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Linux Disk Management


Recommended Books

Recommended Links

Linux Devices

Linux filesystems

Linux Disk Partitioning

RAID Levels Software RAID Hard Drive Partitioning udev How To Manage Your Disk By UUID Partition labels Protective partitioning
Grub Booting into Rescue Mode Partimage Backup and recovery Logical Volume Snapshots LVM Recovery of LVM partitions
Linux Swap filesystem Ext3 filesystem Mounting Linux filesystems Loopback filesystem ReiserFS Device mapper Moving a volume group to another
Linux Multipath Procedure for installing Qlogic cards Linux SCSI subsystem Admin Horror Stories Linux Tips Humor Etc

This topic includes the following subtopics:

Three rules for successful repartitioning

  1. Make a full backup of the disk or at least the most important files Better to have a full backup and not need it than not have a backup and find you needed it. Please remember that files destroyed during repartitioning are very difficult to recover -- backup time is really tiny in comparison with efforts you will need in case something go wrong... 
  2. Read the documentation and make notes Errors are very costly. Do not try to operate intuitively. Even if you've done it before, it pays to review the documentation. And if you've never done it before, or do it rarely, read documentation and update notes.
  3.  Do not improvise. Follow the instructions to the letter !

A good description of repartitioning of raw partitions using Gparted is provided in   Roderick W. Smith  article Resizing Linux partitions, Part 1 Basics published  Aug 11, 2010  on IBM developerWorks

Obtaining current partition use data

The first step in planning your partition resizing operation is to obtain information about how your disk is currently laid out and what partitions are running out of space. One convenient way to obtain such information is to use GParted, which presents a friendly GUI display, as shown in Figure 1. The display shows where partitions are located relative to one another and how much space each consumes. Unfortunately, GParted doesn't always present complete information, so you may want to supplement its displays with the output of the text-mode df, fdisk, or other utilities.

Figure 1. GParted presents disk use summary information

GParted presents disk use summary information

Figure 1 shows a system that has a cramped /usr partition (/dev/sdb5) and plenty of free space in /home (/dev/sdb7), which can cause problems if you want to add more software to the computer. Given this partition layout, you might want to reduce the size of /home and increase the size of /usr. (Note that Figure 1 was obtained from an emergency boot disc, so the Mount Point column doesn't reflect the running system's mount points.)

File system-specific capabilities

Linux supports several native file systems, and dual-boot systems often share the disk with others too. As a general rule, ext2fs, ext3fs, ex4fs, ReiserFS, and Btrfs are the most flexible in terms of what you can do with them. These file systems can all be grown, shrunk, and moved by most implementations of GParted. XFS and JFS, unfortunately, cannot be shrunk, although they can be grown or moved.

Among common non-Linux file systems, FAT and NTFS can be grown, shrunk, and moved. HFS and HFS+, used on Macintoshes, can usually be shrunk and moved, but not grown. OS X's Disk Utility can sometimes grow HFS+ partitions.

In GParted, you can select View > File System Support to obtain a table of file systems and the operations that GParted supports. If you try this in your regular Linux system, however, you should be aware that what is supported varies from one distribution to another. If you use an emergency disc, as described shortly, it may support different options than your regular installation does.

Planning a new partition layout

With the existing partition data and information about what you can do with your current file systems in hand, you can begin planning your new layout. You should consider several important factors:

Preparing a backup

Once your changes are planned, you may be tempted to rush to implement them; however, because of the risks involved in repartitioning, you should back up your most critical data, if at all practical. If a backup is not practical, you're well advised to make it so by purchasing the necessary hardware. Even aside from the risks involved in partition resizing, hard disks sometimes fail, and software problems can render file systems useless. Thus, having a backup is a good idea.

You can back up to whatever medium is most convenient. You may be able to use tar to create a system backup that will fit on a recordable DVD, once compressed; however, most modern systems have enough user data that a single DVD won't hold it all. Thus, you may need to resort to some other medium, such as an external hard disk, to back up your user data.

Even if a full backup is impossible, you should back up the contents of /etc. This directory holds critical system configuration files, so keeping a copy of it can speed up recovery if you need to reinstall your operating system.

Using GParted to resize partitions

The easiest way to resize partitions in Linux is to use the GUI GParted program. Although you can run GParted from your regular Linux installation, it refuses to operate on any currently mounted partition. Thus, you can't resize root (/) or any other partition that's critical for the system's functioning. Therefore, I describe how to implement your changes using a Linux emergency disc. After this disc is booted, you can run GParted much as you would from a regular system, using point-and-click operations to tell the software what you want it to do.

Running an emergency disc

Many Linux emergency disc systems exist, such as PartedMagic and SystemRescueCd (see Resources). You may also be able to use your Linux installation media. Many distributions include a rescue mode that provides access to GParted or a similar utility. For illustrative purposes, I describe the use of PartedMagic 4.11; however, other utilities are similar in broad strokes. You may need to launch GParted in a different way, though.

