Multiple Distros on one Internal SSD in my laptop

JohnJ

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Greetings Gurus. After much reading plus furiously watching youtube vids on Linux here is my master plan.

I want to install Mint on my new internal 500gb SSD on my laptop. I understand GPart, how to partition, how to setup uefi partition, the Mint OS under /, and so forth. From advice on the forum and my Windows experience I will set up /home on my usb connected 250gb ssd stick in a caddy so that if/when Mint goes belly up all my personal files are available on another drive.

So my questions are:
1. If I then install another distro on my 500gb SSD ( eventually plan to install another distro just for fiddling purposes) how do I direct its (the other distro) to use /home on my usb connected 250gb ssd. Can two or even more distros use the same /home.
2. What to do about Grub? Do I need to do anything special with Grub as I am installing another distro. Does Grub need to be 'updated' in some way?
Many thanks
John
 


I will set up /home on my usb connected 250gb ssd stick in a caddy so that if/when Mint goes belly up all my personal files are available on another drive.

If you have 500 gb internal SSD, I'd rather use that and the external disk for backups.

If I then install another distro on my 500gb SSD ( eventually plan to install another distro just for fiddling purposes)

Not sure what you mean exactly by fiddling, but if you want to just play around with other distros, i'd rather do that in a virtual machine running on your main installation

Can two or even more distros use the same /home

You can certainly try - but its not highly recommended. The problem is, with an example of firefox: You have /home/user/.mozilla, where firefox stores its files (your bookmarks, history, what not). The other distro might have a different version of firefox, which might get you into trouble.
If the other distro is using the same window manager (KDE, gnome, ...) but in a different version, I'm reasonably sure that will cause issues.
All in all you can try, and it might work, but I'm reasonably sure it'll start messing things up in your dotfiles (thats your /home/user/.<config-files>).
What to do about Grub? Do I need to do anything special with Grub as I am installing another distro. Does Grub need to be 'updated' in some way?
What to do about Grub? Do I need to do anything special with Grub as I am installing another distro. Does Grub need to be 'updated' in some way?

You need to do nothing. If you install windows install windows first and then install mint - the mint installer will understand that there is another OS (like windows or another linux) and guide you through making space for that.

Long story short grub has scripts to detect other operating systems and will let you choose which one to boot when you start your computer. Dual booting two linux distros is possible and the installers will help you to set this up auto-magically. You do not need to understand how that works exactly, its all just clicking in the installer gui.

Its more complex than that but I think that answers your question to your level of expertise.

My recommendation: install mint on your 500 GB internal SSD, install "virt-manager" to then create virtual machines for other distros to play around with and make backups to an external disk. This will give you the best speed and you have backups as well.

Closing words: Linux distros are made for a specific usecase. Mint / Ubuntu is for end users that do office / browsing / emails / gaming if you want that. Debian for example is for servers, Redhat based distros are for weirdos :p Just joking. I'm actually not sure why you would use that.
If you are new to linux go with ubuntu or mint, as you want a distro that has an infrastructure setup to support your learning process (ubuntu has LOTS of documentation, forums, chats, what not).
 
If you have 500 gb internal SSD, I'd rather use that and the external disk for backups.



Not sure what you mean exactly by fiddling, but if you want to just play around with other distros, i'd rather do that in a virtual machine running on your main installation



You can certainly try - but its not highly recommended. The problem is, with an example of firefox: You have /home/user/.mozilla, where firefox stores its files (your bookmarks, history, what not). The other distro might have a different version of firefox, which might get you into trouble.
If the other distro is using the same window manager (KDE, gnome, ...) but in a different version, I'm reasonably sure that will cause issues.
All in all you can try, and it might work, but I'm reasonably sure it'll start messing things up in your dotfiles (thats your /home/user/.<config-files>).
What to do about Grub? Do I need to do anything special with Grub as I am installing another distro. Does Grub need to be 'updated' in some way?


