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Old 10-28-2009, 06:43 PM   #1
Registered: Mar 2006
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Question about Backup: Can I Use the /home directory from one distro in another?

I installed the beta of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic, and I am now stuck with a barely usable system, so I am going to remove it. I've already backed up the home directory, and what I was wondering is this:

If I were to install a completely different distro, like, say, OpenSUSE, would I be able to copy back my home directory without problems and have things still work, or would I have to reinstall Karmic? I had always believed that Linux distros were more or less the same except for cosmetic differences, but this seems like it'd be a different case somehow..
Old 10-28-2009, 06:55 PM   #2
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I've tried this in the past and my usual result was that I would have a working system with a lot of weird quirks. Some software may have incompatible config files sitting in your home folder.

On a side note, you can try updating your beta Karmic again, and may get a more stable desktop. I've been updating pretty much every day for the past month, and have cycled in and out of unusability

The easiest way is just issue the following command:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -y
Old 10-29-2009, 03:00 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by cubdukat View Post
If I were to install a completely different distro, like, say, OpenSUSE, would I be able to copy back my home directory without problems ...
Yes and no; some things would and some things would not. That means you can't do it and be sure everything would work.

It may be that during the change-over, you want to dual-boot until you are confident that the new distro is OK for you -- and that means having your data files available under both distros.

One solution is to separate the "distro-specific" from the "not distro-specific". I have /home/c as part of the / file system, containing all the distro-specific files and /home/c/d as a separate file system containing all the "not distro-specific" files and mounted under both distros
root:/etc# df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/root             5.7G  4.6G  775M  86% /
/dev/mapper/CW8-home   50G   26G   22G  54% /home/c/d
Configuration directories for apps that are normally under /home/c were moved to /home/c/d and symlinks to them created in /home/c
c:~$ ls -Al | grep '^l'
lrwxrwxrwx  1 c users    13 Oct  6 01:17 .VirtualBox -> d/.VirtualBox
lrwxrwxrwx  1 c users    10 Oct  6 01:17 .azureus -> d/.azureus
lrwxrwxrwx  1 c users    14 Oct  6 01:18 .googleearth -> d/.googleearth
lrwxrwxrwx  1 c users    10 Oct  6 01:18 .keepass -> d/.keepass
lrwxrwxrwx  1 c users    18 Oct  6 01:19 -> d/
Nothing broke!
Old 10-29-2009, 03:47 AM   #4
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I would suggest that you keep separate backups for your own files in your home directory, and a separate backup of all the invisible files and directories within your home folder. For some applications it will be easier to use the installed configuration files, in other cases (like a mail application, Thunderbird for example) you will need to replace the application data with the data from your backup.


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