Best practices for reinstalling Home folder when upgrading to latest Linux (Ubuntu 10.10)?
March 11, 2011 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Linux filter: I'm backing up my Home folder and preparing to upgrade to the latest Ubuntu flavor, 10.10. Presently running 10.04. I want to keep my settings for apps and reinstall my extra PPAs. Do I simply copy my old Home folder back in or do I have to do something special so I don't destroy the new install?

I'm wondering if I do the new install & resync the old Home folder into the new install space, will Ubuntu update all my old stuff automagically or is there a smarter way to go about this.
posted by artof.mulata to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You may want to make a copy of your /etc and all of your hidden .* files/folders in your home folder. It might be hit or miss for some applications and their settings (especially if a major revision exists between versions). But for the most part, that should have you covered for main places settings are stored for Linux.
posted by samsara at 12:14 PM on March 11, 2011

*for the main places...

Also, be sure to only drop back in the config files that you really need...keeping backups of both the old and new of course.
posted by samsara at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: The config files are also stored in /etc?

Will the updated apps write over old configs?
posted by artof.mulata at 12:24 PM on March 11, 2011

This says one can upgrade from 10.04 to 10.10 without doing a fresh install. A distribution upgrade should not alter your home directory (although you should make a backup, just in case). Desktop application settings typically reside in your home directory, so if everything goes smoothly, you shouldn't have to copy your home directory back.
posted by scatter gather at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: I'm actually doing a sidereal upgrade... from Linux Mint (10.04) to straight Ubuntu 10.10.
That's why the total reinstall, but thanks for the info scatter gather!
posted by artof.mulata at 12:32 PM on March 11, 2011

Move your home directory to it's own partition, then you can do a fresh install or even change distros without worry. I went from Ubuntu 10.04 to Mepis to Xubuntu, doing clean installs every time. Just be sure when partitioning the new install that you tell Ubuntu to NOT format /home. Directions on how to move /home to its own partition are all over the web. I don't remember the details - it's been a while, but I do remember it only took me about 15 minutes.
posted by COD at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: The config files are also stored in /etc?

/etc is generally where system wide configs are stored, then individual profile settings are stored in the home directory. It's not 100% always the case, as developers can certainly deviate, but those two areas should have you mostly covered.

For example, Gnome system wide settings for Ubuntu are typically stored in the folder /etc/gnome/. Personal gnome settings are then stored in ~/.config or ~/.gnome or both. (~ is shorthand for /home/username).

You can see all these hidden config files by launching a file browser and turning on hidden files...or by launching your terminal and typing the following commands:

cd ~
ls -a
posted by samsara at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: (I'm actually backing up Home to an external drive...)

Ok. I'm going to grab all the config files and then add them in on a case by case basis, i.e., anything I'm worried about redoing by hand from the preferences dialogue of the particular application. It'll be a little tedious, but it's better than not being meticulous.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:48 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: Yo linux folks, I'm going for it. Seems like I have all my ducks in a row now.
Thanks for the assists and I hope this others in the future.

Sincerely, artof.mulata
posted by artof.mulata at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: oops, "hope this HELPS others in the future."
posted by artof.mulata at 1:15 PM on March 11, 2011

I hope I'm not too late.

I did something very similar to this just a month ago, and have done it a few times over the past few years. You want to preserve your /home directory through the upgrade, and the best way is to do what COD said above -- put it in its own partition.

Then wipe out the other partitions and do a fresh install of Ubuntu (10.10 in this case), do the partitioning manually (do NOT do a simple install) and it will recognize your home partition.

The config files should be there PRIOR to the application installs. I'm not sure what happens to applications when you have them installed and THEN introduce (overwrite) an old config file.

Personally I think you should ONLY preserve your home partition, and in particular that means do NOT preserve your /etc files and whatnot. Down that path lies madness. Do a clean install, preserving only your /home partition. And I further believe that you should delete a lot of the "dot files" in your /home directory prior to the new install! More on that here.

Of course, back up your data before doing anything.
posted by intermod at 9:26 PM on March 11, 2011

Also, when you re-create your user accounts after the new install, do them in the same order you did for the old install, so that they end up with the same UIDs. If you can't remember what that order was, make sure you have a backup copy of /etc/passwd before doing the new install, and use the UIDs listed inside it as you re-create the user accounts.

If you mess this up you'll end up with busted permissions inside /home. That's irritating, but not fatal; booting into Recovery mode, starting a root shell and issuing the following command should fix things:

cd /home; for u in *; do chown -hR $u:$u $u; done

If your /home is on a separate partition, you'll likely see an error message as chown tries to make the lost+found directory belong to lost+found:lost+found. It won't be able to do this, and that's fine; lost+found should always belong to root:root.
posted by flabdablet at 6:45 AM on March 12, 2011

Response by poster: I took the Coward's Route.

Backed up my important data, Music, Photos, Docs, Vids, to an external drive.
Installed Ubuntu 10.10 on top of everything.
Dumped my data back in.
Spent about an hour redoing all my preferences.

The machine looks fabulous and runs swell.
10.10 is a nicely put together distribution!
posted by artof.mulata at 3:31 PM on March 12, 2011

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