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With my current Internet connection, it will take about 18 hours to download all the files needed to upgrade from 12.04 to 12.10. Is there a way that I can first download the files in the background and then do the upgrade? Alternatively, if I use the graphical Distribution Upgrade tool via Update Manager, can I Cancel halfway through the downloads and start again where I left off, or will it delete the files it's downloaded so far?

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Yes. You can upgrade through a liveUSB or liveDVD. – To Do Nov 28 '12 at 11:02
    
@ToDo, how can I upgrade with a liveUSB? I've created one, but it's not recognised in software sources. – rudivonstaden Nov 28 '12 at 13:49
    
You don't 'upgrade' with it. You install the latest of your current install.It will keep your files and settings just like an upgrade. – To Do Nov 28 '12 at 14:10

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