For new users, personal Debian boxes, home systems, and other
single-user setups, a single
/ partition (plus
swap) is probably the easiest, simplest way to go. However, if your
partition is larger than around 6GB, choose ext3 as your partition
type. Ext2 partitions need periodic file system integrity checking,
and this can cause delays during booting when the partition is large.
For multi-user systems or systems with lots of disk space, it's best
/home each on
their own partitions separate from the
You might need a separate
/usr/local partition if
you plan to install many programs that are not part of the Debian
distribution. If your machine will be a mail server, you might need
/var/mail a separate partition. Often,
/tmp on its own partition, for instance
20–50MB, is a good idea. If you are setting up a server with lots
of user accounts, it's generally good to have a separate, large
/home partition. In general, the partitioning
situation varies from computer to computer depending on its uses.
For very complex systems, you should see the Multi Disk HOWTO. This contains in-depth information, mostly of interest to ISPs and people setting up servers.
With respect to the issue of swap partition size, there are many views. One rule of thumb which works well is to use as much swap as you have system memory. It also shouldn't be smaller than 16MB, in most cases. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules. If you are trying to solve 10000 simultaneous equations on a machine with 256MB of memory, you may need a gigabyte (or more) of swap.
On 32-bit architectures (i386, m68k, 32-bit SPARC, and PowerPC), the maximum size of a swap partition is 2GB. That should be enough for nearly any installation. However, if your swap requirements are this high, you should probably try to spread the swap across different disks (also called “spindles”) and, if possible, different SCSI or IDE channels. The kernel will balance swap usage between multiple swap partitions, giving better performance.
As an example, an older home machine might have 32MB of RAM and a
1.7GB IDE drive on
/dev/hda. There might be a
500MB partition for another operating system on
/dev/hda1, a 32MB swap partition on
/dev/hda3 and about 1.2GB on
/dev/hda2 as the Linux partition.
For an idea of the space taken by tasks you might be interested in adding after your system installation is complete, check Section D.2, “Disk Space Needed for Tasks”.