Partitioning the Disk

Red Hat offers two different disk-partitioning tools: Disk Druid and fdisk. Many Red Hat administrators use Disk Druid, but fdisk is used by the administrators of all Linux distributions. Though you'll use only one of these tools during the installation, this section will discuss both so that you're prepared to install any Linux distribution.

For most administrators, partitioning the hard drive is the installation task that creates the most tension. It doesn't need to be, particularly for a server installation. People worry about partitioning because they do not want to lose the data that is already on the disk.

The first time you install a server, there isn't anything on the disk that you want. Even if the PC came from the hardware supplier with Microsoft Windows preinstalled, it doesn't matter. You don't need it. Sometimes, desktop client systems can dual-boot, which means that they have more than one operating system installed, and the user of the system boots the different systems for different applications. Servers do not dual-boot. A server cannot be offline running Microsoft Windows when a client needs service. Therefore, extra operating systems installed by the hardware vendor are not needed. Because of this, you can start your server with clean disks, and you can partition your disks with less worry.

Working with a Windows Partition

When you install a server, you don't need to worry about retaining the data in a Windows partition.

However, not every installation is a server installation. Frequently you do need to be concerned about the Windows partition.

To partition a disk that contains Windows 9x, follow these steps:

1. Save the Registry.

2. Run a full system backup of Windows.

3. Defragment the hard drive.

4. After the disk is defragmented, check how much disk space is currently used. Add to this figure the amount of growth you want to allow for Windows. This gives you the minimum size for the Windows partition.

5. Copy the fips program from the Linux CD-ROM to the c:\windows\temp directory. (I always copy fips to the hard drive because I find that many users do not configure CD-ROM support for DOS mode.)

6. Reboot the PC in DOS mode.

The fips program splits the hard disk into two partitions. The first, called the old partition, contains Windows, and is just large enough to hold the data currently stored by Windows. Use the cursor keys to adjust the size of the old partition until it is at least the minimum size you calculated for the Windows partition. The remaining space, which fips calls the new partition, is the space that is available for installing Linux.

fips is provided without warranty, and is not supported by any of the Linux vendors, so, though it has been used many times with great success, no one guarantees it will work for you.

fips runs under DOS, and works only on File Allocation Table (FAT) filesystems. Systems such as Windows 2000 and Windows XP, which cannot boot into DOS mode, cannot run fips. However, these systems can define partitions when they are installed. Additionally, there are commercial partitioning products that can be used with these operating systems. A product that I have used to partition a disk without deleting an existing Windows partition or reinstalling Windows is Partition Magic. It is a well-documented, easy to use commercial product, and there are other similar products as well. Regardless of what tool you use, always back up your data before using any partition tool.

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