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Old 04-18-2005, 01:21 AM   #1
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question about reinstalling without losing data on seperate partitions?

i have a few computers running an older kernel of Debian-sarge and after many, i mean more then 30, failed attempts to upgrade the kernel on my own for what ever reason i would like to try and use the newer netinstall beta CD for debian-sarge that has the 2.6 kernel as an option for install.

here is a base of what the partitions look like:

ray@ssmadebian:~$ df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda3             6.5G  3.2G  2.9G  53% /
tmpfs                 443M     0  443M   0% /dev/shm
/dev/hda4             115G  5.0G  104G   5% /home
/dev/hdc               11M   11M     0 100% /media/cdrom0
so ihave my data seperate from /, can i just reinstall using the new CD, run apt-get update/upgrade/dist-upgrade after fixing my sources.list and NOT lose any of my data and programs on /home?

if not, how should i go about it without a full format reinstall. on both my laptop and my workstation that would be a major PITA as i have a lot of stuff i just would rather not rebuild.
Old 04-18-2005, 01:25 AM   #2
Simon Bridge
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Hmmm debian debian debian ... AFAIK you can reinstall without losing data on existing partitions in most distros - the installer detects existing partitions and asks if you want to keep them. However: I cannot be sure that this is the case for debian - I always tell folk to back up any data they do not want lost no matter what. Then try the install.
Old 04-18-2005, 01:25 AM   #3
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i've done it before on redhat, and i didn't lose data on separate partitions (however, the partitions i worked with were not "default" partitions.. for example, i specified a /backup partition which obviously wouldn't be touched by a regular install). consequently, your results may vary.

however, i think that you probably would benefit from tarballing the home directories and backing them up on your current machine to avoid losing data. before i reinstall, i usually copy the necessary directories over to my windows machine and then transfer them back for use on my newly installed box.

sorry if this isn't any more helpful.
Old 04-18-2005, 02:01 AM   #4
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tis helpful. at least gives me a starting point to think about.

thanks guys.
Old 04-18-2005, 03:10 AM   #5
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Assuming that the data you want to preserve all lives in /home, Yes, you can freely reinstall any Linux distro you want without fear of killing the data you want to save. The critical step of course is that you have already established a separate partition for that important data, that you use a consistent file system, and that during the partitioning exercise, you do NOT format the partition that contains /home. (To play it safe though, Yes, it's an excellent idea to backup that important data before starting anything)

To illustrate, let's assume that all critical data will live in /home. If so, give /home its own partition, and create any other partitions as you see fit. Later, when you decide that you'd like to either reinstal or give another distro a tryout, it's basically a piece of cake to reinstall "around" the /home partition. The 3 critical steps (again) are to continue to use your existing partitioning scheme, to use the same file system (ext3, reiserfs, etc) and to NOT format /home under the new system. The result of this approach is that the contents of /home remain untouched, but all the other partitions such as /, /usr, /var, etc will be rewritten under the new distro. It's pretty sweet, and yet another advantage over Windows.

Personally, I've decided on a standard partitioning scheme, and have on more than one occasion have installed a different distro "around" my existing /home directory. As you can guess, the key is to just use the same partitioning scheme all the time, and to *not* format /home, and this practice has been super helpful to me anytime I want to experiment with new distros. Sorry if this post sounds so repetitive. Good luck with it -- J.W.

Last edited by J.W.; 04-18-2005 at 03:14 AM.


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