To prepare your hard disk for installing Linux, you must allocate the space in which Linux will reside. You’ll learn how to do so in this section. First, I’ll explain how hard disks are organized, followed by how to view the structure of a hard disk. Finally, I’ll describe how to alter, or partition, the structure of your hard disk in preparation for installing Linux.
Let’s start by reviewing facts you’ve probably learned by working with Windows. Most operating systems, including Windows 95/98, 2000, and XP, manage hard drives by dividing their storage space into units known as partitions. So that you can access a partition, Windows associates a drive letter (such as C: or D:) with it. Before you can store data on a partition, you must format it. Formatting a partition organizes the associated space into what is called a filesystem, which provides space for storing the names and attributes of files as well as the data they contain. Windows supports several types of filesystems, such as FAT, FAT32, and NTFS.
Partitions comprise the logical structure of a disk drive, the way humans and most computer programs understand the structure. However, disk drives have an underlying physical structure that more closely resembles the actual structure of the hardware. Figure 2-6 shows the logical and physical structure of a disk drive.
Figure 2-6. The structure of a hard disk
Mechanically, a hard disk is constructed of platters that ...