You need to do nothing. If you install windows install windows first and then install mint - the mint installer will understand that there is another OS (like windows or another linux) and guide you through making space for that.

Long story short grub has scripts to detect other operating systems and will let you choose which one to boot when you start your computer. Dual booting two linux distros is possible and the installers will help you to set this up auto-magically. You do not need to understand how that works exactly, its all just clicking in the installer gui.

Its more complex than that but I think that answers your question to your level of expertise.

My recommendation: install mint on your 500 GB internal SSD, install "virt-manager" to then create virtual machines for other distros to play around with and make backups to an external disk. This will give you the best speed and you have backups as well.

Closing words: Linux distros are made for a specific usecase. Mint / Ubuntu is for end users that do office / browsing / emails / gaming if you want that. Debian for example is for servers, Redhat based distros are for weirdos :p Just joking. I'm actually not sure why you would use that.
If you are new to linux go with ubuntu or mint, as you want a distro that has an infrastructure setup to support your learning process (ubuntu has LOTS of documentation, forums, chats, what not).
Thanks Blunix. OK. I didn't know whether a virtual distro is basically the same as an actual distro installed. If so then I could one day in the future do my fiddling (meaning playing with, trying stuff, etc) Also maybe I am using the wrong terminology. I thought that /home meant a place where all my personal files lived. Similar to a Data partition in a Windows system. I must be wrong about this so I need to do some more reading. I have no intention of installing Windows. Mint will be my primary distro and anything else just for trialing.
 
I have several drives for testing purposes,the most distros I have on one drive is 5 [but I only have small drives for testing [playing with] new distributions. My main drive has 2 distros, but this falls towards obscurity compared to the number run by some other members
 
I didn't know whether a virtual distro is basically the same as an actual distro installed.

I wouldnt go that far. If you want gaming, that you can not do in a virtual machine.

A virtual machine takes some of your CPU and RAM and disk (you can configure how much) from your host os (thats the OS installed on your physical hardware). It is not the same thing as your host OS.

If you want to just test distros, thats a good way to go. If you want to play games in a virtual machine, thats most likely not going to work.

Mint will be my primary distro and anything else just for trialing.

In this case I would not even configure an additional /home partition. Just select all the defaults in the installer.

If you put /home into its own partition (the mint installer can do that for you in the partitioning section), and you then download lots of files and your /home partition is 100% full, it will not give your operating system trouble (your OS needs at least a bit of space to write logfiles for booting, otherwise there MIGHT be problems booting). But thats pretty much the only reason to have a seperate /home partition in your case.

Just install mint with all the defaults ;) It'll be ok ;)
 
I wouldnt go that far. If you want gaming, that you can not do in a virtual machine.

A virtual machine takes some of your CPU and RAM and disk (you can configure how much) from your host os (thats the OS installed on your physical hardware). It is not the same thing as your host OS.

If you want to just test distros, thats a good way to go. If you want to play games in a virtual machine, thats most likely not going to work.



In this case I would not even configure an additional /home partition. Just select all the defaults in the installer.

If you put /home into its own partition (the mint installer can do that for you in the partitioning section), and you then download lots of files and your /home partition is 100% full, it will not give your operating system trouble (your OS needs at least a bit of space to write logfiles for booting, otherwise there MIGHT be problems booting). But thats pretty much the only reason to have a seperate /home partition in your case.

Just install mint with all the defaults ;) It'll be ok ;)
Thanks for that. I don't need any capability for gaming. I just want somewhere to park my work personal files, some images, etc separate from the Mint operating system so if there is a problem with Mint I will be able to still get at them and have the ability to back them up somewhere/somehow. That was my thinking to have /home parked in my 250gb SSD physically separated usb connected drive not onboard the 500gb SSD in the laptop. Cheers
 
so if there is a problem with Mint I will be able to still get at them

If you operating system is not booting, because, for example, you messed up the bootloader configuration, you can attach a live usb stick (like a regular ubuntu installer iso, that features a live ubuntu) and just mount your disk from there.

