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I'm about to get a Linux laptop with Ubuntu preinstalled. Among my first tasks will be a dual-boot installation of Linux Mint. From what I can tell, the following seems like an okay partition structure:

  • Partition 1: / [ Root partition for Ubuntu ]
  • Partition 2: / [ Root partition for Mint ]
  • Partition 3: Swap [ Shared between the systems ]
  • Partition 4: Other shared data

The root partitions would contain the standard directory hierarchies. Partition 4 would be used for /tmp and Dropbox data, plus whatever other data might be convenient to share among an arbitrary number of distros.

Is this a reasonable plan?

(Sorry if this is a dup. I'm not finding anything quite like it here.)

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What's the point of doing a shared folder? People usually create swap/share partitions when dual booting windows because with windows you usually have to install extfsd or something to get read/partial write support so it's less of a hassle. You should be able to just mount the other distro's root and transfer files if you please. If it's a capacity issue (some place to put your stuff) you might as well make it a shared /home mount and just have different usernames on each system that way you get a boost is security. –  Joel Davis May 27 '13 at 22:42
    
Another possibility would be just making the filesystem you'll boot to the most a huge one, creating a subdirectory for your media files/whatever and in the smaller root filesystem just create a symlink to the path to the directory on the larger root filesystem. Example: /files on Mint is a symlink to /mnt/ubuntu/files that way you simplify things by removing an unneeded partition and giving your main filesystems something to grow into. –  Joel Davis May 27 '13 at 22:45
    
If I put the shared files in their own partition, I could delete either distro and have the shared files still be available. I take your point about the separate /shared folder, but I do have to mount the partition somewhere. I've edited the question in a way that I hope isn't too confusing. –  Tony May 27 '13 at 23:52
    
Ah, in that case, making it /home is probably preferable and would serve basically the same purpose as well as allowing you to secure the filesystem on each system a little more (noexec,nosuid as well as intentionally breaking hard links and preventing intruders from filling root, etc). –  Joel Davis May 27 '13 at 23:55
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

My proposed partitions are working fine. The caveat, as I understand it, is that a shared swap partition might be dicey if you hibernate one distro and switch to the other. I don't do that, so it's not an issue.

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I doubt that it's a good idea to share /tmp. Certain applications expect certain files / directories there, maybe with certain rights, owner, group, and these may differ between distros.

Furthermore I have a personal preference for a small (20 MiB) ext2 partition so that I can install Grub in a way that the distros don't touch (and maybe damage) it.

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The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard says "[p]rograms must not assume that any files or directories in /tmp are preserved between invocations of the program." By contrast, "[t]he /var/tmp directory is made available for programs that require temporary files or directories that are preserved between system reboots." –  Tony May 27 '13 at 23:49
    
I think your second observation suggests making a separate partition for /boot. Opinions on the web are divided on the point, so I think I'll leave it in / for now, in the interest of simplicity. Thanks for the thought - it led me to a fruitful session of web surfing, or whatever people call it these days. –  Tony May 28 '13 at 19:38
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