Why a Seperate /home Rocks

The ability to have a seperate /home partition on Linux to keep all your settings, personalised stuff and so on is an incredible feature.

I’ve run the development branch of Ubuntu 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon, for a while now (since Tribe III), and when I installed that, I created a seperate partition for my /home.

I just re-installed my system from scratch, and instead of the boring brown (tangerine is the official term) Human desktop, this greeted me:

All my settings, all my themes, everything in /home/menza was exactly as I’d left it before installing.

So deviously simple, yet so unimaginably awesome.

Lasse Havelund on September 1st, 2007

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17 responses to “Why a Seperate /home Rocks”

  1. Juan Pedro responded on September 3rd, 2007 at 2:52 pm | permalink

    hey, excelent idea… but how about the sizes? What size is the “install” partition and how about the “/home”?

    Ps: You should add the “Notify by mail about new comments” to your WordPress. :)

  2. Jack Hynes responded on September 3rd, 2007 at 4:23 pm | permalink

    I don’t think I can create any more partitions, I’m at 5 or something (including my computer reset partition). I wish I could have one more for this, so useful when clean install time comes round — too much fiddling with settings!

  3. Richard Lloyd responded on September 3rd, 2007 at 11:39 pm | permalink

    A separate /home is fine *if* your personal config files (~/.mozilla, ~/.gnome and so on) can co-exist between 2 or more OS install partitions. Quite often, this isn’t the case and can not only bork your new OS, but wreck your attempt to boot back into the older OS partition too.

    I personally just leave /home under /, so I can see what each OS’es “configure from scratch” is like (e.g. what does the GNOME desktop look like on a clean install?). I copy my home directory (minus any dot files/dirs) and then just copy my Firefox bookmarks into the new OS’s /home. If I wreck the new OS, I just reboot back to the old one and it’s exactly as I left it, which wouldn’t be the case if I had a separate /home partition.

    If I did use a separate /home partition, I would *definitely* back it up (a simple home.tar.gz copy would do) before booting into another OS for the first time that shares that /home partition - you really should have put that piece of advice in your original posting!

  4. Gary Greene responded on September 4th, 2007 at 6:42 am | permalink

    Richard Lloyd’s remarks are quite true and I second his advice about backups, but Menza refers only to single booting Ubuntu Gutsy. When you’re testing a development beta, a /home partition makes sense, or even if you habitually break your stable distro (running backports, etc.). It’s not foolproof even then but it’s better than not having a /home partition.
    If you are dual or triple booting other distros, that distro’s installer might allow you not to tag Ubuntu’s /home as /home… allowing a separate /home or even a single, inclusive root partition solely for that distro. I’ve run Ubuntu and SuSE 10.1 (SLED) that way. YMMD.

  5. Lasse Havelund responded on September 5th, 2007 at 7:43 am | permalink

    Yeah, I’d have to agree with your comments about dual- or triple booting; I don’t think I’d ever use a shared /home partition between several different operating systems.

    @Juan: I’m on my laptop right now, but iirc, I’m running a 200gb /home and a 50gb /, though I’m not really sure. After having asked a couple of people, I found out that I was better off running a huge /home and a tiny /, than the other way around.

  6. Juan Pedro responded on September 5th, 2007 at 12:02 pm | permalink

    The question will be, 50GiB are enough for the “/”?

    PS: Great, you add “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail ” :)

  7. Lasse Havelund responded on September 5th, 2007 at 1:32 pm | permalink

    Should be. Most of your data will be stored in ~/.

    And yeah; I’d been considering it for a while, and thought I might as well do it now. :D

  8. Juan Pedro responded on September 5th, 2007 at 2:48 pm | permalink

    Which size do you think is the smaller that “/” partition could have?
    Sorry, I’m a newbie: too many questions :)

  9. Lasse Havelund responded on September 6th, 2007 at 4:52 pm | permalink

    Well, how big’s your drive?

  10. Juan Pedro responded on September 6th, 2007 at 5:00 pm | permalink

    I have a 120 GiB, which is a real 110 GiB.
    Thanks for your comments!

  11. Thomas Wood responded on September 10th, 2007 at 1:37 am | permalink

    OpenBSD goes as far as recommending all new installations have separate /, /home, /var, /tmp and /usr bsd-type partitions as a minimum.

    Dual-booting linux and bsd with a shared home partition may be an interesting experiment. :D

  12. Lasse Havelund responded on September 10th, 2007 at 7:29 am | permalink

    @Juan: I think I’d use an 80-gig /home, and a 20-30 gig /. Maybe 70/30-40.

    @Thomas: I’m not putting my box on the line—feel free to try, though ;D

  13. Christopher Beale responded on September 11th, 2007 at 5:01 pm | permalink

    Booting multiple *nix with the same /home would only work under one condition, that you magically got the same UID on both systems, else your permissions will be fucked and you most likely wont be able to log in ;)

    Also, its not really a ‘feature’, its not quite so intentional as a side effect of effective programming.

    @Thomas: Most *nix Distro’s do this now, including Slackware, FreeBSD,Arch and Debian, its mianly just redhat and ubuntu based that don’t at the moment.

  14. The Lazy Canadian responded on October 27th, 2007 at 9:19 pm | permalink

    I never thought of having a separate /home partition. Maybe I’ll try it next time I install Ubuntu. (I’m afraid of trashing Vista’s bootloader, atm.)

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