How best to set up a separate /home partition, and pros/cons

Pongo Pan pongo_pan at
Sun Nov 25 22:19:16 UTC 2012

On Sun, 2012-11-25 at 21:51 +0000, Colin Law wrote:
> On 25 November 2012 19:20, John D. Herron <paradox.herron at> wrote:
> > Hi, all.
> >
> > Currently running Ubuntu Natty pre-installed on a stand-alone machine
> > (Dual-core AMD Athlon 255, 4 GB RAM, 1TB HDD).
> >
> > Since I have a lot of unused disk space I'd like to add and try out some
> > other distros (Linux Mint 13, Zorin OS, ...).
> >
> > In order to keep things 'streamlined' (i.e. to avoid unnecessary
> > duplications) I'm looking into setting up a separate /home partition to
> > serve the future distros as well.
> >
> > Is this a reasonable idea? If so, how should I best go about it?
> I think it is not a good idea to try and share a home folder between
> different versions of ubuntu never mind between different distros.
> You will have different versions of applications on the two systems
> trying to use the same configuration and data files.  Moving from a
> earlier version to a later should not be a problem, but if you try to
> go back to the earlier one you may well have problems.  Trying to do
> the same with different distributions may be even worse as they may
> have conflicting requirements in files in the home directory.

Preach it brother!  It can be an utter disaster to
share /home/<username>  between distros or even variants of the same
distro.  Much better to have as many small separate /home/<usernames> as
you have distros, *each in its own small partition* to contain the many
hidden .config files for each and a much larger common data area,
maybe /data, with distro agnostic stuff like documents, pictures, etc.
symlinked from each home. Ten GB is way more than enough for
each /home/<username>.

To the OP: This appears daunting at first, but it isn't really much
trouble and it saves a lot of grief in the end.  It's easier if you use
a specialty partitioning live CD, like Parted Magic, to set things up
since the partitioners in distro installers aren't as capable and don't
really like to play nicely with others.  Document everything carefully
and when you install, you can just type in the mount points
like /data, /virtuals /otherdistro_home into the installers partitioner.

I wouldn't bother trying to upgrade from Natty to either Precise or
Quantal: just back up your data, *test the (multiple) backups*, nuke
everything and start fresh. 

pongo pan
Sun, 25 Nov 2012 14:16:36 -0800
Epicurus up 2 days, 2:11, 2 users, load average: 0.67, 0.62, 0.68
Linux 3.2.0-33-generic
Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS, gnome-session 3.2.1, unity 5.16.0

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