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Since XP is no longer supported and I have no desire to enrich Mr. Gates any more by upgrading I have decided to take the plunge and run Ubuntu on my main home desktop. The goal here is to completely wipe my main drive and install Ubuntu. However, I have ammased quite a collection of photos and important documents on my drive and I need to backup and then restore them. These files are frankly scattered all over the place on my drive and it would likely take days to ensure I have them all backed up if I were to do it one folder at a time. I currently backup my files using Windows backup to a second hard drive. What I want to know is can I view the Windows backed up files in Ubuntu and then select the ones I need to restore? I'd like to be able to sort them by filetype and then choose the ones I want to restore. And what about specific Windows programs? For example, I have an extensive file on geneology using Family Tree Maker. Will I be able to access this file using Ubuntu? Is there frankly an easy way to do all this?

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What I want to know is can I view the Windows backed up files in Ubuntu and then select the ones I need to restore?

No / doubt it. These backups tend to be created for that specific program in Windows and have some form of encryption or compression. You need to restore the files you want in Windows and then copy them over to Ubuntu.

For example, I have an extensive file on geneology using Family Tree Maker. Will I be able to access this file using Ubuntu? Is there frankly an easy way to do all this?

No / doubt it. There are 3 programs that are about creating a family tree in Ubuntu: Gramps, Lifelines and Geneweb. But it would also mean you need to start from scratch.


Ubuntu is another operating system with its own methods of doing things. You need to unlearn everything you know about using your computer and re-learn the Ubuntu way. That also means that most of the data files will need to be created. If at all possible. jpegs, pngs etc are not a problem. xls(x), doc(x) are readable with OpenOffice with some restrictions (VB macro's do not work since there is no VB). So you will run into some challenges.

But there is a way to make the transition easier:

I would buy a new harddisk, make it the primairy disk, install it in your system, install Ubuntu on that new harddisk. Your Windows disc will be mounted automatically in Ubuntu and that way you can copy over any file from Windows to your Ubuntu system with the least amount of risk. And you can take your time copy'ing those files over.

If at any time you feel you need to go back to Windows take that new disc out and set your system up as it was before your inserted that disc.

You can do the same by clearing out parts of the current harddisk(s) and create unallocated space and install Ubuntu in the unallocated space. This will also get you a dual boot setup. This is more risky though: you can tell the installer to delete your Windows if you do this wrong. I would not do this without creating a backup (but since you said files are all across your system that might be daunting to do correctly).

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Just adding some additional considerations to Rinzwind's great answer:

  • Importing data files from Windows is easy as long as they are not in a very uncommon format.

    Pictures, videos, office documents and more can be opened and viewed right away (you will be prompted by the Ubuntu software for installing any missing components for closed source formats such as mp3 or video).

  • To test this just try out Ubuntu from an installation CD (or USB).

    Your Windows partition can be mounted and viewed. Files supported from the default Ubuntu applications will open from there on double-click.

  • Do not expect that a proprietary Windows backup/restore solution will be supported from Ubuntu.

    Files that are just copied to an external backup medium (hard drive, CD-ROM) can be easily imported however. Common compression formats will also be supported, hence you will be able to also unzip your ZIP archives.

  • Many but not all software has good and free alternatives in Ubuntu.

    In case any special software is not available or can not be replaced you may be able to still run it by installing the compatibility layer Wine. Some older program versions of Family Tree Maker were reported to perform well, but there is no guarantee for that. A better approach is converting your data to a natively supported genealogy software.

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