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NAME    [Toc]    [Back]

       fdisk - Partition table manipulator for Linux

SYNOPSIS    [Toc]    [Back]

       fdisk [-u] [-b sectorsize]device

       fdisk -l [-u] [-b sectorsize] [device ...]

       fdisk -s partition ...

       fdisk -v

DESCRIPTION    [Toc]    [Back]

       Hard  disks can be divided into one or more logical disks called parti-
       tions.  This division is described in the partition table found in sector
 0 of the disk.

       In the BSD world one talks about `disk slices' and a `disklabel'.

       Linux  needs  at  least one partition, namely for its root file system.
       It can use swap files and/or swap partitions, but the latter  are  more
       efficient. So, usually one will want a second Linux partition dedicated
       as swap partition.  On Intel compatible hardware, the BIOS  that  boots
       the  system can often only access the first 1024 cylinders of the disk.
       For this reason people with large disks often create a third partition,
       just  a	few  MB large, typically mounted on /boot, to store the kernel
       image and a few auxiliary files needed at boot time, so as to make sure
       that  this  stuff  is  accessible to the BIOS.  There may be reasons of
       security, ease of administration and backup, or testing,  to  use  more
       than the minimum number of partitions.

       fdisk  (in  the	first form of invocation) is a menu driven program for
       creation and manipulation of partition tables.  It understands DOS type
       partition tables and BSD or SUN type disklabels.

       The device is usually one of the following:
       (/dev/hd[a-h]  for IDE disks, /dev/sd[a-p] for SCSI disks, /dev/ed[a-d]
       for ESDI disks, /dev/xd[ab] for XT disks).  A device name refers to the
       entire disk.

       The  partition  is  a  device name followed by a partition number.  For
       example, /dev/hda1 is the first partition on the first IDE hard disk in
       the  system.   IDE disks can have up to 63 partitions, SCSI disks up to
       15.  See also /usr/src/linux/Documentation/devices.txt.

       A BSD/SUN type disklabel can describe 8 partitions, the third of  which
       should  be  a  `whole  disk'  partition.  Do not start a partition that
       actually uses its first sector (like a swap partition) at  cylinder  0,
       since that will destroy the disklabel.

       An  IRIX/SGI type disklabel can describe 16 partitions, the eleventh of
       which should be an entire `volume' partition, while the ninth should be
       labeled	`volume header'.  The volume header will also cover the partition
 table, i.e., it starts at block zero and extends by  default  over
       five  cylinders.   The remaining space in the volume header may be used
       by header directory entries.  No partitions may overlap with the volume
       header.	 Also  do not change its type and make some file system on it,
       since you will lose the partition table.  Use this type of  label  only
       when  working  with  Linux on IRIX/SGI machines or IRIX/SGI disks under

       A DOS type partition table can describe an unlimited number  of	partitions.
  In  sector  0 there is room for the description of 4 partitions
       (called `primary'). One of these may be an extended partition; this  is
       a  box  holding	logical partitions, with descriptors found in a linked
       list of sectors, each preceding the corresponding  logical  partitions.
       The  four primary partitions, present or not, get numbers 1-4.  Logical
       partitions start numbering from 5.

       In a DOS type partition table the starting offset and the size of  each
       partition  is  stored  in  two  ways:  as an absolute number of sectors
       (given in 32 bits) and as a Cylinders/Heads/Sectors  triple  (given  in
       10+8+6  bits).  The former is OK - with 512-byte sectors this will work
       up to 2 TB. The latter has two different problems. First of all,  these
       C/H/S fields can be filled only when the number of heads and the number
       of sectors per track are known. Secondly, even if we  know  what  these
       numbers	should be, the 24 bits that are available do not suffice.  DOS
       uses C/H/S only, Windows uses both, Linux never uses C/H/S.

       If possible, fdisk will obtain the disk geometry  automatically.   This
       is  not necessarily the physical disk geometry (indeed, modern disks do
       not really have anything like a physical geometry, certainly not  something
  that  can  be  described	in  simplistic Cylinders/Heads/Sectors
       form), but is the disk geometry that MS-DOS uses for the partition  table.

