After getting some information about partition scheme, I came to know that using discrete partitions will be more useful. If I were to install another OS, I could see having the /home directory in a separate partition would be useful.

What I want to know is, which directories are used during installation of Arch Linux? Do directories like /boot, /,/data and /var get changed while installing another Linux distribution?

  • /data? what? I've never seen that directory in the root before.
    – strugee
    Nov 18 '13 at 16:33

You can always share /home (though a few programs may require incompatible configuration files, for example you'd better have the same versions of major browsers as they like to upgrade their configuration to the latest version and don't like to downgrade).

You can share /usr/local between Linux distributions.

Pretty much everything else is distribution-specific. You may play loose with /boot, but there is a risk of a clash of bootloader configurations. The directories /bin, /etc, /lib, /sbin, /usr and /var are distribution-specific, they can't be shared. Some parts of /var may be shareable (for example, most of /var/cache) but exactly what depends on the distributions.

Beware that the distributions may not have the same user IDs for system users. Take care that they have the same user IDs for human users.


Having your /home on a separate partition and sharing that partition between different Linux distributions is fine. It should cause no problems (or very minor ones) and is an easy way of having your data synchronized across all the systems you are using.

Now, you can also have other system directories on different partitions. A common setup is to have /boot and /usr on their own partitions for example. However these should not be shared with other distributions. You might be able to get away with sharing /boot but sharing /usr will almost certainly get you into trouble.

You should never ever share the same / with another distribution, that is a recipe for disaster.

As for which directories change: all of them do. Installing a Linux distribution will write files to basically all top level directories under /. So yes, it will certainly write to /,/var,/usr,/boot. /data is something you created, not the system so that one can be shared. The others really shouldn't.


If I'm right understood your question, you want to know about "Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS)".

So, most of UNIX follow that standart. It mean that /boot - almost always uses for boot-needed files, /tmp - for temporary files and so on.

You can find more info about here.

  • Sorry, I couldn't make you understand. I was planning to create different partitions for different directories. for eg. I want to create '/home' directory in seperate partition. If I do so, my data stored in that directory won't get lost even after I switch to Arch linux from Ubuntu or vice versa. Similarly, I wanted to know which which directory won't be effected if I switch from one OS to other.
    – Habi
    Nov 18 '13 at 9:02
  • Aaa... Well... Anyway - I don't think it is good idea... Even if you will use same filesystem (e.g. ext4). It seems to me you'll have more problems to add old partion to new system then just copy/move data to backup storage and then restore.
    – setevoy
    Nov 18 '13 at 12:21
  • Not at all, having your /home in a different partition is a very good idea. I've had the same /home shared between various distros and it made my life much easier.
    – terdon
    Nov 18 '13 at 14:04

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