Linux Mint – Preparing for the migration

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The key to being able to effectively manage your Linux Mint installation is planning it properly right from the start. In order to retain your home directory between installations, you at least must have originally installed Mint with the home directory attached to its own partition. If you haven’t, the way you’d be able to move from one release to another is to back up your files, reinstall, and completely start over. Giving the home directory its own partition is a highly recommended practice.

Installing Mint with a separate home partition has several benefits, including the following:

  • You can retain your data across different installations
  • You can switch from one distribution to another without recopying user data
  • If your Mint installation fails, your data is less likely to be at risk
  • User applications store data in /home; therefore, the settings will be preserved

    Note

    If you chose to encrypt your home directory during the installation of Linux Mint, you will not be able to maintain your data between installs easily, as the encryption key would become different. There’s always a way to work around issues such as these, but doing so is not supported. If you encrypt your home directory, your best bet is to back up your data manually. If you prefer to encrypt your data, consider the LTS release instead, as you’d need to reinstall Linux Mint less frequently.

The benefits of using a separate home partition cannot be overstated. With this configuration, it will be much easier to maintain your installation. Sure, not having an upgrade option is certainly a drag, but if you’re properly prepared, it won’t impede you. In addition to retaining your home directory, you can also back up and restore a list of the installed applications, so you won’t have to remember what you’ve installed. Armed with a persistent home directory and a backup list of your packages, you’re essentially upgrading anyway, regardless of Mint not supporting this process itself.

Before we begin the upgrade procedure, we should make sure that we’re actually prepared for it. First, we should always make sure that we have a backup of our data in case we make a mistake. Even though we’re going to be preserving our home directory in the new installation, this is no substitute for a good backup. For example, what if we accidentally click on the format option even though we didn’t mean to? This would be a very bad situation if we didn’t have a backup. Consider third-party cloud backup solutions such as SpiderOak and CrashPlan to automate the backup process.

In Chapter 11, Advanced Administration Techniques, we went over creating a list of installed packages via Mint’s Backup Tool. Make sure that you have the text file it created during the process as well, especially if you want to install a large list of packages that you like.

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