I'd like to test out a new Linux distro (Arch-based) by replacing a partition that already has Ubuntu on it. I wouldn't like to lose all my files, and know that it would be easy to back up all the files temorariliy and then do a fresh install. However, since Linux distros tends to use the same structure generally (e.g. using /usr, /home, etc) would it be possible to just change the operating system without having to overwrite these things?

Thank you!


No, although the file names and directory structure is similar, it is not exact across distros. In addition the libs are again similar, but different enough that you can not preserve all your system files.

Obviously some system files are going to be the same, but not enough similarity to do as you propose.

Best to back up your data in $HOME and any system files you edited.

Why not dual boot,try running a new distro live, see if you like it. Or use virtualization such as KVM or Virtualbox?

  • +1 I would like to second the Virtualbox method. While performance will be reduced, you can get the "feel" of the system to see if you like it with no uninstall pain. Live media or dual booting is good to but not sure how easy it is to set up in an "Arch-based" distro. (it may not be hard, I have no experience with Arch, I only know it's reputation as a DIY install) – TrailRider May 24 '13 at 23:08

I know this is probably after the fact, but distro hopping is a really good reason for putting /home on it's own partition. Easiest solution for now and the future is to backup, install whatever distro you want (putting /home on it's own partition) and restoring. That way when you want to switch again you don't have to mess around too much.

  • So if I move my /home directory onto another partition, then will it be completley safe to distro hop, files-wise? I know I should back up anyway just in case, but theoretically it's fine? – Muhammad Khan May 25 '13 at 4:23
  • Pretty much, at least it is easier. Just be careful when you install. For example, installing ubuntu you would not select the "install ubuntu along side xxx" or whatever, but go to the "something else" selection instead, give / the partition you are sacrificing and format it, and give /home your home directory WITHOUT formating it.... Bear in mind that this is no replacement for backing stuff up. – Scott Goodgame May 27 '13 at 1:06

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