Understanding Linux Hard Disk Partitioning and Linux File Systems – System Administration Training

The Linux Hard Disk Partitioning Process

A hard disk is partitioned and then it is assigned a filesystem type and then it is formatted.

Assigning a filesystem type to a partition specifies the “type” of it and prepares (formats) it so that it can accept files.

Do not confuse assigning a filesystem “type” with assigning a filesystem (formatting).

Linux Hard Disk Partitioning – File Systems and Filesystem Types

Most Linux documentation and utilities refer to a file system as filesystem (one word).

A filesystem type is assigned to and specified for a partition to provide it with support for the file structure of itself (for its directories and subdirectories) and for all of the files that will be used on it, such as the Linux program files and data files.

For example, the current default filesystem type for many distributions, such as Red Hat, Fedora and others, is ext3 (extended filesystem 3).

Prior to ext3, the default filesystem was ext2 (extended filesystem 2). Some other distributions have a different default filesystem, but ext3 is on the way to becoming the de facto standard for Linux.

Linux Hard Disk Partition “Rules”

A Linux partition can be all or part of a hard disk.

If you have two hard disks in a system, then one disk can have one partition, filesystem type and operating system on it that uses the entire disk and the other disk can have a different set of these items, that uses the entire disk.

Both disks can also have more than one partition, filesystem type and operating system.

If you only have one Linux hard disk in a system, then you can create two or more partitions on the disk, assign each one a different filesystem type and install a different operating system on each.

A partition cannot contain more than one filesystem type and does not typically contain more than one operating system. However, you can have a single OS on a system that uses multiple filesystem types on multiple partitions (one filesystem type per partition).

The “standard” Windows and Linux operating systems require at least one partition each. If a system requires both of these operating systems, then you need at least one partition for each of them.

The Linux hard disk partitioning concepts and commands covered here apply to: Red Hat, Fedora, Slackware, Ubuntu, and Debian Linux – and ALL other versions.