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I am hoping that this question would help other ubuntu users when migrating to a newer version of ubuntu. This should have all the info that they need. So please when you answer try to phrase them into points for easy understanding. I understand that some questions that I ask might have been asked before by other users. In that case just provide the links to those questions.

I am running ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat in case that is important. I can say for sure that a clean install is definitely better than an upgrade since it gives you an opportunity to clean your system and get a fresh start. However some of us like to retain certain software configuration or files etc.

The questions are as follows,

  1. How do you save the configuration files of certain application like for instance Thunderbird, firefox, etc...so that you can basically paste in the new version of ubuntu? (Thunderbird for instance has all my mail, so I definitely would like to backup its configuration and then use it the new installation that I do)

  2. I have some applications like MATLAB and Maple (Based on JAVA) installed. When I migrate, can I just copy the entire installation folder to the new version of ubuntu? Would it still work as now if I do that?

  3. When doing a backup which folders should be backed up? Obviously your personal files would be backup. But other than that, is it necessary to back up stuff in the home folder, /usr/bin etc?

  4. I have BURG installed. I am guessing that would be erased when I do a clean install along with the program's configuration and everything. How can I do a backup of it?

  5. I am dual booting my ubuntu alongside with Windows 7. When I perform the clean install of ubuntu, would GRUB (bootloader) be removed and in anyway jeopardize my windows installation?

  6. Over time I have added a lot of PPA which are of course compatible with my current ubuntu version. How do I make a backup of all my PPA and would they be compatible to the newer version of ubuntu when I restore them?

  7. Is there a way to get the entire list of user installed application and if possible automate the installation of those applications in the new system? For instance I have application like VLC,ubuntu tweak etc. installed, and rather than have to install everything from scratch it would be nice to have a program do it.

I hope this covers all the questions or doubts that a user might face when thinking about performing a clean install of his system. If I missed anything please mention it as a comment and I will add it to my question.

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All of your configuration for your applications is stored in a hidden folder in your home directory to view these files open your home directory and press Ctrl + H to show the hidden configuration files and directories. –  Reuben Swartz Mar 10 '11 at 0:21
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You have some GREAT questions in here - however, that's the problem is there are questions I would strongly recommend you split up the majority of these questions into seprate topics. This does several things for you and the community. One: It allows those who only know an answer to one or two of these questions to provide a better objective answer, makes it easier for those looking only for specific questions to find those answers, and keeps the site moving in Objective Question, Objective Answer. –  Marco Ceppi Mar 10 '11 at 14:43
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Can you split these up into individual questions? As you can see from the first answer this will just turn into a mess of multiple posts with multiple answers and multiple discussions. –  Jorge Castro Mar 10 '11 at 15:08
    
Alrite I will do that. –  nik90 Mar 10 '11 at 16:36
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted
How do you save the configuration files of certain application like
for instance Thunderbird, Firefox?

To backup your apps data, you need to look in your Personal Folder for the .(hidden, press CONTROL + H to see them) folders. For example, Firefox (and other Mozilla apps) saves your personal data in a folder named .mozilla. Thunderbird does it using a folder named .thunderbird.
Others, Google Chrome/Chromium for example, use the .config folder, having a sub-folder there. (ex, .config/google-chrome)

To backup this settings, just copy the desired folders, just remember where they were before pasting them back.

When you copy an app folder, you copy ALL its preferences, history, databases, etc, so your bookmarks, extensions and other personal data are saved.


I have some applications like MATLAB and Maple (Based on JAVA) installed.
When I migrate, can I just copy the entire installation folder to the
new version of Ubuntu?

Yes, you can do that, but only with applications that were fully installed in that directory. Some apps install the main app in your home directory, but some libraries, or multimedia files (such as icons) in other folders. Be careful with this, the best is to reinstall, but you can use them.

*you should also check the compatibility, but they should work file


When doing a backup which folders should be backed up?

The most important folder is /etc, mostly because you may have modified a few files, like the Samba configuration, the SSH server configuration, the hosts file, and some other configuration that you may also have changed without knowing and would be better to keep rather than go back to the defaults ones (like the updates preferences, etc)

Other folders depends on what you have installed and/or modified (eg, XAMPP is installed on the /opt directory, and the configuration files reside in its own folder)


I have BURG installed. How can I do a backup of it?

I'm not exactly sure, i guess you can just backup the installed themes (if any). Reinstall in the new Ubuntu installation and restore. But again, it depends on what you have modified.


When I perform the clean install of ubuntu, would GRUB (bootloader)
be removed and in anyway jeopardize my windows installation?

No, GRUB is never removed, it may be upgraded, but this wont affect at all you Windows installation. Besides, remember you have BURG, which modifies GRUB's behavior


How do I make a backup of all my PPA and would they be compatible to the newer
version of ubuntu when I restore them?

The only way I know to do this is to manually backup all your .list located at /etc/apt

You should copy the sources.list and all the files located at /etc/apt/sources.list.d/


I hope to have answered all your questions. ;)

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When I copy the entire .mozilla and .thunderbird folder and paste them in the new ubuntu installation would all my bookmarks and extensions that I added be there when I open the respective applications later on? –  nik90 Mar 10 '11 at 7:26
    
In your answer, cou you give like a 1 line explanation on why you would backup the /etc folder. But otherwise a great answer.. –  nik90 Mar 10 '11 at 7:27
    
@nik, When you copy the app folder, you copy ALL your preferences, history, etc, so yes, your bookmarks and extensions would be saved. Regarding your second question, in my case, I have modified a few files, like the Samba configuration, the SSH server configuration, the hosts file, and some other configuration that you can also have changed without knowing and would be better to keep rather than go back to the defaults ones (like the updates preferences, etc) –  sebikul Mar 10 '11 at 7:32
    
Could you add this description to your answer..would be quicker for the user to read..thnx...I intend to grow the list of questions when users have any other questions. But I fully accept your answer and will mark it in a day or two. :) –  nik90 Mar 10 '11 at 7:35
    
@nik, the information you requested is now on the answer I posted. Nice thought, it really makes it easier for the user. ;) –  sebikul Mar 10 '11 at 7:45
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Thanks a bunch for this mini-guide, Nik and sebikul. I love that these answers are grouped as such, as they are all heavily related! I would like to add a few things: config files can be located in other places besides hidden folders within ~. Do a google search for specific programs, if you want to save their config files but can't find them, and you can usually find their locations within documentation files or forum posts. Here are the config files I saved when I did my clean install:

LibreOffice: ~/.libreoffice
mplayer: /etc/mplayer/mplayer.conf
appearance: ~/.themes/*
cellwriter: ~/.cellwriter/profile
gedit: /usr/share/gtksourceview-2.0/styles/*.xml
/usr/share/gtksourceview-2.0/language-specs/*.lang
xournal: ~/.xournal

mplayer and gedit have some unique settings filepaths, to note. Thanks again!

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I just want to give a suggestion: to migrate all configuration file, bookmarks, add ons, extensions for Thunderbird or Firefox, the absolute easiest way is just enter .mozilla or .thunderbird in your home folder (Ubuntu) and you will see something like this: j74hfhj.default. Open this folder and copy the entire contents into something to store it, then when ready to migrate simply paste into the same folder in your new version of either program. When asked, just replace or merge with whatever is already there. After installing each Mozilla app you have to open the program once to create this folder. In Ubuntu: home/name/.firefox/firefox/uf7sdkjr.default. I don't remember where this is located in windows, but it works just the same.

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