Linux Installation & Partitioning

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Hey everybody !!

in this post we will talk about the Linux installation but before we start let’s see how does Linux deal with the hard disk.

Partitioning Scheme :-

First : the name of your hard disk is determined by the technology it uses and the way you connect it to your computer like that:-

  • ATA disk starts with (hd)

  • SATA or the SCSI disks starts with (sd).

But Fedora started to use (sd) for all HDDs starting from Fedora core 7 and UBUNTU also does that.

the next character is dedicated depending on your hard disk status so let’s assume that you had an ATA HDD, the scheme will be like that:-

  • hda primary master

  • hdb primary slave

  • hdc secondary master

  • hdd secondary slave

now let’s see how does the partitions names look like?

The data about your partitions is stored in the first sector of your hard disk which called the MBR (Master Boot Record) in 64 bytes only which is only enough to fully describe just 4 partitions. These partitions are called primary partitions and it takes number from 1 to 4. so lets assume that you have a primary master ATA disk then the partitions will look like that:-

  • hda1 the first primary partition

  • hda2 the second primary partition

  • hda3 the third primary partition

  • hda4 the fourth primary partition

if you need more partitions then you need to make an (Extended partition) which is a primary partition that is capable of holding other sub-partitions called (Logical partitions).

Note: Theoretically you can make unlimited amount of logical partitions in the extended partition but Linux limits that number to 59 in the IDE disks and 11 in SCSI disks.

Logical partitions takes numbers starts from 5. this means that (hda5) is the first logical partition in your disk whatever the number of your primary partitions is and the second logical partition will be (hda6) etc.

In the graph we can see that:-

  • hda1 and hda2 are the first two primary partitions.

  • hda3 is also a primary partition but it is an extended partition which only holds two logical partitions (hda5 and hda6).

  • hda5 is the first logical partition in the disk so takes number 5.

  • hda6 is the second logical partition in the disk so it takes number 6.

  • hda4 is the fourth primary partition so it has no relations with the logical ones and it takes number 4.

The root file system :-

Now let’s see what is the requirements to install Linux.

At least you need one partition to install Linux and this partition will be called the root file system which holds your data or link to it. So the root file system will be mounted as “ / “ (slash), and all other partitions will be mounted under it like that

now “dev” will be called “/dev” and “home” will be “/home” etc. and we will speak about the functionality of these main directories later.

You also can make any main directory of those a separate file system (partition) and it will be mounted under the root file system “/” and it will look like any other directory. That’s may be useful in some cases which also will be discussed later.

the file system that should be created on that partition should be (ext2 or ext3) file system but ext3 is more efficient.

SWAP area :-

You can start your installation with the root file system only, but if your RAM is small (256M or less) so you need to make a place to be considered as virtual memory. This area must be a separate partition – unlike Windows – this partition use’s the “swap” file system and it’s size should be twice as much as your RAM size for the best performance.

Installation :-

Now we can start the installation and as we said before we will work on the three major distributions. So we can’t be very verbose. So let’s speak about the most important and sensitive part of the installation which is Partitioning. And the rest of the installation is simple and easy to understand if you read the tips carefully.

I recommend that you should have a backup of your important data because there are two kinds of people, people who make backups and people who never delete a file. So, always have backups.

Lets Start Partitioning:

Partitioning (with Debian based):-

let’s start with the partitioning step on a Debian-Based distribution which is Ubuntu.

Ubuntu installation is so simple. It consists of only 7 steps. Now let’s see how does the partitioning step looks like in Ubuntu installation.

Ubuntu offers you some choices to ease the partitioning step for you. This steps are:-

  • use entire disk : will erase all partitions in your hard disk and create the default layout.

  • Use largest continues free space : will use the unpartitioned space only to create the default layout and it won’t touch any existed partition.

  • Manual (for experts) : let you decide what to do.

  • Sometimes there is an additional option (Guided resize) which enables you to resize a partition and use the generated space to create the default layout, but this option is slower and it may become very slow depending on the partition size.

Let’s pick the (manual) option and decide what to do.

As we see, there are some buttons that enables you to edit you partitions.

Your partitions will be listed in front of you using the schema that we have just spoke about.

You can delete a partition and use the free space that will be available by selecting the partition and press (delete partition).

Then you can create a new partition by selecting the free space then click (new partition).

As you see in the previous picture there is field to write the desired space in Megabytes (it’s recommended if you use only one partition to make it 5 Gigabytes or more) .

The next field is “use as”, which represent the file system you want to make on this partition. Let’s choose “EXT3 journaling file system”.

The last field is the “mount point”, this will dedicate what will the partition be used for. So we first need to make a root file system which will use the mount point “/”.

you can also make the “/home” or “/var” etc, a separate file system.

Look at this picture and see the options we used to make a root file system uses the “/” as amount point and using EXT3 file system.

Now the next step is to make a “swap” area to be used as virtual memory. So, we will do the same but using the file system (use as) “swap area”, and there will be no mount point for the swap area, and remember that the swap area’s size should be twice as much as your RAM size for the best performance.

See the picture here.

Now we will see our two partitions listed which are the root file system “/” and the swap area, now we can proceed with the installation by clicking “forward”.

The partitioning step is the most sensitive step in any Linux installation, in the Ubuntu installation you can just read the instructions and you will find everything easy.

Partitioning (with Red hat based):-

the red hat based distribution that we will use is Fedora.

Fedora installation could be done in several ways from : CD/DVD, Local Hard Drive, NFS(Network File Share) server, Samba (Windows Share) server, FTP server, HTTP server.

We will talk about the CD/DVD installation. And also we will focus on the partitioning step because it’s the most sensitive step in the installation and we will let you experience the other steps alone :D, you have to read the instructions carefully and go on.

You will answer some dialogs till you reach the partitioning step.

The partitioner that Fedora uses is called Disk Druid and it’s really powerful and simple, and it has 5 options for partitioning which are :-

Remove all partitions and create default layout : this will delete all partitions and create the default layout.

Remove Linux partitions and create default layout : this will delete only the Linux partitions (if you have a previous Linux installation) and won’t touch any other operating system’s partitions then will create the default layout on the generated free space.

Resize existing partition and create custom layout.

Use free space and create custom layout : use only free space to create custom layout and won’t touch any existing partition.

Create custom layout : let you decide what to do.

Let’s choose create custom layout.

You will see a simple interface includes buttons to create, delete or edit a partition.

We will do the same as we did in Ubuntu. We will make a root file system that will use Ext3 file system and will use the “/” mount point.

Then we will create a swap file system to be used as virtual memory, it will be twice as much as you RAM size, it will use swap file system and it doesn’t have a mount point.

Notice that in “fedora core 9” you will see the option “Encrypt” which makes all the data written on this partition encrypted, this is useful for security but it’s not necessary.

Also notice that this partitioner also have option called “fill to maximum allowable space” which uses all the free continues free space for this partition.

Now I will leave you with some images of the fedora partitioner “Disk Druid”

Package selecting (in Fedora) :-

the next important step in Fedora installation is package selecting. It has two options.

Customize later : start the installation with the default packages and customize packages after installation.

Customize now : enables you to choose desired packages to be installed now.

Let’s choose customize now option.

Now you can choose the packages desired on your system. You can find the summary for each package selected in the white box in the center of the window.

Now we should be able to perform a Linux installation on our machine, we covered the Red Hat based distros and Debian based distros in this post and we are sorry for not covering Slackware distros now but we will try to cover it later.

Thanks for reading and keep freaks till the next post.

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7 Responses to “Linux Installation & Partitioning”

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