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I currently have Ubuntu 12.04 LTS for my workstation. I received the automatic notice to prompt me to upgrade to Ubuntu 14.04. If I do this (upgrade the OS to Ubuntu 14.04), will my files be erased or damaged? Will my installed software be erased or damaged? Should I do a backup before doing it?

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NO it will not delete or damage your files. But having a backup is never wrong. In rare cases the upgrade will fail. I mostly re-install Ubuntu from scratch instead of jumping from 12.04 to 14.04.

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