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Linux Mint – Preparing to move to a new release

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At some point, there will come a time when you will need to upgrade your installation of Linux Mint to a newer version. You may do so as soon as a new version is released, so that you can benefit from exciting new features, though the primary reason for upgrading is due to the support of your currently installed version coming to an end. Each normal version of Linux Mint is supported for up to 9 months. After the support for your installed version ends, installing a newer (and supported) version is ideal. Your current version will not suddenly stop working, but you will stop getting security updates, so it is definitely important to stay as current as possible.

As mentioned earlier in this tutorial, Linux Mint does not feature an upgrade utility to move from one version of the distribution to another. This means that the only way to move to a new release of Mint is to do a fresh install. Many may see this as a substantial downside, but it’s important to consider that upgrades often fail and may not go as planned and clean installations are more likely to be a smooth experience.

When it comes to other platforms such as Windows, upgrading to a new OS version via a clean installation can certainly be a chore. A clean installation for a Windows user may include reinstalling programs, one disc at a time, which can take many hours to complete. Then, the user may need to go into each of their most used programs and recreate all the settings by opening up each application and setting them up one at a time. It could certainly frustrate someone to have to undergo the same process every nine months.

Thankfully, with Mint (as well as most other Linux distributions), a clean installation is rarely a great deal of work. With proper planning, the process of moving from one release to a newer one will not be a big deterrence. As most applications you use are available in the repositories, you can export a list of installed packages and then import that list into your new installation. Mint’s package manager will fetch all of the applications and then install them for you without you having to fetch a single disc. In addition, all of your customization is included in your home directory, so with a proper backup of your files, restoring your files will restore all your settings as well.

Note

If the nine-month support cycle of Mint throws you off, consider using an LTS ( Long Term Support) release instead. LTS releases are published around every 2 years or so, and are supported for at least 3 years from the date of release. For those who are using Linux in a corporate environment, LTS releases are more attractive, as it’s difficult to find the staff required to reinstall everyone’s operating system every nine months.

Another possible solution to consider is installing Mint with a separate partition for the home directory. If you’ve done so, you can install a new version of Mint by formatting only the / partition (which contains the distribution), making sure you choose not to format the partition that stores /home. During the installation, you can choose to use your home partition as the home partition again, leaving the format checkbox unchecked. Then, you’ll benefit from the latest release of Mint without having to recopy all of your files. You’ll retain your configuration as well, so your programs (once you get them reinstalled) should behave the same way.

Even if you place your /home directory in its own partition, you should still make sure that you have a complete backup before reinstalling it, just in case you make a mistake. I once tried to retain a partition during a clean installation and accidentally formatted it anyway, forcing a complete data loss. It happens to the best of us. Make sure you back up!

Preparing for an upgrade to a new release of Mint should involve the following steps:

  • Completely back up the home directory for each user, including the hidden files
  • Export a list of installed packages
  • Take a snapshot of the system in case the new version has issues with your hardware
  • Copy a list of any cron jobs and related custom scripts, if any
  • Review important release notes from the Linux Mint blog to look for possible known issues

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