In most cases, you'll want to keep your old operating
system(s), but have some space left to put GNU/Linux on. Coexistence isn't
a problem for GNU/Linux, if you keep in mind the disk space needed by Mandrake.
A minimum installation of Mandrake uses some 100MB but it isn't much fun
;-). One GB is fine, more is better, of course, since it will allow your
system to grow. A complete installation of Mandrake (all packages) uses -
depending on release - up to 3 GB, but - in my opinion - that usually doesn't
make sense. 2 GB of disk space should be more than enough for an average
You don't have to worry about 'primary' or 'logical' partitions, first or
second hard disk since you can install Linux on either.
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M comes with its own graphical free repartitioner,
'DiskDrake', which allows you to create, delete and resize Linux and Windows
partitions without losing data during installation. It also has an 'automatic
mode' which requires no user intervention at all. As with all repartitioning
tools, however, you are advised to backup your data first.
You can avoid repartitioning by using 'Lnx4Win', which
will create a virtual partition on top of your existing MS-Windows partition.
Performance and stability however are much better if you decide to run GNU/Linux
on its own file system, 'extfs2'. You can find 'Lnx4Win' on your Mandrake
CD. It will take at least (!) 500MB of disk space on a FAT32 file system
(Win98) and more than 1GB on FAT16 (DOS and Win95).
If you happen to have the proprietary program Partition Magic
4 or later, you can create, move and resize ext2 partitions non-destructively
(i.e. without erasing data) from a boot floppy set. Notice that this program
does currently not support journaled file systems (ReiserFS, ext3, JFS or
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Starting with 8.1, Mandrake offers quite an array of
file systems: the traditional ext2 as well as the journaling file systems
ReiserFS, ext3, JFS and XFS. A journaling file system keeps a log ('journal')
of all data transactions. In case of hardware failure, no data on the disk
will be lost.
By default, 8.1 uses ReiserFS, by some regarded as the
most mature journaling file system. ReiserFS however still has problems with
exporting NFS shares, and some people object to the policies and philosophy
of Hans Reiser and his company. Both JFS and XFS have big companies behind
them: IBM for JFS and SGI for XFS. XFS will be of special interest for all
SAMBA users, since it is currently the only file system which allows the
implementation of Windows ACLs.
'ext3' has been developed by a Linux programmer. Its
goal is maximum compatibility with the traditional ext2 file system. In fact
it is possible to switch between ext2 and ext3 without losing data, which
is a unique feature, since changing a file system usually involved formatting
a partition. Linux distributor Red Hat uses ext3 as their
journaling file system of choice. So ext3 might be the best if you want
a journaling file system but also best compatibility.
But there isn't anything wrong with staying with the
well-proven ext2 file system, either. It still is the best supported file
system, and you can switch to ext3 and back at any time.
'Which file system is the best' is poised to become
another of those pointless, but fun community in-fights ...
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Compared to operating systems like MS-Windows, partitions
only play a minor role in GNU/Linux. During runtime you won't recognize their
existence at all, since the GNU/Linux file system does not depend on them.
Basically, you need but two partitions: one mounted
at '/' (the 'root' partition), which holds all the data, programs, libraries
etc and one for the 'swap file' which serves as virtual system memory.
Traditionally, '/home', which contains the home directories
of all users on the system (except 'root') is also on a partition of its
own. This comes in handy when upgrading the system: you can tell the installer
to format all partitions except '/home' and thus you'll keep your personal
files. It's also handy when you do experimental stuff on your box: just unmount
'/home' and your personal files are safe. It also has some advantages for
making backups since you can use the 'do not traverse file systems' switch
most synchronizing / backup tools offer. The size for '/home' depends on
various factors: number of users, uses etc. On a single user system 200 MB
should be enough (at least for me ;-)), if you don't compile source by yourself,
you can subtract another 50 MB.
You should be fine with this basic setup in most situations.
This is also the setup the installer applies to your machine when running
in non-interactive mode.
