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NOTE - Title should be changed to something more into what am asking...

There are 2 cases I have seen when upgrading someone from the previous version of Ubuntu to the latest.

  1. When the user has not even done an update for a while so now he/she has the updates for that version of Ubuntu and also the Distribution upgrade pending.

  2. The user is up to date with all the updates for that particular version of Ubuntu and only needs to upgrade to the new distribution version.

I always recommend updating every package and THEN upgrading to the new distribution (Just in case, maybe it's me but I feel safer this way. It is more logical I guess). But what would happened or if it possible to upgrade to the latest distribution without first updating the packages for the version of Ubuntu used in that case. Let us put a scenario:

Sam has 11.04 updated until August. After that he simply decided not to keep updating the 11.04 packages. 11.10 arrives and now the big NEW 11.10 DISTRIBUTION VERSION AVAILABLE!!! DOWNLOAD NOW!! FREE WITH 2 BEERS FROM BRUNO PEREIRA!. So now Sam has 2 options, either update all packages of 11.04 and the upgrade to 11.10 or just upgrade to 11.10. What positive/negative feedback can Sam get with using one of the 2 forms.

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Well, as you probably know, upgrades of any OS should not be done lightly and you want them to go as smooth as possible.

Honestly my advice is :

  1. Back up your data first. This includes making a list of all installed packages, $HOME, and any configuration files you manually edited in /etc/ or elsewhere. Server side it is going to include backing up databases and configuration files. See this link for details on generating a package list

  2. Read the release notes. The release notes list known problems and give advice. Oneiric Release Notes

  3. I always boot the new version as a live CD first. I want to identify any potential problems with my hardware BEFORE I upgrade.

  4. To answer your question, yes I always upgrade all the packages installed on the system first, then upgrade the distribution. sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -> reboot -> then upgrade to new release.

If all those steps seem like too much hassle, it is often easier to make a separate /home partition, back up /home, test the new version, and do a fresh install.

Skipping any of the above steps is, IMO, asking for problems.

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