Creating a separate home partition in Ubuntu during installation

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


In Windows, there is no top-level file directory under which everything else lives. C:\ is for the main drive, and D:\ and E:\ (etc.) are for all subsequent drives that get plugged in. In Linux (and Mac OS X), the root directory (represented by a single forward slash, and not to be confused with the /root directory which lives underneath /) is the single top-level directory under which everything else lives, including /home.

The /home directory is where all user personal files and settings live, so by having a separate /home partition, you can reinstall all the system files and still preserve your music, bookmarks, and photos. Ubuntu will see /home as just another folder living underneath /, but the home folder will really be its own disk partition that lives apart from the rest of the folders.

Even though you can later change one unified partition to separate /home and root partitions, it's considerably more complicated a process. So if you want to do it, do it during installation.


During the installation wizard, when you get to the Prepare disk space section, the default is that you install Ubuntu side by side with whatever operating system you already have (e.g., Windows or another Linux installation).

Click for a larger sized image
Instead of doing that, select Specify partitions manually (advanced)

Then click Forward

Click for a larger sized image
Now, depending on what you want to do, you can either resize an existing partition (by clicking on the partition itself and then selecting Edit partition) or you can delete the existing partition(s), but somehow you have to free up space to install Ubuntu and your /home partition.

In this example, we're just going to Delete partition to free up space.

By the way, I have limited resources in creating this tutorial, so the example uses one 15 GB drive. In most cases, you wouldn't want a separate /home partition unless you had at least 30 GB of hard drive space.

Click for a larger sized image
Whether you deleted a partition or merely resized one, you should now have some free space you can click on. Once you've done that, select New partition

Click for a larger sized image
You'll be asked to fill out some things.

Now I don't completely understand the different kinds of partitions, but I do know that you can have a limit of four primary partitions, but you can have as many logical partitions as you want. I think you need to have at least one primary, though. If you anticipate having only three partitions total, you might as well make them all primary.

By default, you'll be asked to create a partition the size of the entire empty free space. You don't want that. You want a smaller partition. You can either use the up/down arrows to change the size of the new partition or type the desired size in the white box. As a bare minimum, I would suggest a 4 GB root partition. If you have a slightly larger drive, you may want to bump it up to 10 GB, just to be safe.

If you're using Ubuntu 9.04 or earlier, you probably want to use Ext3 as the filesystem format for the partition. I believe Ubuntu 9.10 will default to using Ext4.

The mount point of the root partition, by definition is a forward slash (/).

Click for a larger sized image
Since you didn't use the entire previously free space when you created the root partition, you should have some considerable leftover free space for your /home partition.

Click on the free space and select New partition

Click for a larger sized image
Once again, it's up to you if you want to use a primary or logical partition. In this case, I'm making only two partitions (one / and one /home), so I'm just going to make both primary.

By default, as before, the partitioning tool will suggest you use all the available free space. I'm going to go ahead and do that, but you don't have to. If you have very little RAM (less than 512 MB) or if you plan to use hibernate (also known as suspend-to-disk), you should create what's called a swap partition, usually 1.5 or 2 times the amount of RAM you have. Swap is one of the types you can select instead of ext3 or ext4 for the Use as drop-down.

If you plan to use only sleep (also known as suspend-to-RAM) or shut down completely and you have a decent amount of RAM (1 GB or more), you don't need to bother with a swap partition.

In this case, I have 2 GB of RAM and use only sleep, so I'm just going to use the whole suggested size for my /home partition.

Ext3 again.

The mount point should be /home

Click for a larger sized image
Once you're done deleting, resizing, and creating partitions, you should have at the very least one ext3 partition with a mount point of / and one ext3 partition with a mount point of /home.

Depending on your situation, you may also have another NTFS partition with Windows on it and/or a swap partition.

If you're satisfied with your partition scheme, click Forward

Click for a larger sized image
If you didn't create a swap partition, you'll get a warning, but if you have 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM, you'll be fine without one, so just click Continue

Note: Some more experienced Linux users like to have a fresh installation with every new Ubuntu release, and so will have only a separate data partition and not a separate /home partition, so all of their photos and music and documents will be preserved during a reinstallation, but all the settings will have to be redone. For novices, I would recommend just sticking with a separate /home partition.

If you have suggestions or corrections for these tutorials, please post in this Ubuntu Forums thread or leave a comment on my blog.

I will not give help to people posting in the above places. If you require technical support, start a support thread on the Ubuntu Forums. That is the appropriate place to ask for help.