For this particular usecase, choosing a seperate /home partition is not required.

Pretty much the only reason for a seperate /home partition is that if it runs full your OS can still boot.
 
separate from the Mint operating system so if there is a problem with Mint I will be able to still get at them and have the ability to back them up somewhere/somehow.
You are assuming that your external /home SSD will be the survivor of a disaster... when it may be the first casualty. Then what?

Backups start before the disaster. Good backups have (at least) 2 copies on different drives. Really good backups have at least one copy of "can't-afford-to-lose data" stored away from your home (cloud, bank vault, family, etc). But backups are another topic and pretty well covered here and all over the web.

Making a separate /home partition (same or different drive, doesn't matter) used to be the more common method a long time ago. There were often at least several other separate partitions. That was then.

Since you don't need to keep Windows :cool:... I agree with @blunix... just let Linux Mint install itself completely on your internal drive, choosing "Use entire disk" at that point of the installation. Let it install the way the developers intended for it to install. Let your experience build up before deviating from standard installations, and use your external SSD for Timeshift and other backup strategies.

As you try new distros, I suggest the same thing... install them as they were intended. Some will make more partitions (swap and /boot, for example). You will be trying different Desktop Environments too... the "look and feel" of Linux. DE's are many and varied, and they will be more of your initial Linux experience than drive partitioning.

You are at a unique moment. This is a really good time to not grow too fond of your fresh new Linux Mint, and to not fill up your /home with important data. Disaster could strike early and often does for new users.

This is a good time to use Mint for awhile, a week or a month, and then do a fresh install on your internal drive of another Linux and another Desktop. Rinse and repeat for a bit to try to soak in the magnitude of what is available to you. A period of full bare-metal installations shows you so many differences... drive partitioning, desktop features, included software, and so on. Virtual machines are close, but not quite the same.

After many years in Linux, I still do both very regularly: VM's and full bare-metal installations. I'm still learning.

Good luck!
 
You are assuming that your external /home SSD will be the survivor of a disaster... when it may be the first casualty. Then what?

Backups start before the disaster. Good backups have (at least) 2 copies on different drives. Really good backups have at least one copy of "can't-afford-to-lose data" stored away from your home (cloud, bank vault, family, etc). But backups are another topic and pretty well covered here and all over the web.

Making a separate /home partition (same or different drive, doesn't matter) used to be the more common method a long time ago. There were often at least several other separate partitions. That was then.

Since you don't need to keep Windows :cool:... I agree with @blunix... just let Linux Mint install itself completely on your internal drive, choosing "Use entire disk" at that point of the installation. Let it install the way the developers intended for it to install. Let your experience build up before deviating from standard installations, and use your external SSD for Timeshift and other backup strategies.

As you try new distros, I suggest the same thing... install them as they were intended. Some will make more partitions (swap and /boot, for example). You will be trying different Desktop Environments too... the "look and feel" of Linux. DE's are many and varied, and they will be more of your initial Linux experience than drive partitioning.

You are at a unique moment. This is a really good time to not grow too fond of your fresh new Linux Mint, and to not fill up your /home with important data. Disaster could strike early and often does for new users.

This is a good time to use Mint for awhile, a week or a month, and then do a fresh install on your internal drive of another Linux and another Desktop. Rinse and repeat for a bit to try to soak in the magnitude of what is available to you. A period of full bare-metal installations shows you so many differences... drive partitioning, desktop features, included software, and so on. Virtual machines are close, but not quite the same.

After many years in Linux, I still do both very regularly: VM's and full bare-metal installations. I'm still learning.

Good luck!
Very good advice Atanere. Cheers John

 
I have several drives for testing purposes,the most distros I have on one drive is 5 [but I only have small drives for testing [playing with] new distributions. My main drive has 2 distros, but this falls towards obscurity compared to the number run by some other members
Heh. Oh, YES.....