Most emergency discs come only in x86 (32-bit) form, but these discs work fine on x86-64 (64-bit) computers, even if the system runs a 64-bit version of Linux. The file system data structures are not affected by the central processing unit (CPU) architecture. If you run on something other than standard personal computer (PC) hardware, however, such as a Macintosh, you may need to check that your emergency disc works with your hardware.

Typically, you must boot an emergency disc much as you boot a Linux installation disc. On some systems, inserting the disc and then rebooting the computer does the job. On some systems, you must press a function key to select the boot device or adjust a basic input/output system (BIOS) option to boot from the optical drive rather than from your hard disk. The details of how to do this are system-specific, so you may need to consult your manual for details.

When you boot PartedMagic, a boot menu appears. Select Default settings (Runs from RAM) to boot into the standard system. When the system boots, you see a desktop appear with icons for some common tools, including one called Partition Editor, which launches GParted. Double-click this icon to begin resizing your partitions.

Telling GParted about your changes

To resize a partition, right-click it and select Resize/Move from the pop-up menu. The result is a dialog box such as that shown in Figure 2. You can adjust the size and position of the partition using the graphical slider or the text-entry fields.

Figure 2. GParted provides a point-and-click interface for resizing partitions

GParted presents a point-and-click interface for resizing partitions

Figure 2 shows a resizing of /dev/sdb7 from Figure 1, moving its start point to the right to make room for an expansion of /dev/sdb5. To complete a resizing of Figure 1's partitions, you have to also move the swap partition (/dev/sdb6) to the right prior to resizing /dev/sdb5. Alternatively, you can delete and recreate the swap partition; however, this might require altering UUID references to swap space in /etc/fstab. When the swap space is moved, you can expand /dev/sdb5.

Note the Align to field in Figure 2. This is a new feature with recent versions of GParted, and it enables you to align partitions to cylinders, to mebibyte (MiB) boundaries, or neither. Older disks are typically partitioned to align on cylinder boundaries, but MiB alignment is common on disks partitioned with Windows Vista or later. Linux is happy with either type of alignment. If your system dual-boots with Windows XP, cylinder alignment may be required. If the system dual-boots with Windows Vista or later, or if it uses a new disk with 4096-byte sectors, MiB alignment may be required.

If you want to take space from a logical partition to give it to a primary partition or vice versa, you must explicitly resize the extended partition that surrounds the logical partitions. You do so just like you resize any other partition; however, you'll find it easier to click on its list entry than its entry in the diagram above the partition list.

GParted doesn't allow you to resize partitions that are in use. Such partitions have a padlock icon next to their entries. You can right-click the partition and select Unmount to unmount it. Note that the extended partition is locked in this way if any of its contained logical partitions are in use, including swap space.

Implementing your changes in GParted

After you tell GParted about your changes, you must implement them by selecting the Edit > Apply All Operations menu item or by clicking the Apply icon. The result is a progress dialog box that summarizes what the program is doing. If you decide against an operation, you can use GParted's undo feature or exit from the program without applying your changes. Your disk is then unchanged.

Partition resizing operations can take anywhere from a fraction of a second to several hours to complete, depending on the nature of the change and how much data must be moved. Under no circumstances should you interrupt an ongoing operation! Doing so can damage the file system, rendering your data irretrievable.

Altering disk references

If you add or delete partitions, you may need to alter your /etc/fstab file or your boot loader configuration, as noted earlier. To do so, you must mount the root (/) partition and edit the file. In Figure 1, the root partition is /dev/sdb1, and GParted can mount it at /media/sdb1, so you would then edit /media/sdb1/etc/fstab. If your system uses a separate /boot partition, you may need to mount it separately to edit the boot loader configuration in the boot partition's grub/menu.lst, grub/boot.conf, or grub/boot.cfg file.

Examine these files and replace any references to the old partition ID numbers to the new ones. If you make any changes, back up the original configuration file before saving the new one.

Moving forward

At this point, you can reboot your system. In PartedMagic, you can click the icon in the lower left of the screen and select Logout, which then gives you the option of, among other things, rebooting. Be sure to remove the emergency disc, if you haven't already done so. With any luck, your computer should reboot into your regular Linux operating system, but you'll find that your disk space allocation has changed.

This article describes a basic partition resizing operation. Part 2 of this series describes more advanced and alternative options, including resizing Logical Volume Management (LVM), troubleshooting, and alternatives you may want to consider if resizing operations are inadequate.

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[Aug 24, 2010] Resizing Linux partitions, Part 1 Basics by Roderick W. Smith

Describes how to use Gparted to resize partitions.

Linux® systems are often installed on multiple partitions, each of which has a fixed size. As your needs change, though, it is often necessary to resize partitions to suit your changing needs. Several tools exist to do this in Linux, but there are a number of potential pitfalls and restrictions that can make the task more difficult than it might at first seem. This article guides you through the task of resizing Linux partitions, beginning with basic preparations and moving on to common resizing scenarios using graphical user interface (GUI) tools.

[Aug 23, 2010] DBAN (Darik's Boot And Nuke)

Darik's Boot and Nuke ("DBAN") is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction.

