partition sizes

Ralph W. Reid rreid at
Sat Nov 16 08:24:43 EST 2002

Justin Ekis staggered into view and mumbled:
>Hi everyone,
>I was wondering about the best size for my partitions. (And no I won't
>be asking questions every step of the way, at least I hope not. This is
>just a topic I couldn't find one definitive answer for.)
>Partition magic finally arrived yesterday, and I ran the new operating
>system wizard and chose Linux. I wasn't sure what sizes to use so I kept
>all the defaults. Only thing I changed was  I chose ext3 rather than the
>default ext2 for the Linux partition's filesystem. Now I'm wondering if
>I should resize them. This setup looks a bit odd, and I probably should
>have done it myself.
>Here's what my partitions look like. 
>First is the swap partition, the program sized it at 502 MB. (I've heard
>about a million different ideas about swap size, so I just went with the
>default, even though it seems rather large. I have 256 megs of ram.)

The latest recommendations I have come across indicated that a swap
partition should be twice the size of RAM, up to 128 MB.  Some swap
space (partition or file) should be allocated for sure (in my
opinion), but as you suspect, the default in this case seems rather
large.  Since swap space is basically an overflow space for RAM, huge
swap partitions will never be completely used up.  However, as more
and more swap space is required, the system will get busier andd
busier managing the swap space until a condition called 'thrashing'
occurs.  Thrashing is an operating system condition where so much
time is being spent managing resources that little actual work is
being accomplished, and if the mess can not be resolved, the system
eventually reaches the point where it can no longer manage itself.
At this point, the system crashes.  Swap space works at hard ddrive
speeds, which are far slower than RAM speeds, so a system that seems
to be running kind of slow might be doing a bit too much swapping.
The size of swap space selected as a default will probably not cause
any problems, but if several hundred megabytes of stuff has to be
moved to andd from the hard drive very often, everything will start
running very slowly.  I am not sure what you plan to run on your
system, but 256 MB of RAM should handle everything fine unless you
are planning to set up a major server or do lots of work with large
graphics files--my system has 64 MB of RAM with a 169 MB swap
partition, and it works just fime.

You then continued:
>The Linux partition is 15.84 GB. (I know the redhat installation guide
>says you only need about 2 to 4 GB, but that seems quite small. Maybe
>I'm just used to programs being so big on windows.)

The minimum specified by Red Hat is probably just for the software
and source code.  Any work space you will need for user files,
system web pages, additional software or data files, or anything else
you might want to put on the system will require additional space.
User files are not usually stored on the same partition as the
system files because the splattered mess that large numbers of user
files creates might cause problems if all of the inodes or storage
space gets used up.  Other partitions can be set up for other
directory trees dependding on system resources (hard drives, etc.),
NFS mounts on a network, expected usage, and personal preference.  It
sounds like you are setting up a personal Linux box with a single
hardd drive, so if you can, you might want to set up 5 to 7 GB of
disk space for your root partition, and the other 10 GB of space for
your user partion (/home).  The values here are rough recommendations;
your specific needs may vary.  Obviously, setting up disk partitions
is not an exact science, but unless you select values that are way
off, your system will probably work fine--don't panic!

You then went on:
>Finally windows gets the last 22.95 GB.

I don't do Windows, so I have no idea.

you then finished:
>Are there any problems with this? 
>And what's this I hear about some bios chips not being able to boot a
>partition past cylinder 1024? How do I know where my partitions are in
>terms of cylinders? I know that my swap space is first, then the Linux
>partition and then windows, but I don't know specific cylinder numbers. 
>Should I update my bios revision just in case or is this something only
>older chips have? I bought this system custom built only a month ago.

A system that new should not have problems.  You will want to run
some kind of boot manager anyway to select which OS to play...err...
work with, so the boot manager might find the right cylinder anyway.
I am not completely sure how well this will work with Windows.  I
hope some of this rambling proves helpful, and have a _great_ day!

Ralph.  N6BNO.  Wisdom comes from central processing, not from I/O.
rreid at
Opinions herein are either mine or they are flame bait.
y = x ^ LOG_B (x, y)

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