How to Use GParted to Partition Your Hard Drive

Creating Linux partitions made easy with GParted

When you install Linux on a Windows computer, partition the hard drive so that you can dual boot with Windows and work with both operating systems. Dual-booting takes a bit more technical knowledge than installing Linux to a hard drive as the only operating system.

The best Linux-based tool for partitioning a hard drive is GParted, which is available on the live images of most Linux distributions. This guide explains the user interface and provides an overview of the different partition types.

Linux is the only operating system that provides the option for dual booting. You can't install Linux first and then install Windows as the secondary system.

Explore the GParted User Interface

GParted has a menu at the top with a toolbar underneath. The main interface has a graphical representation of the selected disk, as well as a table listing the partitions.

The GParted main screen

The upper-right corner contains a drop-down list which defaults to /dev/sda. The list contains all available drives.

On a standard laptop, only /dev/sda displays, which is the single hard drive. If you insert a USB drive, it is added to the list as /dev/sdX (for example, /dev/sdb, /dev/sdc, or /dev/sdd).

Rectangular blocks (some are small, and some are large) stretch across the screen. Each rectangle represents a partition on the hard drive.

The table under this block shows the textual description for each partition and includes the following information:

  • Partition: The partition type.
  • Name: The name of the partition.
  • File System: The type of file system.
  • Mount Point: Where the partition is mounted.
  • Label: The partition label.
  • Size: The byte size of the partition.
  • Used: How much of the partition is used.
  • Unused: How much of the partition is unused.
  • Flags: Any current error flags for each partition.

Understand Linux and Windows Partitions

On older (before Unified Extensible Firmware Interface or UEFI) systems, Windows generally used one large partition that took up the entire disk. Some manufacturers put recovery partitions on the drive, so you might find that older computers had two partitions.

To make room for Linux on pre-UEFI computers, shrink the Windows partition using GParted. Shrinking the Windows partition leaves an area of unallocated space that is used to create Linux partitions.

A fairly standard Linux setup on a pre-UEFI computer includes three partitions:

  • Root: Holds the operating system and all system files.
  • Home: The location for user files like documents, music, and configuration settings.
  • Swap: The location where the file system places inactive processes when it runs out of RAM space.

To dual boot Windows XP, Vista, and 7 with Linux, you need the following four partitions (five partitions if you keep a recovery partition): Windows, Root, Home, and Swap.

On UEFI based systems, it is common to have multiple partitions even if you only use Windows 8 or 10.

On a UEFI based computer, you must have an EFI system partition that is 512 MB in size. This is where you install the GRUB bootloader when prompted by the Linux installation.

If you plan to dual boot with Windows, you need these partitions:

  • EFI
  • Windows (NTFS)
  • Linux Root Partition (EXT4)
  • Swap

You might choose to add a home partition as well, but this isn't essential. The requirement for a swap partition is also optional.

How to Resize Partitions

To install Linux to a separate partition, you need to make space for it. The easiest way is to shrink the Windows partition.

On a Windows computer, use the Disk Management utility to shrink the Windows partition. Right-click the Windows partition (it's the large NTFS partition) and select Shrink Volume.

Shrinking windows partition in Windows

A new window appears with these options:

  • Total size before shrink
  • Size of available shrink
  • Amount of space to shrink
  • Total size after shrink

Be careful when moving partitions. The most important thing to note is the message stating the minimum size for the partition. If you go below the minimum size, you'll destroy any operating system that currently resides on the partition.

To resize the partition, enter a new size in megabytes. Generally, you need a minimum of 10 GB. However, you should allow at least 20 GB and preferably 50 GB or more for a Linux installation.

A gigabyte is 1000 MB (or 1024 MB). To resize a partition that has 100 GB to be 50 GB in size and create a 50 GB section of unallocated space, enter 50000. Then, click resize/move.

How to Create New Partitions

To create a new partition, you must have some unallocated space. In GParted, click a partition of unallocated space and click the + symbol on the toolbar or right-click and select new.

Creating a new partition in GParted

A new window appears with the following options:

  • Free space preceding
  • New size
  • Free space following
  • Align to
  • Create as
  • Partition name
  • File system
  • Label

Generally, you are interested in the new size, create as, name, file system, and label.

The new size box defaults to the full amount of unallocated space. If you intend to create two partitions (for example, a root and a swap partition), reduce the size to allow for creating the second partition.

Create a new partition in GParted

The second partition can be one of three possible types: Primary, Logical, or Extended.

On older machines, you can have up to four primary partitions, but on UEFI-based machines, you can have more. If you have four primary partitions on an older computer, create a logical partition within one of the primary partitions to use with Linux. Linux can boot from logical partitions.

The partition name is a descriptive name for the partition.

The file system can be one of the following:

  • btrfs
  • exfat
  • ext2
  • ext3
  • ext4
  • f2fs
  • fat16
  • fat32
  • hfs
  • hfs+
  • lfs
  • swap
  • lvm2
  • ntfs
  • reiser2
  • ufs
  • xfs

For the main Linux partition, it is fairly standard to use an ext4 partition and a swap partition that is set to swap.

How to Delete Partitions

To delete an unused partition, right-click the partition and select Delete Volume. This is useful if you installed Linux, and you want to delete it. Alternatively, you can click the circle with a line through it icon.

Deleting a partition in GParted

After you delete the Linux partition, you can resize the Windows partition so that it uses the unallocated space that was left after deleting the partition.

How to Format Partitions

To format a partition, right-click the partition and select Format To. Then, choose any of the partition types listed.

How to Find Partition Information

To get more information about a partition, right-click a partition and select Information.

Partition information in GParted

The information provided is similar to that in the main table, but it shows the start and end cylinders.

How to Commit Your Changes

Creating partitions, shrinking partitions, formatting partitions, and deleting partitions occur in memory until you commit the changes. This means you can play around with the partitions on the drive without breaking anything. If you make a mistake, go to the Edit menu and select Clear All Operations.

To commit the changes, either select the tick on the toolbar or select Edit > Apply All Operations.

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