Partition planning

Q I am a beginner with Linux. I've divided the hard drive on my notebook into five partitions: two 50GB ext3 partitions (for / and /home), two NTFS partitions of 50GB and 30GB each and 1GB for /boot. I want to know how I can reconfigure my distro (I'm running Ubuntu 8.04) to stop using the home partition on hda3 and to move it to hda1 (/root) without re-installing. I noticed that on the /root partition there's also a /home folder. Are these files duplicates of the users' profile in the /home partition (hda3 partition)? I have another question: is there a script to install Realtek RTL8187B wireless card under Linux, in general? I googled around and found out that I need to use Windows driver files during installation. Do you know any native Linux driver for this wireless card?

A The home directory on the root partition is where your separate home partition is mounted. Unlike Windows, where each drive or filesystem appears as an independent drive letter, Linux mounts all devices within the original filesystem. The home directory on your root partition is empty as its only function is to provide a means of accessing the files on the home partitions. So the files are not duplicates; they are the same files. You can copy the files from the separate partition to the root partition, but this is a bad idea. We get a lot more mails from people wanting to know how to perform the opposite manoeuvre. By keeping your home directory separate, you can reinstall or upgrade the operating system at a later date without affecting your personal data and settings.

If you do want to make this move, boot from a Live CD or DVD distro, such as Knoppix. This will mount your partitions separately, as /media/hda1 and media/hda3. You can now move the files from /media/hda3 to /media/hda1/home (which you will see is indeed empty) but you should think very carefully about the consequences of such a move - almost no one will recommend this as a good idea. What you could do is alter your partitioning setup, as you're wasting a huge amount of space at the moment. This can be a complex task, best done by running QtParted from the Knoppix live disc or GParted from the Ubuntu Live disc. Your root partition needs no more than 10GB, and most installs will use less than half of that. 50MB is ample for /boot, as it only needs to contain a couple of kernels and the bootloader (my /boot currently contains less than 12MB).

The real space hogs are /home, which contains all your personal data (which is why you don't want to tie it into the operating system), and your Windows partition, also because all of the user files it holds. The NdisWrapper driver does require a Windows driver file to be copied over, but the Linux kernel includes a driver for this now. To avoid a conflict between the two, go into the Synaptic package manager and make sure that no NdisWrapper packages are installed. Your card should then be detected and appear in your network settings when you reboot.

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