Of course you can go on from here: many people put '/usr',
'/var' and '/tmp' on separate partitions. The reasoning here is that the
'/' partition which contains all the system critical data like configuration
file in '/etc' or programs needed by 'init' in '/bin' and '/sbin' should
be accessed as little as possible by a running system, thus minimizing the
risk of data or disk corruption. It also makes mounting '/' in system repair
In such a setup, you won't need more than 100 MB for '/' and perhaps 50 MB
for '/tmp'. The size of '/var' can vary widely. You'll need more space on
'/var' if you are running servers like Apache, Postfix, MySQL etc, since
these store their data on '/var'. For an occasional, i.e. local, use of those,
200 MB suffice. If you run these services globally, 500 MB and more might
How large should a swap partition be? The vast majority
of Linux system will do just fine with a 100 MB swap partition, regardless
of the amount of RAM in the machine. On machines with a large amount of RAM
(more than 128 MB), swap will hardly be used, machines with a small amount
of RAM (less than 64 MB) will stay slow even you assign 500 MB to swap.
If your machine needs more than 100 MB swap, it is too slow to be of any
use anyway. You should then consider getting more RAM or using less memory
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(Note: Since Mandrake now comes with its own lossless
partitioning tool, this paragraph is only of interest for users of pre-7.0
M comes with the free DOS based non-destructive partition
re-sizer 'fips' ('\dosutils\fips20'). Fips will split existing primary FAT16
and FAT32 (DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 9x) partitions and create a new primary
partition. It is a console program, but really easy to handle. The whole
process usually doesn't take more than 15 minutes.
'Fips' will only split primary partitions.
If you want to split your 'C:' drive, this restriction is of no importance
to you, since C: always resides on a primary partition.
If you want to split a drive other than C:, you want to check if it is on
a primary partition: open a DOS-Window and type 'fdisk'. Choose option '4'
to show the partition table. If the drive you want to split is marked 'PRI',
Run Windows' own defragmentation program on the drive
you want to split: Open 'My Computer', get the right-click context menu for
the drive, choose 'Properties' - 'Extras' - 'Optimize'.
Now prepare a boot-diskette. Put a diskette into your
diskette drive and choose 'format' from the context menu in 'My Computer'.
If the diskette is blank, mark 'Only copy system files' and hit 'Start'.
If the diskette has data on it, mark 'full format' and 'Copy system files'.
Copy 'fips.exe', 'restorrb.exe' and 'errors.txt' from
the 'Fips20' directory of your Mandrake CD to your new boot-diskette.
Leave the disk in the drive.
Note: You can stop 'Fips' at any time by hitting CTRL-c.
Also note that there is no key table loaded. You might have to hit 'z' to
- Reboot. The system should now boot off the diskette.
If not, you have to change the boot order in your computers' BIOS.
- Type 'fips'. If your system features multiple partitions,
it will ask you, which partition you want to split.
- It runs some checks and then asks you if you want
to make a backup of your boot-sector. Type 'y'. Also answer 'y' to the next
question about the diskette. 'Fips' then writes the backup to your boot-diskette.
- Now you should see something like this:
Old partition Cylinder New Partition
The left value shows you the minimum size that will be reserved for your
'old' partition, the right value the maximum size your new partition will
have. The 'Cylinder' value isn't really important here.
235MB 134 1736.4MB
Adjust these values by using the 'left' and 'right' arrow keys on your keyboard.
If you are splitting a C: drive, you might at least reserve 500MB for the
Hit the 'Enter' key when you're done.
- Now 'Fips' will run another test and then present
you the new partition table. You now have the chance to reedit the table
or create it.
- 'Fips' now runs the final test and asks you if you
want it to write the new partition scheme to the hard disk. There have been
no changes written to disk until now. Answer
- That's it! Reboot, change the BIOS boot order to
boot from CD-Rom first and go right into installing GNU/Linux. Good luck!
If you reboot into Windows again, note that some drive letters will have changed.
They will revert to their old values once you have installed GNU/Linux onto
the new partition.
You'll find more information in 'fips.doc', but you
probably won't them.
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