Dual-boot Linux/Windows laptop: What file system for shared storage?
July 8, 2019 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I need to be able to work on certain files safely from both Linux and Windows, and I'd like to access/write these files on an internal HDD in a secondary bay. The file system ideally should support files over 4 GB. I've looked up past questions on this, and done a general search online, and there's enough variety in recommendations that I'm hoping you can help me pick the best option for this instance. Details:

- This machine runs the latest Linux Mint LTE the majority of the time
- I boot into Windows 10 much less often on this computer - i.e. whenever I have to use software that's Windows-only or just runs better directly on Windows
- Primary drive now: 512 GB NVMe SSD (running into insufficient space issues for storage)
- Secondary drive (not installed yet): 500 GB SATA HDD (I know; for various reasons I prefer a spinning drive in this case)
- Option also exists for adding a third drive: another NVMe SSD (I don't have plans on doing this now, mainly because of budget reasons, but I might in future)

The data that I need to share and work on from both Linux and Win are mostly audio files, such as WAVs or Audacity projects. I'd like to create a storage partition on the HDD and safely read/write files from Linux, and also boot into Windows and read/write from there, and then again in Linux, and then again in Windows, etc.

I would also like to create multiple Veracrypt containers to hold data on this secondary drive, and it would be nice to have the containers accommodate more than 4 GB.

In Linux, I also have the Timeshift program set to take automatic local backups, and the backups are the main reason why I keep running out of space in my /home dir on my primary drive. I want to move the destination for these local backups to the secondary drive. (I have a separate setup for external and remote backups.) I'm okay with creating an ext4 partition on the HDD just for these backups, if that's safer than saving the backups on the storage partition shared with Windows.

In a pinch, I've been able to read/write to the NTFS partition from Linux (e.g. in a directory outside of the Windows /Users set) but (A) I'd rather not continue to do that on the primary drive and (B) I'm not sure if NTFS is the best way forward when most of the computing I'll be doing on this machine will be on Linux.

In case it makes a difference, some more backstory: I'm a longtime Windows user, and mostly dabbler in Linux; after getting dismayed with Windows 10 on a number of things, I started the shift last year to use Linux for more and more of my personal computing. So I'm definitely not as familiar with Linux -- if there's something obvious I'm missing here, then I welcome other tips or advice.

If you recommend any software, I'd also appreciate specific titles/links.

posted by rangefinder 1.4 to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If nothing you use on Windows has to be fast, you could stick it on a Virtual Machine and access the linux partition as a local share.

If you must dual boot, a plain NTFS partition should suffice, with the NTFS driver for linux providing access. More auto repair, large file support, speed, and validity checking.
posted by nickggully at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

I agree with nickggully that NTFS is probably your best bet.

Depending on how much data your are looking to use on both systems and how much cloud storage space you have, dropbox/onedrive/google drive might be a good solution too. That way linux uses its favorite file system and windows uses its favorite file system and never the twain shall meet. For a significant amount of data this might not be practical though.
posted by DJWeezy at 7:50 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think NTFS is the actual answer to your question, but I also think dual-boot is mostly a PITA now that virtualisation is free and fairly easy. Install linux, install virtualbox, install windows in virtualbox with bridged networking, and save yourself all that rebooting.
posted by pompomtom at 3:36 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing that using NTFS or exFAT/FAT32 (if you don't need advanced filesystem features like journaling or permissions) for shared data is probably your best bet, but there is software for reading ext2/3/4 partitions from Windows, should you need it.
posted by Aleyn at 7:23 AM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nthing virtualbox. I’ve weaned myself off Windows pretty much entirely now, but I still have a Win10 VM on my Linux work laptop, which worked just fine. Only issue I ever remember was around networking - if I changed networks on the host (eg. if I connected to a vpn) then the guest would lose connectivity. But overall it’s way easier to manage than dual boot.

In this picture, all your filesystems in the Linux host are ext4 or whatever, and you say which directories should be shared (read-only or read-write) with the guest OS - they look like separate disks as far as your Windows guest is concerned, mounted at D: or E: or wherever.
posted by rd45 at 3:55 AM on July 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Clearly the consensus is for NTFS, so I installed and formatted the HDD to NTFS last night, and can confirm I'm able to mount it and read/write it from Linux.

The audio projects I'd be working with are multitrack recordings and can get largish (maybe 1-3 GB per project), and for some tracks I'm recording/monitoring audio live, so processing/speed/minimal latency are important. Ideally I'd be able to do everything on Linux, but I use a mix of different software depending on the project (and last time I checked, none of the Windows ones ran via Wine).

Since I'm trying to do more of my computing in Linux, if I go with virtual machines it would be running Windows in a virtual machine on Linux. I'll try it when I get a chance; even if it turns out to be too slow for the larger projects, maybe I can use it for things that aren't as processing intensive, like a small Nanostudio project. I do have an old desktop machine that's out of commission; one of my future projects is to see if I can revive it as a Win10 box and then I'd just use that for the audio work and not have to dual boot.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:14 AM on July 15, 2019

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