Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How-to: Name or Label a Disk Partition

Various Linux file managers make a poor job of identifying mounted drives and partitions in the file system or on the desktop. Or do they?

For example the Nautilus file manager shows the root directory as File System for your system partition. Other partitions or volumes maybe shown using the reported gigabyte size, 32GB Filesystem.

This is usually because the Linux utility, distribution or user failed to label them. Most Linux installers will happily go ahead and create partitions unnamed and unlabelled, leaving users to do it themselves. Which we mostly don't.

Disk Utility is one of the common tools installed by default in the leading Linux distributions. This is a power tool that also provides the capability to do simple things like labelling partitions. Use with caution as it will allow you to delete and format partitions.

If you don't have it, Disk Utility is easily installed through Software Center, Software manager, Synaptic and the like by searching on "gnome-disk-utility"

Your package manager will typically create a short cut in the menus under Applications, Administration, Disk Utility.

The left pane shows storage devices; select one and the upper right displays the partitions while the bottom right provides the properties info and options to change them.
  • In the Volumes section, select a partition you want to label
  • Select "Edit Filesystem Label"
  • In the Label box, enter a name, Shared Data then select Apply
  • You will be asked for authorisation to run under root privileges
Your file manager should now show the partition label, Shared Data, instead of nnGB Filesystem. It may take a re-mount or refresh for the new label to be displayed.

Sometimes Disk Utility cannot provide the "Edit Filesystem Label" option for mounted volumes and partitions. External drives may be safe to us "Unmount Volume" and carry on. For your regular system and data drives, the best way to use Disk Utility for labelling and renaming is by booting from a Linux Live CD. If you select "Unmount Volume" on your system partitions your can render your session inoperable .

Don't be tempted to mess with the other options in Disk Utility unless you know how to use them; other advanced features such as format, edit or delete partition with can delete data on your disk. RC