Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should: Install Linux on NTFS – on the same partition as Windows

Never mind the practicality, feel the grief

As alert folks of a cross-platform inclination will have noticed, Paragon's NTFS driver was accepted into the Linux kernel, and was released as part of 5.15.

This has had a consequence they probably didn't consider, though: you can now boot Linux from an NTFS partition.

But wait, there's more. Since a Linux installation doesn't use any of the same file or folder names in the root directory, you can even install them into the same partition as Windows.

So far, the primary application of this horrifying hack is probably the entertainment to be obtained from reading the stricken comments on Github. However, the fœtid fertile imaginations of some of the commenters raised some valid reasons why. For example, if you have a company policy that forbids you from repartitioning your machine, you could obey the letter if not the spirit of the law and dual-boot this way.

Others commented that there is prior art for this, including UMSDOS, which was used in the early days of Linux to install it directly onto a FAT partition. There was also Wubi, which was just about recent enough to be mentioned in The Reg: it let you install Ubuntu into a single file located in a Windows partition, again to avoid the scary, and possibly risky, process of repartitioning your disk.

Seriously, though, the tech raises some useful applications. For example, it might become possible to boot a WSL2 distro on bare metal – or run a real, standalone distro inside WSL2 without repartitioning. It might be prudent to hide the Windows folders from it using gobohide or something, however.

The new tech also improves something that's already possible. In olden times, it was standard practice to keep your /home directory tree in a separate, dedicated partition. Now you can format that partition with NTFS and it will be readable and writable from Windows too, without any extra software.

If you multiboot multiple Linux distros, you could already share a single /home partition between different distros. This saves disk space and simplifies your partition scheme. So long as you use different account names in each distro, they just ignore each other.

The snag is if you use the same login name: files end up getting shared between distros. This can be bad if, for instance, you dual-boot two different versions of the same distro – perfectly reasonable if you want to test-run a new version, or keep your old version around as a fallback measure.

If a newer version of some program updates its file formats, suddenly the old version won't be able to read its config or maybe open its data files at all.

So what some of us do is keep the main data folders somewhere else, and symlink them into our home directory. Have a shared data partition with folders called Documents, Pictures and so on, then delete the empty originals in your home directory and replace them with symbolic links to "real" data folders elsewhere. Then all your config files stay in /home/$USERNAME where they belong, and your working files are elsewhere.

The galaxy-brain wrinkle is this: if you have to regularly switch between Windows and Linux, you can do this using your Windows data folders. Mount your NTFS data partition somewhere handy (such as /windows) via /etc/fstab, symlink Windows' /Users/$USERNAME/Documents to Linux' /home/$USERNAME/Documents etc, and the job's a good 'un.

All your files are available in both OSes, without syncing or transferring or anything. Conveniently (for English speakers, anyway), Windows and Linux use the same folder names, so the symlinks inherit the fancy icons and remain your default file locations.

Until now, with NTFS3G via FUSE, disk performance wasn't great and recycle-bin functionality didn't work, but these aren't issues any more and everything will Just Work™, perfectly and seamlessly, forever. In theory. Some exclusions may apply. E&OE. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022