I am currently using Ubuntu 11.10 . In a few weeks I plan to upgrade to 12.04. However, I have heard that upgrade can result in a broken system. So, I thought to make a clean install without formatting because I have heard that it reinstalls your system files and deletes your programs but your personal files and program preferences, which are in /home, are not deleted.

How about upgrading and, if something goes wrong, make a clean install without formatting? What are the differences between upgrade and clean install without formatting?


3 Answers 3



Firstly let me explain you what Upgrade means and what Fresh Install means.


Upgrade means your system will be updated to the newest resources,applications,libraries,Kernel versions and will have the latest Patches to various software BUT your data that was there in your /home folder will remain intact.


Fresh install means your system will be updated to the newest resources,applications,libraries,Kernel versions and will have the latest Patches to various software BUT your data in /home will be completely lost because fresh install is nothing but installing a new OS.

Now,about your doubt about broken packages in upgrades,

This problem generally occurs when you upgrade online using the UPGRADE TOOL.

One way to avoid this is to burn an ISO immage on to a CD/USB making it bootable and then UPGRADING instead of INSTALLING FRESH

When you boot the CD/USB you have created and click on INSTALL on the first screen,next you will get a screen asking for -

  1. REPLACE 11.10 WITH 12.04
  2. UPGRADE 11.10 to 12.04

If you select the 2nd option,you will have the benefit of UPGRADING with very less risk of Broken Packages

Always remember to select to INSTALL 3rd PARTY SOFTWARE and UPDATE DURING INSTALLING when you start the install. This further reduces the risk of broken packages later.


Needless to tell,backup all your data.

Hope the answer helps you.

  • Question: I dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.10 . Will the options 1 or 2 change the partitions in any way?
    – user64386
    May 18, 2012 at 10:25
  • NO. the partitions wont change.In both the cases,only the space that 11.10 is currently using will be reused(in case of option1) or updated(for option 2)
    – Nirmik
    May 18, 2012 at 10:29
  • Do accept the answer if helps you in the correct direction for ease of further users.
    – Nirmik
    May 18, 2012 at 10:36
  • best luck for the upgrade.Happy the answer helped :)
    – Nirmik
    May 18, 2012 at 10:42
  • @Nirmik, since only /home remains intact, cmd line tools that are installed on other locations are deleted? Also, what about proprietary drivers?
    – latusaki
    Mar 17, 2014 at 20:58

Upgrading has been causing much trouble to many. The advantage of upgrading is that not only does it preserve your files and folders, but it also upgrades your system as well all the softwares in it to the 12.04 version.

However, doing a clean install without formatting your /home partition (hoping you have a separate partition for it) will not have the softwares of your previous Ubuntu version. Even though it will install cleanly usually without causing much trouble, you will be left with a 'clean' machine.

There is a work around for this however. It is as follows:

  1. First you have to know which all packages are installed in your 10.04. For that you can do

sudo dpkg --get-selections "*" > pack_file

After running that, you will have the names of all the packages in 10.04 in the file called ‘pack_file’.

  1. Transfer that file to 12.04 and run the following commands

sudo apt-get update

sudo dpkg --set-selections < pack_file

sudo apt-get -u dselect-upgrade

This will fetch all the packages as well as their dependencies and install it on your system.

So you have upgraded you system without directly issuing an 'upgrade'! Refer to the following post for details:



As far as I understand, you don't have different partitions for / and /home. The safest way to go, imho, is to just backup your home folder to an external drive and do a clean install (w/ formatting).

There was another answer on a similar question, which you could view here, but I'm not sure that'll actually work, since I never tried it myself.

There's also a question of what happens with all your installed software and configuration files (stored in /etc). On an upgrade they're kept, but on a clean install, you start from scratch. So you have to reinstall and reconfigure everything.

If you didn't do extensive customization of your installed software, I would recommend going for a clean install. It's a lot easier to reinstall whatever apps you are using instead of trying to fix a broken system.

Please note: it's always a good idea to backup your files before doing any system (re)install. If something can go wrong, there's a big chance it actually will.


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