I have a 500gb SSD and a 2TB external HDD.

I want to have dual-boot with Windows and Linux. My idea is to partition the SSD and install both OS's there.

Can I use the HDD to have common files from both OS's and minor programs that don't fit into the SSD space, or do I need to partition the HDD as well?

  • Windows cannot recognize most linux file-systems (ext4), but Linux can recognize NTFS (the windows file system). If you format the HDD as NTFS it can be used by both systems.
    – Stewart
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 7:28
  • When I still had XP years ago I had both a shared NTFS data partition and shared ext4 (ext3 back then) for several Linux installs. I now keep /home inside my / (root) but have all data in a data partition as I have no Windows. If using NTFS you must keep Windows fast start up off, as that prevents full access from Linux. askubuntu.com/questions/1013677/… & askubuntu.com/questions/1058756/…
    – oldfred
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 15:42

2 Answers 2


If you necessarily need to run both operating systems bare metal and want/need to share the data between these OSes, you will need a partition with a filesystem that both OSes understand. The lowest common denominator is FAT (FAT32), NTFS/exFAT are also an option (also see exFAT vs NTFS on Linux). On top of that you may want to have a separate partition for your Linux installation -- one that will have the benefits of an advanced filesystem (XFS, JFS, ext4, ZFS, Btrfs - you name them).

The answer thus is: no, you don't have to partition it, but you probably want to. It is common to "partition" a drive even when it is holding just one partition anyway, since that allows the operating systems to recognise that probably there is some data there that should not be discarded.

That said, it may be more practical to choose one of the OSes as "primary" and run the one of virtualised (since you came here, maybe running Windows in the VM under Linux). Then you can just pick a directory (or directories) that your host system is going to export into the virtual machine - this would typically be done via the SMB networking protocol or some other mean (for example VirtualBox has it's own specific way of providing filesystem data exchange between the host and guest operating systems).

One of the advantages of having an OS virtualised is that rollbacks of the OS itself are much easier. Which, from my personal experience with OSes that lack reasonable text configuration, can be a sanity-saver indeed. Another one -- if you are so inclined -- is encryption: full-disk encryption (including the shared partition) will be a bit more complicated to set up. On the other hand, there are of course things that will be more complicated in the VM - using GPU fully may present some challenges for example (depending on your particular hardware setup).


You need to partition it into a seperate D:\ drive for Windows and a /home partition for Linux.

  • is it not possible to get a HDD to work for both OS's at the same time? Maybe with an specific file system or something
    – Wuahtzyel
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 7:18
  • No, Windows uses NTFS and Linux uses ext4 (or btrfs, xfs, etc)
    – anti4r
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 7:23
  • Windows does not recognize ext4, but Linux can recognize NTFS.
    – Stewart
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 7:25
  • 2
    Or you can create ExFat partition, it can be read by both systems. If not, just mount NTFS partition to linux. Beware of high CPU usage though
    – pormulsys
    Commented Dec 16, 2020 at 8:22

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