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I recently upgraded an Ubuntu box from 10.04 to 11.10. During the upgrade process, all of the accounts except the one I created on installation were lost, and had to be recovered. Subsequently, I upgraded the SAME box to 12.04 from 11.10, and the accounts remained. I'm wondering why this is. Did something change from 10.x to 11.x/12.x? I think that Ubuntu may have switched to GNOME 3... I'm just wondering why it only happened in the first case.

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What you observed is the expected behaviour.

We are only able to upgrade from one release to the next or from an LTS-release to the next LTS-release without losing user settings and accounts. All other "upgrades" are basically a new installation but without erasing our /home directory. Accounts and applications will have to be set up again then.

If you had upgraded from 10.04 LTS to 12.04 LTS as a proper upgrade path your accounts would have been preserved. With an interim upgrade via 11.10 this was not possible.

See also the following questions:

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