Partitioning, boot loader, expert options
Installation Settings is the next stage. It is a very important stage. Please pay special attention now. You
need to decide:
- The layout of partitions to which SUSE will be installed.
- The packages that you want to install.
- The operating system language.
The last two options will be rather limited. You will, at this stage, only install the basic DVD and use your
preferred language that you have chosen already. However, the partitioning requires a more delicate approach.
This is probably the hardest part of the installation. Nevertheless, although things may sound scary or
confusing, everything should work just fine if you carefully handle each step.
To understand Linux better, we should first make notice that Linux uses a different notation than Windows. In
Windows, you are used to letters (C:\, E:\, G:\ etc). In Linux, partition names are a bit different.
Here are some examples:
- If you have one IDE hard drive with 2
partitions, the partitions will be marked hda1 and hda2. hd stands for hard drive, a
stands for "first" (first letter of the alphabet, first drive) and numbers 1 and
2 indicate the two partitions.
- If you have one SATA hard drive with 3
partitions, the partitions will be marked sda1, sda2 and sda3.
- If you have two IDE hard drives with 1 and
2 partitions, respectively, they will be marked hda1, hdb1 and hdb2.
You should be aware of this when you perform an installation on a computer that is already partially
occupied with other operating systems. This will also help you make an easy translation from Windows letters to
Linux letters. For instance, if you intend to install SUSE
on the G:\
partition, as seen in Windows
, being the fourth
partition on your first SATA
hard drive, in Linux
, during the installation, this partition will be marked
Root and home partitions
SUSE Linux separates the system from the user. The root partition (/)
to install the system files. The home partition (/home)
is used exclusively for
user files. This way, if you update your SUSE, your personal files will remain untouched - this is very similar
to creating a data partition when you install Windows.
OK, now let's see what the Installer asks us to do at this point.
A default selection of partitioning has been made for me. SUSE installer wants to create 3 partitions for
SWAP partition (/swap, a la page file In
Windows), which will be used by the system for various operations.
Root partition (/) that will be formatted with
reiserfs file system and used to install and boot the operating system.
Home partition (/home) that will be used as a
sort of data partition, formatted with reiserfs file system, too.
The three partitions will be created and mounted on my one and only IDE hard drive. In my case, since I'm
installing SUSE on an empty (virtual) hard disk that was previously unpartitioned, the default choice seems well
enough for me. However, it is possible that you might want to change the partitioning.
- If you have a single hard disk with another operating system already installed, you might want to change
the default choice and place SUSE on a partition of your choice.
- If you have several hard disk that are empty, partially empty or have other operating systems, you might
want to change the choice and place SUSE on a disk and a partition of your own choosing.
Here is an example to make things clearer:
Let's say I have a 100GB SATA hard drive with Windows installed on the primary (first) partition. The Windows
partition is 40GB large. Additionally, I have 2 more partitions, lettered D:\ and E:\, 40GB and 20GB large,
SUSE installer will ask me to repartition sda1
(in other words, shrink
partition) and create the three Linux
partitions in the allocated free space. I do not like this choice. I want to install SUSE on my E:\
When making the manual changes, I should remember the Linux notation - E:\
partition on my one and only SATA
drive - therefore, it will be marked sda3
. OK, so this is where I want to install
Under expert options, you will be able to:
- Repartition and resize your hard drives.
- Decide the type and the location of the boot loader.
SUSE needs to know which partition to boot from. For this reason, SUSE uses the GRUB
. Unlike the Windows boot loader, which always installs into the Master
Boot Record (MBR)
, the 1st sector on the hard drive, GRUB can be installed on any partition.
SUSE installer is smart and will make the right choice of the hard drive where to install the boot loader.
I strongly suggest people with little Linux experience to refrain from using the Expert
Options, because they might inadvertently mess things up.
