One of the basic concepts of unix that Linux shares is the filesystem. The filesystem in Linux includes both file storage areas and special areas that hold system settings or represent devices. Almost everything in unix is represented by a node in the filesystem. Unix lacks the concept of drive letters that many DOS/Windows users are accustomed to working with. Partitioning refers to the process of dividing a hard drive into segments for use in the filesystem.


Partitioning is usually handled by the distribution installer. If you are installing Linux to a single hard drive, then the installer can most likely work out the details for you. If you have more complicated requirements, like a dual-boot system, or multiple hard drives you may need to provide the system some guidance.

If you have an existing operating system installed on a hard drive, you may need to shrink that partition to make free hard drive space to install Linux. This can be accomplished with tools like GNU Parted, Partition Magic, etc.

There is always a great deal of debate about how to divide up paritions for Linux. Since this guide is aimed at New Users, I’ll ignore most of the special cases. Your Linux system will work well with just 3 partitions.

# Mount Point Size
1 /boot 64MB
2 / 5 gigabytes (Whatever is left over after swap)
3 swap 256mb up to double your physical ram

This provides a small partition for the kernel and boot files, then 5 gigabytes for applications and user data. The boot partition is not actually needed, but if you use a non ext2/ext3 partition for your /, it is best to use ext2 or ext3 for your /boot.