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Ubuntu hard drive formatting help

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January 3, 2012 9:23:49 PM

I am about to use a usb hard drive for my ubuntu installation by booting the usb drive with the .iso file and installing the os. on the same hard drive. What filesystem should I format it as? Is there one that cannot be read by windows?
January 4, 2012 2:09:09 PM

You can't just boot an ISO file from an external disk, or pen drive. You have to give the disk a boot sector and it needs to know how to read the files.

Have a look at: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

This bit of software allows you to put the files from an ISO boot CD image onto a USB pen drive, it should also work for a USB HDD.

Now the hard part... If you boot from a drive then you will not be able to complete the install to the same disk without removing the very option that allows you to boot that disc in the first place. ie. When you install it will replace the boot sector and associated boot info with the one for the OS you are installing.

The other issue here is performance. USB to HDD is a VERY slow interface. Now it's bad copying files one way but when installing the sequence would be:

1. Copy file from USB to PC ram
2. Expand archive
3. Write back to USB device

So for a 700Mb install you could well end up sending a few GB of data over the USB interface, add in the CPU time and the install will take forever to run.

Some Live Linux systems allow you to store state, puppy for example allows you to have a pendrive with the .iso installer on which will live boot. You can then save your bookmarks for example into a file that it hold on the same pen drive, it does not however have an installed copy of the OS. This is not the same thing as an installed copy of the OS in terms of Ubuntu.

My suggestion is this.

1. Create a USB pen drive for the install media or use a CD
2. Don't bother formatting the HDD, this can be done at install*
3. Install in the standard way.

*in terms of file format you have some options. Either install your Ubuntu on a FAT32 file system which Windows can read fine but which does have a file size limitation of 4Gb, not great if you play with DVD images (BTW the next Ubuntu will be a DVD edition although likely only ~1.5Gb in size).

The other option is to use EXT2/3 for the disk format and then install EXT2 IFS on Windows (http://www.fs-driver.org/) This will then allow you to read EXT2/3 file systems as if they were local drives on Windows.

If you want a file system that Windows will really struggle with then ReiserFS, ZFS and a few others are not well supported. It depends what sort of security you want, there is nothing stopping you encrypting the whole disk with Crypt, but again it's not going to be fast over USB.
January 6, 2012 3:09:14 AM

A common approach I took to sharing/ferrying data between the OSs was to make a shared FAT32 partition. This way, both systems can share stuff and neither can touch the important system files of the other which prevents any nasty surprises should some ill-behaving software break loose or you mistakenly do an operation or fatfinger a command/location or or or...

Basic layout was something akin to:
Partition 1: NTFS-formatted Windows C:\
Partition 2: LinuxFS-formatted / (usually would use Reiser back in the days when I dual booted)
Partition 3: Linux Swap
Partition 4: Shared FAT32

Note, however, the partition table used on most x86 systems limits you to only 4 primary partitions, so you may elect to setup an extended partition and push one or more of the above partitions into it to prevent you from (somewhat) painting yourself into a corner
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January 6, 2012 3:31:56 AM

why fat32? its 2012... linux has had good ntfs support for years... both built in kernel driver and ntfs-3g...
January 6, 2012 11:37:21 AM

It works, I wouldn't however say it was good. I've had corruption on my MP3 archive (~80GB) when copying from NTFS to EXT/3 using rsync. It seemed to get most confused with a few thousand files. Granted this was 3 years ago but as MS made more changes to NTFS in Win7 and there will doubtless be some more tweaks in Win8 I'd rather use Fat32 or IFS drivers from Windows.
January 6, 2012 3:37:29 PM

Like I said, its 2012 and support has come a LONG way. both kernel NTFS and NTFS-3G are considered stable. Also in the time you were away ntfsprogs has been merged with NTFS-3G.

Its nice that you want to live in the past, but there is no reason to suggest such limiting deprecated alternatives.
January 6, 2012 3:41:15 PM

Agreed with AVD, while it's leaps and bounds beyond what could be done before ntfs-3g, I've seen too many instances of data loss/corruption/inaccessibility when using it (from searching around online, I have long ago stopped dual-booting and now relegate Windows to VMs since I don't really game anymore), and yes, some of the incremental improvements that MS has made more recently (Vista and 7 timeframe) seem to exacerbate the situation. If it works for you and you are not subject to any of the constraints of the filesystem, FAT is going to be the most-universally supported and has been for some time.
January 6, 2012 4:16:11 PM

Quote:
... incremental improvements that MS has made... seem to exacerbate the situation.

*citation needed*

and while fat32 is universally supported, its file size limitation is a headache. IFS and ext2fsd drivers for windows would be a much better option. Would actually recommend ext2fsd once EXT4 extents are supported...

In any case this is OT now... so we should just let this one go as a difference of opinions.
January 6, 2012 7:19:42 PM

While I don't normally like Wiki as the source for this stuff they explain it as well as anybody else does:

Quote:
The NTFS.sys version (i.e. NTFS v5.0 introduced with Windows 2000) should not be confused with the on-disk NTFS format version (v3.1 since Windows XP).[11] The NTFS v3.1 on-disk format is unchanged from the introduction of Windows XP and is used in Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. The confusion arises when no differentiation is made when features are implemented into the NTFS.sys driver within the Windows OS rather than in the NTFS on-disk format. An incident of this was when Microsoft detailed new features within NTFS in Windows 2000 and they called it NTFS v5.0, yet it is the NTFS.sys driver that is at that version and the on-disk format is only at v3.0.[8]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTFS#Versions

So the version number might stay the same but the feature set has changed quite a bit. Unless you know the OS version you can't tell what features NTFS will have even if you know what version it is reporting as being. It's enough to keep things just ever so slightly out of sync.
January 7, 2012 5:14:40 AM

PcEthuaist said:
I am about to use a usb hard drive for my ubuntu installation by booting the usb drive with the .iso file and installing the os. on the same hard drive. What filesystem should I format it as? Is there one that cannot be read by windows?


@PcEthuaist -- ext4

@skittle -- "Its nice that you want to live in the past, but there is no reason to suggest such limiting deprecated alternatives."

deprecated: Verb

(formal) To belittle or express disapproval of.
(computing) To declare something obsolescent, i.e., to recommend against a function, technique, command, etc, that still works but has been replaced.
(archaic) To pray against.

The point is, it still works -- FAT32. NTFS should be deprecated, and has been, by me. MS is long-overdue in coming up with another FS as NTFS is too easily corrupted (as stated above)

Best wishes to all!
January 7, 2012 3:26:23 PM

I like the IFS driver, but again I've had file corruption when copying several thousand files. For small jobs it seems fine but with large trees, lots of files and slow discs it does seem to have the odd problem.
!