Nevertheless, here are some basic concepts that you should be aware of:
Some older BIOSes are limited to reading only the first 1024 sectors of a hard disk. In this case, if you install
the boot loader above the 1024th sector (on one of the partitions), you will not be able to boot your Linux. This
means that you might have to consider on which partition to place the boot loader (< 1024th sector). Or
alternatively, create a small separate boot partition
Without going into too many technical details, the GRUB boot loader consists of stages. Stage 1 is written to the
MBR, appended to the existing information contained there. Stage 2 usually resides on the root partition of the
This means that the boot loader might be overwritten any time you write new information to the Master Boot
Record. If you're using only SUSE on your machine, this will not bother you. However, if you intend to run SUSE
in, let's say, a dual-boot configuration with Windows, this might have implications:
- If you use Windows Recovery Console to fix the Master Boot Record for some reason or reinstall Windows, you
will destroy the GRUB boot loader.
- If you use imaging backup software capable of reading and writing MBR, when restoring a partition, you
might destroy the GRUB boot loader.
Your best choice is to let the installer figure it out. You will be able to move it to another partition
later on, once SUSE is installed (inside SUSE control center called YaST). For more information about GRUB,
please visit GNU GRUB
site and refer to the GNU GRUB Manual 0.97
There are other expert options to consider, too - encryption, RAID configuration etc. If you know what these
are and how and why to use them, you probably do not need this guide.
To change the default settings, click Change > Partitioning / Software /
. If you have chosen to change the Partitioning, you will be presented with a number of options.
Select Create Custom Partition Setup
and click Next
You will be asked to select the hard drive to partition. Select Custom Partitioning (for
and click Next
In the next step, under Expert Partitioner, you will be able to fully configure your choices. You will be able to
edit, delete or create partitions of any size and format them with any which (available) file system. If you have
two hard disks in your computer, you will be able to configure them to boot the operating system simultaneously
in a so-called RAID configuration.
You should not that note of your choices will be committed until you click Finish
Furthermore, you will always be able to go back or even start anew (with max. 5-10 min setback). At all times, a
small window to the left will display a help guide to explain what each of the options mean. Feel free to explore
but keep in mind that you need to understand each of the steps you do. If this is your first time ever installing
Linux you should stick with the basic options or at the very least only change the partitions to which you want
to install your system.
Sounds like a lot of mess, but it is not. Here are some practical examples:
What should I choose?
1 hard disk, empty / 1 partition
1 hard disk, 2 + partitions
SUSE & Windows
Install Windows first on primary partition
Install SUSE on other partition
Install boot loader by default
Install SUSE root on a partition that begins before the 1024th sector; install boot loader on that
partition (or lower)
2 + hard disks, 1 partition each
2 + hard disks, multiple partitions
SUSE & Windows
Install Windows first on primary partition of the FIRST hard disk
Install SUSE on any other partition of the FIRST or SECOND hard disk
Install boot loader on the FIRST hard disk
If you install SUSE on the FIRST hard disk, install SUSE root on a partition that begins before the
1024th sector; install boot loader on that partition (or lower)
If you install SUSE on the the SECOND hard disk, use defaults - install boot loader on the FIRST hard
Note: If you have more than one physical hard disk and install SUSE on the second, third or any other than the
first hard disk, you will have two choices regarding the GRUB:
- Place it on the same hard disk.
- Place it on the first hard disk.
If you choose option 1, you will have to change the boot order of the hard disks in the BIOS. The second
option will allow you to boot natively.
As a general rule, if you have a machine that will dual-boot or multi-boot SUSE alongside other operating
systems, always install Windows operating systems first (from older to newer) and then install SUSE. Windows will
always write to the Master Boot Record, while SUSE will keep the MBR intact. Furthermore, in case you decide to
make your own choice, you should mind these recommendations:
- SWAP partitions should be sufficiently large to allow the system to work quickly; it should be at least
equal in size to your RAM or larger; 1.5x and 2x RAM is often recommended.
- Root partition will need around at least 2-3GB to install the entire package. In the future, you will
probably want to add extra programs, so it would be wise to leave some extra space.
- Home partition can be of any size.
- Boot partition should be around 100MB.
In my case, I have ONE hard disk that was empty (or at most had ONE - primary - partition). Therefore, I
will use the DEFAULT settings chosen for me by the installer. Therefore, under Installation Settings >
Overview, I will use the suggested setup and click Accept
Now, you will asked to accept the separate license agreements for some third-party software, namely
AdobeICCProfiles and Macromedia Flash Player. If you disagree, these packages will not be installed. These
packages are not included with the 5 CD set.