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Greetings fellow Linux aficionados. My Situation: I want to use an external hard drive as a storage medium for backups for four different operating systems: Windows 7, Windows XP, Fedora ...
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  1. #1
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    External HDD with Multiple Partitions


    Greetings fellow Linux aficionados.

    My Situation:
    I want to use an external hard drive as a storage medium for backups for four different operating systems: Windows 7, Windows XP, Fedora Core, and CentOS 5.6. These OS's reside on two separate boxes, one of which is a multiple-boot box. It would be really nice if I could use the same physical device for all of my OS's. My heart leans toward a large capacity drive like a 2TB device. A pre-made solution like a Western Digital MyBook or Fantom Drive would seem preferrable, but a custom-built device is not out of the question.

    My first consideration is to use a 2TB WD MyBook (or similar) and reformat it with a filesystem that both Windows and Linux could use without conflicts. But it appears that Windows 7 may be a "problem child" and not be compatible with the other OS's.

    My alternative consideration is to format the device with two partitions and format one with NTFS and the other with Ext3. This is where I get a bit confused. I have, in the past, reformatted USB drives with another filesystem without issues. But I never tried to repartition a USB drive. I am told that Windows and Linux will mount a properly multi-partitioned USB drive. Then there is some confusion on my part about the eccentric nature of high-capacity drives. Among the 2TB drive manufacturers, they mention all sorts of magic tricks used in high-capacity drives that I fear it may complicate partitioning and formatting. It almost makes me reluctant to use anything bigger than 1TB.

    Then my consideration of last-resort is to use an external docking station and multiple 1TB drives, but this is the most expensive approach of all. And I'm not crazy about the handling of naked drives involved with docking stations.

    My Question:
    Has anyone managed to successfully put multiple partitions on a USB external hard drive and have it behave in both Windows and Linux?

    Is there anything special about partitioning and formatting 2TB USB drives that I should be aware of?

    Pointers and/or suggestions are most welcome.
    Thank you for your time and attention to my query.

  2. #2
    Linux Guru sdousley's Avatar
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    You say that windows 7 is the problem with using same storage, I am not entirely sure why only this OS would be the issue.

    Anyway, a simple solution to your problem may be (if possible) to install the IFS driver for windows. This will allow you to mount EXT2/3 partitions on windows, which linux will obviously natively support, therefore, simply formatting the USB to 1 large 2TB partition, should achieve your desired effect
    "I am not an alcoholic, alcoholics go to meetings"
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  3. #3
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    Thanks, sdousley, for the reply.

    My comments about the hardware was a result of me allowing myself to become entangled and confused about hard drive specifications. I've sorted that out and now understand that external and internal HDDs are pretty much functionaly equivalent. I now know what I will do from the hardware perspective.

    Regarding drive partitions and the filesystems that will reside on them, I am still researching that aspect. My comment about Win7 possibly being a issue with compatibility comes from my perception of the difficulties Linux has experienced in developing an NTFS driver in the past. WinXP (and the version of NTFS it uses) is old and understood well enough that compatibility is no longer an issue. Win7, on the other hand, is new and may or may not handle NTFS the same way WinXP does. And if Win7 currently handles it the same, that may change in the next update. In a nutshell, I don't trust Microsoft to remain compatible. Another poster suggested that I do some experimentation with NTFS-3G (linux) and Ext2IFS (win) and see if incompatibilites reveal themselves. I will do just that.

    This will be my last post to this thread unless I find something worthy of an update.

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