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Parts Handbook
About the installation
Choosing the media
Configuring the network
Preparing the disks
Installing stage3
Installing base system
Configuring the kernel
Configuring the system
Installing tools
Configuring the bootloader
Working with Gentoo
Portage introduction
USE flags
Portage features
Initscript system
Environment variables
Working with Portage
Files and directories
Mixing software branches
Additional tools
Custom package repository
Advanced features
Network configuration
Getting started
Advanced configuration
Modular networking
Adding functionality
Dynamic management

Introduction to block devices

Block devices

Let's take a good look at disk-oriented aspects of Gentoo Linux and Linux in general, including Linux filesystems, partitions, and block devices. Once the ins and outs of disks and filesystems are understood, partitions and filesystems can be established for the Gentoo Linux installation.

To begin, let's look at block devices. The most famous block device is probably the one that represents the first drive in a Linux system, namely /dev/sda. SCSI and Serial ATA drives are both labeled /dev/sd*; even IDE drives are labeled /dev/sd* with the libata framework in the kernel. When using the old device framework, then the first IDE drive is /dev/hda.

The block devices above represent an abstract interface to the disk. User programs can use these block devices to interact with the disk without worrying about whether the drives are IDE, SCSI, or something else. The program can simply address the storage on the disk as a bunch of contiguous, randomly-accessible 512-byte blocks.

Introduction to block devices

Block devices

Placeholder for introduction to block devices specific to that architecture

Designing a partition scheme

Placeholder for designing a partition scheme specific to that architecture

Creating file systems


Now that the partitions are created, it is time to place a filesystem on them. In the next section the various file systems that Linux supports are described. Readers that already know which filesystem to use can continue with Applying a filesystem to a partition. The others should read on to learn about the available filesystems...


Several filesystems are available. Some of them are found stable on the architecture - it is advised to read up on the filesystems and their support state before selecting a more experimental one for important partitions.

A next generation filesystem that provides many advanced features such as snapshotting, self-healing through checksums, transparent compression, subvolumes and integrated RAID. A few distributions have begun to ship it as an out-of-the-box option, but it is not production ready. Reports of filesystem corruption are common. Its developers urge people to run the latest kernel version for safety because the older ones have known problems. This has been the case for years and it is too early to tell if things have changed. Fixes for corruption issues are rarely backported to older kernels. Proceed with caution when using this filesystem!
This is the tried and true Linux filesystem but doesn't have metadata journaling, which means that routine ext2 filesystem checks at startup time can be quite time-consuming. There is now quite a selection of newer-generation journaled filesystems that can be checked for consistency very quickly and are thus generally preferred over their non-journaled counterparts. Journaled filesystems prevent long delays when the system is booted and the filesystem happens to be in an inconsistent state.
The journaled version of the ext2 filesystem, providing metadata journaling for fast recovery in addition to other enhanced journaling modes like full data and ordered data journaling. It uses an HTree index that enables high performance in almost all situations. In short, ext3 is a very good and reliable filesystem.
Initially created as a fork of ext3, ext4 brings new features, performance improvements, and removal of size limits with moderate changes to the on-disk format. It can span volumes up to 1 EB and with maximum file size of 16TB. Instead of the classic ext2/3 bitmap block allocation ext4 uses extents, which improve large file performance and reduce fragmentation. Ext4 also provides more sophisticated block allocation algorithms (delayed allocation and multiblock allocation) giving the filesystem driver more ways to optimize the layout of data on the disk. Ext4 is the recommended all-purpose all-platform filesystem.
The Flash-Friendly File System was originally created by Samsung for the use with NAND flash memory. As of Q2, 2016, this filesystem is still considered immature, but it is a decent choice when installing Gentoo to microSD cards, USB drives, or other flash-based storage devices.
IBM's high-performance journaling filesystem. JFS is a light, fast and reliable B+tree-based filesystem with good performance in various conditions.
A B+tree-based journaled filesystem that has good overall performance, especially when dealing with many tiny files at the cost of more CPU cycles. ReiserFS appears to be less maintained than other filesystems.
A filesystem with metadata journaling which comes with a robust feature-set and is optimized for scalability. XFS seems to be less forgiving to various hardware problems.
Also known as FAT32, is supported by Linux but does not support any permission settings. It is mostly used for interoperability with other operating systems (mainly Microsoft Windows) but is also a necessity for some system firmware (like UEFI).
This "New Technology" filesystem is the flagship filesystem of Microsoft Windows. Similar to vfat above it does not store permission settings or extended attributes necessary for BSD or Linux to function properly, therefore it cannot be used as a root filesystem. It should only be used for interoperability with Microsoft Windows systems (note the emphasis on only).

When using ext2, ext3, or ext4 on a small partition (less than 8GB), then the file system must be created with the proper options to reserve enough inodes. The mke2fs (mkfs.ext2) application uses the "bytes-per-inode" setting to calculate how many inodes a file system should have. On smaller partitions, it is advised to increase the calculated number of inodes.

On ext2, this can be done using the following command:

root #mkfs.ext2 -T small /dev/<device>

On ext3 and ext4, add the -j option to enable journaling:

root #mkfs.ext2 -j -T small /dev/<device>

This will generally quadruple the number of inodes for a given file system as its "bytes-per-inode" reduces from one every 16kB to one every 4kB. This can be tuned even further by providing the ratio:

root #mkfs.ext2 -i <ratio> /dev/<device>

Applying a filesystem to a partition

To create a filesystem on a partition or volume, there are user space utilities available for each possible filesystem. Click the filesystem's name in the table below for additional information on each filesystem:

Filesystem Creation command On minimal CD? Package
btrfs mkfs.btrfs Yes sys-fs/btrfs-progs
ext2 mkfs.ext2 Yes sys-fs/e2fsprogs
ext3 mkfs.ext3 Yes sys-fs/e2fsprogs
ext4 mkfs.ext4 Yes sys-fs/e2fsprogs
f2fs mkfs.f2fs Yes sys-fs/f2fs-tools
jfs mkfs.jfs Yes sys-fs/jfsutils
reiserfs mkfs.reiserfs Yes sys-fs/reiserfsprogs
xfs mkfs.xfs Yes sys-fs/xfsprogs
vfat mkfs.vfat Yes sys-fs/dosfstools
NTFS mkfs.ntfs Yes sys-fs/ntfs3g

For instance, to have the root partition () in ext4 as used in the example partition structure, the following commands would be used:

root #mkfs.ext4

Now create the filesystems on the newly created partitions (or logical volumes).

Activating the swap partition

mkswap is the command that is used to initialize swap partitions:

root #mkswap

To activate the swap partition, use swapon:

root #swapon

Create and activate the swap with the commands mentioned above.

Mounting the root partition

Now that the partitions are initialized and are housing a filesystem, it is time to mount those partitions. Use the mount command, but don't forget to create the necessary mount directories for every partition created. As an example we mount the root partition:

root #mount /mnt/gentoo
If /tmp/ needs to reside on a separate partition, be sure to change its permissions after mounting:
root #chmod 1777 /mnt/gentoo/tmp
This also holds for /var/tmp.

Later in the instructions the proc filesystem (a virtual interface with the kernel) as well as other kernel pseudo-filesystems will be mounted. But first we install the Gentoo installation files.