I currently have 14 Puppies in the "kennels" on a 1TB Crucial MX500 SSD.....but just to confuse things further, all 14 of 'em are in the same partition! Each one exists inside its own, uniquely-named sub-directory; between them all, including the contents of each Pup's save-folder & associated 'loadable' SFS packages, they occupy a total of 53 GB.

You DID hear right. This is entirely down to the unique way in which Puppy runs, and the fact that our in-house bootloader config tools are set-up to search two layers deep to find a bootable kernel.

DON'T try this with any mainstream distro. Most require - and expect! - a partition all to themselves...


Mike. ;)
 
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I am with him ^^^, who is with him @atanere higher up ^^^ :)

If my experience with multi-multi-(add another 3 or so)-booting can help:

I save nearly all of my personal data on a separate drive that is robust and can be unplugged during a lightning storm. And as you are aware, John, that can be October through April for us.

I'll show you 2 screenshots of the Home folder on this, my Linux Mint 21.3 'Virginia' Cinnamon, with notable differences.

The first is a standard view

0l4jxwx.png


... and for my part, what might normally be associated, in personal data terms, with being stored in Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos is what I store off-drive.

The second is what you see when you press Ctrl-h or edit your Preferences to show hidden files and folders as a default.

XIBYhWu.png


... so you actually have a number of folders, and a number of files, in /home/yourname which are made invisible by the placement of a dot at their beginning.

.bash_history file contains the list of the commands you have used at Terminal.

.mozilla folder has your Firefox profiles and settings

If you make use of the email client Thunderbird you will have a .thunderbird folder, and so on.

In my .config folder are settings for eg LibreOffice, my File Manager (Nemo), my high scores for Solitaire (aisleriot-klondike), and many other apps.

So if you have spent some time setting up your Mintie the way you want it, these are settings you may wish to preserve.

It is these and other settings that may pose some complications or conflict if you use a /home partition to share between two or more Linux distros.

In Timeshift, there are ways to accommodate the choices between a Home folder and a Home partition being included in the snapshots, and to what level. There are also limitations, which you can ask about at my Timeshift thread, if you have need.

Hope this helps

Wiz
 
I am with him ^^^, who is with him @atanere higher up ^^^ :)

If my experience with multi-multi-(add another 3 or so)-booting can help:

I save nearly all of my personal data on a separate drive that is robust and can be unplugged during a lightning storm. And as you are aware, John, that can be October through April for us.

I'll show you 2 screenshots of the Home folder on this, my Linux Mint 21.3 'Virginia' Cinnamon, with notable differences.

The first is a standard view

0l4jxwx.png


... and for my part, what might normally be associated, in personal data terms, with being stored in Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos is what I store off-drive.

The second is what you see when you press Ctrl-h or edit your Preferences to show hidden files and folders as a default.

XIBYhWu.png


... so you actually have a number of folders, and a number of files, in /home/yourname which are made invisible by the placement of a dot at their beginning.

.bash_history file contains the list of the commands you have used at Terminal.

.mozilla folder has your Firefox profiles and settings

If you make use of the email client Thunderbird you will have a .thunderbird folder, and so on.

In my .config folder are settings for eg LibreOffice, my File Manager (Nemo), my high scores for Solitaire (aisleriot-klondike), and many other apps.

So if you have spent some time setting up your Mintie the way you want it, these are settings you may wish to preserve.

It is these and other settings that may pose some complications or conflict if you use a /home partition to share between two or more Linux distros.

In Timeshift, there are ways to accommodate the choices between a Home folder and a Home partition being included in the snapshots, and to what level. There are also limitations, which you can ask about at my Timeshift thread, if you have need.

Hope this helps

Wiz
Perfect explanation, Wiz. Even I can understand it. It's stopped raining after 2 months in Maleny so I'm off to mow the lawn.
 

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