       Usually all goes well by default, and there are no problems if Linux is
       the only system on the disk. However, if the disk has to be shared with
       other  operating  systems, it is often a good idea to let an fdisk from
       another operating system make at least one partition. When Linux  boots
       it looks at the partition table, and tries to deduce what (fake) geometry
 is required for good cooperation with other systems.

       Whenever a partition table is printed out, a consistency check is  performed
  on  the	partition table entries.  This check verifies that the
       physical and logical start and end points are identical, and  that  the
       partition  starts and ends on a cylinder boundary (except for the first

       Some versions of MS-DOS create a first partition which does  not  begin
       on  a cylinder boundary, but on sector 2 of the first cylinder.	Partitions
 beginning in cylinder 1 cannot begin on a cylinder boundary,  but
       this  is  unlikely  to  cause  difficulty  unless you have OS/2 on your

       A sync() and a BLKRRPART ioctl() (reread partition table from disk) are
       performed  before  exiting  when  the partition table has been updated.
       Long ago it used to be necessary to reboot after the use of  fdisk.   I
       do  not	think this is the case anymore - indeed, rebooting too quickly
       might cause loss of not-yet-written data. Note that both the kernel and
       the disk hardware may buffer data.

DOS 6.x WARNING    [Toc]    [Back]

       The DOS 6.x FORMAT command looks for some information in the first sector
 of the data area of the partition, and treats this  information  as
       more  reliable than the information in the partition table.  DOS FORMAT
       expects DOS FDISK to clear the first 512 bytes of the data  area  of  a
       partition  whenever a size change occurs.  DOS FORMAT will look at this
       extra information even if the /U flag is given -- we  consider  this  a
       bug in DOS FORMAT and DOS FDISK.

       The  bottom  line is that if you use cfdisk or fdisk to change the size
       of a DOS partition table entry, then you must also use dd to  zero  the
       first 512 bytes of that partition before using DOS FORMAT to format the
       partition.  For example, if you were using cfdisk to make a DOS	partition
 table entry for /dev/hda1, then (after exiting fdisk or cfdisk and
       rebooting Linux so that the partition table information is  valid)  you
       would  use the command "dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda1 bs=512 count=1" to
       zero the first 512 bytes of the partition.

       BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL if you use the dd command, since a small typo  can
       make all of the data on your disk useless.

       For  best results, you should always use an OS-specific partition table
       program.  For example, you should make  DOS  partitions	with  the  DOS
       FDISK program and Linux partitions with the Linux fdisk or Linux cfdisk

OPTIONS    [Toc]    [Back]

       -b sectorsize
	      Specify the sector size of the disk. Valid values are 512, 1024,
	      or 2048.	(Recent kernels know the sector size. Use this only on
	      old kernels or to override the kernel's ideas.)

       -l     List the partition tables for the  specified  devices  and  then
	      exit.   If no devices are given, those mentioned in /proc/parti-
	      tions (if that exists) are used.

       -u     When listing partition tables, give sizes in sectors instead  of

       -s partition
	      The size of the partition (in blocks) is printed on the standard

       -v     Print version number of fdisk program and exit.

BUGS    [Toc]    [Back]

       There are several *fdisk programs around.  Each has  its  problems  and
       strengths.   Try  them  in  the	order cfdisk, fdisk, sfdisk.  (Indeed,
       cfdisk is a beautiful program that has strict requirements on the  partition
  tables  it accepts, and produces high quality partition tables.
       Use it if you can.  fdisk is a buggy program that does fuzzy  things  -
       usually	it happens to produce reasonable results. Its single advantage
       is that it has some support for BSD disk labels and other non-DOS  partition
  tables.	Avoid it if you can.  sfdisk is for hackers only - the
       user interface is terrible, but it is more correct than fdisk and  more
       powerful  than  both fdisk and cfdisk.  Moreover, it can be used noninteractively.)

       The IRIX/SGI type disklabel is currently not supported by  the  kernel.
       Moreover, IRIX/SGI header directories are not fully supported yet.

       The option `dump partition table to file' is missing.

SEE ALSO    [Toc]    [Back]

       cfdisk(8), parted(8), sfdisk(8)

Linux 2.0			 11 June 1998			      FDISK(8)
[ Back ]
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