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  1. #1

    Partitioning for multiple Linux distributions

    My computer BIOS is set up to boot in Legacy / mbr mode. I have installed a second disk that I can access at start-up through my bios switches. I've used Gparted to configure this disk as a GUID partitioned drive (hdb). My first drive (hda) has window 7 on it and I don't want to mess with it. I plan to install GRUB2 to the first partition of hdb which will be a dedicated BIOS boot partition with a boot_grub flag identifier.

    My goal is to be able to select my boot drive using the BIOS start up switch (F12). Selecting hdb will then use GRUB2 to present me with the Linux / BDS operating systems located on the GPT drive.

    My problem is I need a "basic" partition scheme that will allow each available Linux distribution to run without interfering with any other installed distribution located on the same drive . All the available literature only states how to partition a single Linux distribution on a drive; how do I partition the space for a second, or third distribution ?


    Partition Type Mount Point REMARKS

    part 1 - "boot_grub" { /grub2 } (GRUB 2 loader)
    part 2 - "linux swap" { /swap } (common swap area)

    Distribution #1
    part 3 - "linux root" { / } (linux dist #1 root)
    part 4 - "linux boot" { /boot } (linux kernel dist #1)
    part 5 - "linux files" { /home} (user file area dist #1)
    part 6 - "linux files" { /usr} (executable bin dist #1 )
    part 7 - "linux files" { /var} (runtime variable dist #1)
    part 8 - "linux files" { /tmp} (temp filesdist #1 )

    **** confusion starts here ****************

    Distribution #2
    part 9 - "linux root" { / } ? (linux dist #2 root)
    part 10 - "linux boot" { /boot } ? (linux kernel dist #2)
    part 11 - "linux files" { /home} ? (user file area dist #2)
    part 12 - "linux files" { /usr} ? (executable bin dist #2 )
    part 13 - "linux files" { /var} ? (runtime variable dist #2)
    part 14 - "linux files" { /tmp} ? (temp files dist #2 )

    As you can see the mount point names for both distributions are the same if you follow the available documentation. Is this a problem? I realize that each partition has a separate location identifier and the boot loader accesses a "local' fstab file to identify the partitions associated with that OS. Is that enough for the OS to recognize it should use /usr in partition #12 (above) when running distribution #2 or will it always grab partition #6 /usr?

    Can you tweek the partition names to avoid problems (ie. /suse-boot and /suse-home for distribution 1 and /mint-boot and /mint-home for the second distribution?

    The devil is in the details which are never forgiven on a computer .... it does what you tell it to do NOT what you want it to do!

    Does anybody know how the mount points of these partitions need to be set up to provide exclusive selection at boot-up and run-time between the distributions?

    I've seen thousands of articles about dual booting with Windows .... none of which apply here. I've found some info on GPT configured disks which hint that the above configuration is possible (supposedly you must add 128MB un-configured gaps or "bubbles" between the partitions).

    My goal is to operate from a second drive that I select during the BIOS and then have GRUB2 allow me to select one of the following : Suse, Mint, Debian, OpenBDS

    Most of the documentation I've found was written when hard drives were small, expensive and could only have 4 partitions .... that was then this is now!

  2. #2
    Linux Guru
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    you are overthinking this.
    one partition per os is enough.
    and if you want, one more larger partition for data/media, which you can add to fstab manually later, after the install.

  3. #3
    To elaborate a little more. A logical/Extended partition covers

    Most of the documentation I've found was written when hard drives were small, expensive and could only have 4 partitions .... that was then this is now!
    I used to do what you are thinking of doing years ago. I agree you are over thinking this. I have multi booted on 2 separate drives with puppy frugal installs, mixed in with grub legacy, and chainloading with grub 2. So any documentation is not outdated. Multi boot is just a different art now because of the UEFI thing. Not because of how many partitions can be made.
    I refuse to let fear and fear of others rule my life. It puts my humanity at risk.
    Accepting Death is the only way to stay alive.

  4. $spacer_open
  5. #4
    I agree. you can use one partition per operating system, however if you want to play around go ahead. The installers often give option to choose additional partitions for /home etc. Installing the bootloader to the mbr of the second drive and booting that drive should give a menu for the various distributions installed. if you install the boot loader to the mbr with each install it will boot the last by default and list the others as option. alternatively you can choose not to install the bootloader on the second and subsequent installs and edit the bootloader manually. You will naturally have less complication by reducing the number of partitions particularly if you are new to linux. the advantages are minimal and the complications when replacing one of the systems may be considerable.

  6. #5
    I'm not over thinking anything. This is an experiment with a specific goal in mind. I'm trying to create what I call an "OS farm". In that farm each OS will have it's own private environment. If I chose to update a single existing OS I don't want to lose the rest of that environment ie. applications, media ... associated within that OS so a single partition will not work. You are right in that the UEFI is a different sort of beast which is exactly why I'm pressing the envelope with it. So any discussion about logical / extended partitions specifically does not apply. If you are a true "Linux Guru" then reread my original question and answer what partition labels are possible when two distributions share the same disc. I've researched this on the IBM Linux site and they say it is possible and then give no details. I already understand how to set up the partition table relative to GUID and Grub 2 what I don't know is how to label each distribution's partition so as to avoid problems or possible corruption between them. I'm concerned about having multiple partitions with "/" being the assigned name. (Example: assume two OS's wherein the two roots will have their own partition is it then okay to label them both as "/" and let Grub select the correct boot loader an sort it out during the bootstrap process or should these "root" partitions be labeled as /suse and /mint ?

  7. #6
    Linux Guru
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    the help desk is busy right now, but we'll be with you in a moment.
    we apologize for any inconvenience...

    well, jokes aside, rokytnji got his status based on post count - whether that really makes him a linux guru i cannot say (*)

    anyhow, good luck with the farm, keep us posted how it grows.

    (*) it does make him a forum guru, i guess.
    Last edited by nihili; 10-21-2014 at 07:18 AM.

  8. #7
    Linux Engineer drl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Saint Paul, MN, USA / CentOS, Debian, Slackware, {Free, Open, Net}BSD, Solaris

    I have gone from multi-boot to removable trays to virtual machines. I found the first to be complex, even before gpt.

    The most in-depth source I have seen is at How to install and boot 145 operating systems in a PC

    I have not tried the instructions there, but it may be worth a look.

    Best wishes ... cheers, drl
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  9. #8
    Thank you very much. I'll give it a read.



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