C.5. Debian Partitioning Programs

Several varieties of partitioning programs have been adapted by Debian developers to work on various types of hard disks and computer architectures. Following is a list of the program(s) applicable for your architecture.


Recommended partitioning tool in Debian. This Swiss army knife can also resize partitions, create filesystems and assign them to the mountpoints.


The original Linux disk partitioner, good for gurus.

Be careful if you have existing FreeBSD partitions on your machine. The installation kernels include support for these partitions, but the way that fdisk represents them (or not) can make the device names differ. See the Linux+FreeBSD HOWTO.


A simple-to-use, full-screen disk partitioner for the rest of us.

Note that cfdisk doesn't understand FreeBSD partitions at all, and, again, device names may differ as a result.

One of these programs will be run by default when you select Partition disks (or similar). It may be possible to use a different partitioning tool from the command line on VT2, but this is not recommended.

C.5.1. Partitioning for Alpha

Booting Debian from the SRM console (the only disk boot method supported by lenny) requires you to have a BSD disk label, not a DOS partition table, on your boot disk. (Remember, the SRM boot block is incompatible with MS-DOS partition tables — see Section 5.1.1, “Alpha Console Firmware”.) As a result, partman creates BSD disk labels when running on alpha, but if your disk has an existing DOS partition table the existing partitions will need to be deleted before partman can convert it to use a disk label.

If you have chosen to use fdisk to partition your disk, and the disk that you have selected for partitioning does not already contain a BSD disk label, you must use the “b” command to enter disk label mode.

Unless you wish to use the disk you are partitioning from Tru64 Unix or one of the free 4.4BSD-Lite derived operating systems (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, or NetBSD), you should not create the third partition as a “whole disk” partition (i.e. with start and end sectors to span the whole disk), as this renders the disk incompatible with the tools used to make it bootable with aboot. This means that the disk configured by the installer for use as the Debian boot disk will be inaccessible to the operating systems mentioned earlier.

Also, because aboot is written to the first few sectors of the disk (currently it occupies about 70 kilobytes, or 150 sectors), you must leave enough empty space at the beginning of the disk for it. In the past, it was suggested that you make a small partition at the beginning of the disk, to be left unformatted. For the same reason mentioned above, we now suggest that you do not do this on disks that will only be used by GNU/Linux. When using partman, a small partition will still be created for aboot for convenience reasons.