/dev/dm-0 -

fdisk -l output in case you are using LVM contains many messages like

Disk /dev/dm-0 doesn't contain a valid partition table

This has been very helpful to me. I found this thread by Goggle on
dm-0 because I also got the no partition table error message.

Here is what I think:

When the programs fdisk and sfdisk are run with the option -l and no argument, e.g.
# /sbin/fdisk -l

they look for all devices that can have cylinders, heads, sectors, etc.
If they find such a device, they output that information to standard
output and they output the partition table to standard output. If there is
no partition table, they have an error message (also standard output).
One can see this by piping to 'less', e.g.
# /sbin/fdisk -l | less

/dev/dm-0 ... /dev/dm3 on my fedora C5 system seem to be device mappers
associated with LVM.

RAID might also require device mappers.

Partitioning question -

If you run suse 10.3 yast > system > partitioner show you with part is used by suse ,and with part is still unused.
I know if you startup the partitioner it gives you a warning but as long as do not change any think every is oke
If according to the partitioner sdb is unused then you can do every think with it for instance to create a second primary partition for a second OS If you put GRUB of the second OS in the second primary partition Suse is still there
and must it be possible to change suse boot loader in that way that she also load the second OS

BUt there are more ways to do what you like to do

all the best

Using Disk Labels on Linux File Systems - BigAdmin -

For creating ext3 and xfs file systems, mkfs.ext3 and mkfs.xfs have
the -L option to specify the disk label that should be used. For
existing file systems, use e2label to label an ext2/ext3 file
system. And for xfs file systems, use xfs_admin. Both of these
commands can be used with the device to display the existing disk

Examples of initializing new file systems with a label:

mkfs.ext3 -L ROOT /dev/sda1
mkfs.xfs -L BIGRAID /dev/sde

Examples of e2label and xfs_admin for existing files systems:

e2label /dev/sda1 PRIMARY_ROOT
e2label /dev/sda1

xfs_admin -L DATA1 /dev/sdf
xfs_admin /dev/sdf

labeling swap devices

You can label a swap device by using the mkswap -L label option.

mkswap -L SWAP0 /dev/sdb5

Alternative / by-id

Alternatively, you can use the udev by-id specification (look
in /dev/disk/by-id). The ID paths are usually pretty long
and less meaningful, but they are device specific and won't
change as a result of hardware changes. It's probably best to
use a disk label as above. However, for vfat/fat file systems
disk labels are not available so the by-id specification
should be used.

 /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-3500000e01632b7d0-part2 swap swap defaults 0 0

Examples of Use

Finally, the following are examples of using disk labels in
two key system files, fstab and grub.conf.

Example of /etc/fstab with disk labels:

LABEL=ROOT          /         ext3    defaults        1 1
LABEL=BOOT          /boot     ext3    defaults        1 2
LABEL=SWAP          swap      swap    defaults        0 0
LABEL=HOME          /home     ext3    nosuid,auto     1 2

Example of /boot/grub/grub.conf with disk labels:

title astrid CentOS primary system
  root (hd0,0)
  kernel (hd0,0)/vmlinuz ro root=LABEL=ASTRID_ROOT0 rhgb quiet
  initrd (hd0,0)/initrd-astrid.img


Linux systems support disk labels via the udev device manager. Using disk
labels avoids hard coding device names which can change if there's a
change in the hardware configuration (disk added/removed). This will result
in a more robust system.

[Apr 3, 2008] Corraling Linux Hard Disk Names - Name That Hard Disk! by Carla Schroder


The Linux kernel is a restless beast, and must continally evolve and change. Especially in ways that mystify us poor end lusers. A recent wrinkle, as of kernel version 2.6.20, is changing the /dev names for ATA devices, so that all ATA and SCSI devices are named /dev/sd*. This is a result of using the shiny new libata subsystem. In the olden days PATA (also called IDE) hard drives and ATAPI devices (CD/DVD, tape drives) were /dev/hd*, and SCSI and SATA devices were /dev/sd*.

However, not all Linux distributions default to using libata. *buntu Feisty and Gutsy are all over the map; some versions of them use the new naming convention, some don't, and I haven't figured out which ones, or why. You can see how your own system handles these names with a couple of simple commands. This example from Kubuntu Gutsy shows the old style:

$ ls /dev|grep '[s|h]d[a-z]'

$ mount|grep ^'/dev'
/dev/hda1 on / type ext3 (rw,errors=remount-ro)
/dev/sda1 on /home type ext3 (rw)
/dev/sda2 on /media/sda2 type ext3 (rw)
/dev/hda2 on /var type ext3 (rw)

The first command shows all the ATA and SCSI devices detected by your kernel. The second command shows which ones are mounted. On this system there is one PATA hard disk with two partitions (hda), two CD/DVD drives (hdc, hdd), and one SATA disk with two partitions (sda). When I boot into Fedora 8, which defaults to libata, it looks like this:

$ ls /dev|grep '[s|h]d[a-z]'
Where are the two CD/DVD drives? These get /dev/sr* names under libata:
$ ls /dev|grep sr

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Last modified: August 05, 2013