specifications of the new version were fixed.

Don’t think MBR supports cross drive booting so if you put grub in MBR of sda then you will need at least a boot partition (about 500 meg) mounted as /boot on sda

Once all is as you wish it on the partition scheme page proceed if not go back and fix it

Your real question is about a Grub partition. I am not aware of such a partition.

You may have an EFI partition, which is in fact not part of your system, but resides on disk for EFI booting.

You may have a separate boot partition. That contains grub software, but it also contains the kernel (maybe even different versions of it). I am not sure that mixing all those kernels from different openSUSE versions in one shared /boot is a good idea. E.g. updating a kernel (by a patch in the OSS Update repo), may involve removing older kernels (not 100% sure, but I think by default two older kernels are kept, older ones removed, or similar behaviour), which may mean that a kernel of one of your other systems may be deleted.

I am presently booting off sdb as first drive, so that wont be a problem. I have to fix the MBR on sda, but thats another story. My basic doubt is whether I need a separate grub partition for each version?

Yes, you are right! Due to an initial mixup I do have sdb1 as efi partition. I was not aware that the grub partition has the kernel! so I have to stick to as many grub partitions as the versions. Thanks!

Again, I do not think there is something like a grub partition. Please either explain what you mean with “grub partition” (to make me understanding you) or use “/boot partition” (when that is what you mean). Using a different language then other people will produce confusion and misunderstanding.

My primary objective is to avoid copying my working text, spreadsheets, music, video files etc from one version to another. The operation requires use of superuser mode and then changing ownership of the files back to the actual user! Though I keep both KDE and Gnome desktops I mostly run KDE.

I am using the nomenclature (grub) I see when setting up partitions in the expert partitioner. What I can make out is that the grub partition is (and should be called) “/boot partition”.

I most probably mixed things up when I first set up sdb and installed 12.3 on it. The disc is efi but I install OpenSUSE SATA. That is also when I wrote grub to MBR of sda and have yet to correct it to standard Windows MBR for Windows 7. Cleaning the system is going to be a tough exercise. Yhanks

That is the result of sloppy system administration if I may say so.
What is essentially the same user on different systems should be configured with the same userid, etc. on all systems. Then that user is owner of his/her own files on all systems. Thus when you mount one of the home partitions of a not running system somewhere on the running system (like at /mnt/home-systemx, the user must be able to copy to and from. No root needed.

And of course another (maybe better) approach would be to have only the users’ “work data” on a common partition, but his/her configuration files (of e.g. KDE, etc.) in separate /home/userx space. When you only have a few users, that /home may not even be a separate file system, thus strong connected to the system.

But the above are only vague suggestion, not understanding at all why one would like to have so many openSUSE versions in production at the same time.

I tried that.

At one time, I had openSUSE 13.1 (64-bit) on one partition. And I installed 13.1 “linux-for-education” which was 32-bit, on a second root partition. I used the same “/home” and swap for both. And that worked fine.

And then I updated one of those to 13.2. And that caused problems. The desktop configurations (for KDE) were incompatible between 13.1 and 13.2.

I do not recommend what you are suggesting.

Here is what I currently do:

On my laptop, I have 42.2, with a separate “/home” file system and a separate swap.

I installed 42.3. I set it to use the same swap. But I set it to mount my “home” file system at “/xhome” instead of at “/home”.

So, for 42.3, “home” is part of the root partition. However, my home directory has a bunch of symbolic links back to “/xhome”

For example:
bin → …/xhome/$USER/bin
.ssh → …/xhome/$USER/.ssh

and similar for many others. Note that the “$USER” is the actual login user rather than a literal “$USER”.

So most of what is important is shared between 42.2 and 42.3. However, configuration such as

these are not shared. So there is no configuration conflict. I do use a symbolic link to share “.mozilla”, and I have not run into any problems with that.

The basic idea – share the important stuff, but keep the version-dependent configuration separate for each version.

Thanks, the userid is same across all versions. I will try out the first route you have suggested.
As to the reason of keeping 3 versions maybe it is being a bit too careful! The normal practice would be to keep the last version till one is sure that the new version is working as required.
Its the second possibility of keeping “work data” in one place that I was thinking of, but that may cause a different set of problems as pointed out in two replies posted. Thanks again.

Thanks. I will try hcvv’s suggestion and try to keep it simple.

If you use EFI boot there is no MBR. So that is confusing. You use either MBR boot or EFI boot. It is not good to mix them. If EFI boot then you also have a EFI boot partition formatted FAT, maybe about 100 meg. Maybe you confuse that with grub??? It is important to know exactly which method you use.

Yes, booting to another drive from MBR worked for me in the past.:wink:

Okay, what I seem to pick up from this thread is that you want to share your data between different OS versions, not your configuration.

avoid copying my working text, spreadsheets, music, video files etc from one version to another.

Do as I do: Create a separate DATA partition, not in your /home directory or partition.

Save all of your files on that DATA partition. You can then have it automount if you want, and can access the same data from each of the different versions (although, if you want to access it from Windows, as well, you would have to format it to NTFS.)

That way, you can

avoid copying my working text, spreadsheets, music, video files etc from one version to another.

That really describes what I wish to achieve! Where would it be best auto-mounted, under /home? I will certainly try this now. Thanks.

My travails with efi have been discussed in now closed thread “Re: Installing 12.3 on system with UEFI Motherboard and Windows 7”**. **I was initially happily booting off sda into Windows 7 directly and using boot menu (F12) when I wished to work in Linux. While installing 13.1 somehow I erred and wrote the grub to sda! Since then I am booting off sdb only and using grub to chain load Windows. Since I dont have a Windows 7 disk (pre-installed OS) I am unable to repair the sda MBR.

On sdb I had first installed 12.3, then added 13.1 and then 13.2. When 42.1 came up I replaced 12.3 and with 42.2 I replaced 13.1. Now I will be replacing 13.2 with 42.3. Each time 3 partitions are created grub, / and /home. The reality is that when I boot off sdb the latest version grub menu is presented. Effectively the earlier version grub menus are no longer accessed. Since I am somehow able to get along I am afraid to try to fix things which on the face appear wrong!

You can share a home but you need to set users with different names and UUID. Since mixing configs will cause you headaches.

You can mount a common partition most anywhere but most convenient in a common home ie /home/data. If you don’t use a common home then mount it off of / ie /data

You can also link directories on data in your home so they are handy to each user/OS ie you can have a document and or music and or pictures directory linked to your home

Not necessarily.

There are a few options for you to decide from. Here is one of my examples, but there are other places to mount it, as well.

In one of my cases, I created a directory “data” right off the root (top) directory and gave ownership (chown) to the one user I wanted to access it. I then went into the Yast Partitioner (or, you can do this when installing by using the Custom Partitioning option), chose the partition and hit the edit button. In there, I told it NOT to format the partition (already contained my data) then on the right of the dialogue I chose to Mount the partition, and where you have multiple choices of a mount point, I typed in


That partition now mounts on that machine at boot with ownership belonging to the one user.

There are other places you can create a mount place for it, including in /home, but I do not like it in /home, otherwise when I backup the /home directory, it winds up also backing up the data directory, making for an oversized /home backup.

I prefer to back up the data separately, actually using Unison to keep it synchronized among machines.

If you want multiple users accessing data, but not each other’s data, you would not chown the base “/data” directory, but would instead create a subdirectory for each user on the data partition, then chown those subdirectories to the applicable users.