Big Switch 2: Installation Day

Having chosen the distribution and done some research on the feasibility of the move (see Part 1.), it was time to make some space for the installation.

My hard disk was originally set up with the partitions as follows.

  • hda1 – Windows Partition – 20Gb
  • hda2 – IBM restore partition – 4Gb
  • hda3 -Extended partition, containing 36Gb
    • hda4 – my data partition. 36 Gb.

I’m using the Linux partition notation here, as I was going to resize the disk using the excellent gparted LiveCD – a kind of open source equivalent of Partition Magic. I wanted to do this switch slowly, so instead of backing up the whole disk and erasing it, I was going to install Linux first and then move the partitions around to my liking. All very possible, as long as you have a clear head and a steady nerve. And you backup before you do anything!

So first of all I backed up all the partitions to a spare USB drive, using partimage on the gparted CD. Next I resized the data partition to 20Gb (hda4), and left the remaining space free. The Extended partition (never really understood the purpose of these, but there you go …) remained the same size.

I booted back into Windows, to check it was still working, and all was good. So then I put the Linux Mint Install disk in the CD drive and booted off that. At the point where I was asked to partition the drive, I chose a manual partition, and made three new partitions in the available space.

  • hda5 – Main linux partition mounted on /
  • hda6 – Linux swap partition
  • hda7 – Boot Partition mounted on /boot (200Mb)

This separate boot partition is a habit I got into when I first started installing linux several years ago. The basic idea is that the more partitions you split your filesystem into, the more flexibility you have in moving them around later. Some people like to have a separate /home partition so that they can reinstall their OS later, and retain all their data. Some people like to have a separate /var partition in case their log files go crazy — having your logfiles on a separate partition means they’ll only fill up that partition and won’t stop the machine from working altogether (useful for webservers, for example).

The install went fine, and pretty soon I was rebooting. The installer correctly identifed the Windows partition, and the IBM rescue partition, and added them both to the boot menu. However when I rebooted there were a couple of hardware issues which made the boot process very slow.

I’ll detail these in the next post.

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