Partition Naming Scheme

Linux refers to disk partitions using a combination of letters and numbers. This naming scheme can be confusing, particularly if you are used to the "C drive" way of referring to hard disks and their partitions. In the MS-DOS/Windows world, partitions are named using the following method:

  1. Each partition's type is checked to determine if it can be read by DOS/Windows.

  2. If the partition's type is compatible, it is assigned a drive letter. The drive letters start at C (A and B are reserved for floppy drives) and move on to the following letters, depending on the number of partitions to be labeled. The drive letter can then be used to refer to that partition as well as the file system contained on that partition.

Red Hat Linux uses a naming scheme that is more flexible and conveys more information than the approach used by other operating systems. The naming scheme is file-based, with filenames in the following form:


Here is how to decipher the partition naming scheme:

  • /dev/ — This string is the name of the directory in which all device files reside. Because partitions reside on hard disks and hard disks are devices, the files representing all possible partitions reside in /dev/.

  • xx — The first two letters of the partition name indicate the type of device on which the partition resides. You will normally see either hd (for IDE disks) or sd (for SCSI disks).

  • y — This letter indicates which device the partition is on. For example, /dev/hda (the first IDE hard disk) or /dev/sdb (the second SCSI disk).

  • N — The final number denotes the partition. The first four (primary or extended) partitions are numbered 1 through 4. Logical partitions start at 5. So, for example, /dev/hda3 is the third primary or extended partition on the first IDE hard disk and /dev/sdb6 is the second logical partition on the second SCSI hard disk.


    There is no part of this naming convention that is based on partition type; unlike DOS/Windows, all partitions can be identified under Red Hat Linux. Of course, this does not mean that Red Hat Linux can access data on every type of partition, but in many cases it is possible to access data on a partition dedicated to another operating system.

Keep this information in mind; it will make things easier to understand when you are setting up the partitions Red Hat Linux requires.

The Red Hat Documentation Team - Official Red Hat Linux User's Guide
The Red Hat Documentation Team - Official Red Hat Linux User's Guide
Year: 2002
Pages: 223 © 2008-2017.
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