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First of all, I'm very new to this forum. I'm not very proficient with Linux but I'm not completely new either. I got my girlfriend to use Linux because she ...
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  1. #1
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    What to reformat when switching linux distributions


    First of all, I'm very new to this forum.

    I'm not very proficient with Linux but I'm not completely new either.
    I got my girlfriend to use Linux because she was sick of windows. I set it all up for her, including fully partitioning her system. I made the following partitions:
    /
    /boot
    /swap
    /tmp
    /var
    /opt
    /usr
    /home

    She's been using the distribution I gave her for a while now, but it's not exactly what we were looking for(slow, buggy etc). I'm planning on switching to a different distribution tonight and I would like to keep things the way she has them for the most part. There isn't too much on it, but there are some files and programs--some which I had to install from source--that it would be nice to keep.

    My question is: why partitions do I need to reformat, and which ones can I leave alone?
    I suppose I should ask if it's even possible to do what I want first. If it isn't, ignore the first questions.

    I'm guessing that I want to leave /home, /usr, /boot alone and reformat /root for sure, but I don't know about the others.

    I really appreciate any/all input. I'm sure this is a great community!

  2. #2
    Linux Newbie sdimhoff's Avatar
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    Hi tessseract, welcome to linux forums!

    In your case you want to switch from one distribution to another. Deciding which partitions you should keep intact is partly up to preference and partly up to the distribution. You have to keep in mind that each distribution in itself is its own distribution, but in some instances you may be using the same "under the hood" config files (e.g. switching between distros that are both debian based...) Here are my recommendations

    1.) You can keep your /home and swap paritions for sure. The only catch in keeping your exact home partition is that there may be config files which you don't need in the new one (this is pretty minor and can to some extent be ignored). Your swap partition is absolutely fine to switch back and forth between distributions.

    2.) /tmp should be used for exactly what it is meant to be used for... temporary files. Unless you are using /tmp for something abnormal, anything in this partition should be expendable... delete it or not, you shouldn't be losing anything important (this does not mean that you shouldn't look through it to make sure there isn't anything important in there)

    3.) Your / partition will most likely have the same structure between distributions, but I would say you should probably have the new distro write to it how it wants.

    4.) Your /boot partition doesn't have much that you need to save in it, and you should probably write over it. You should probably keep a copy of your lilo or grub config file to refer to later, but other than that it should be expendable.

    5.) Other than those I've listed, you should probably let the new distribution re-write. However I would recommend keeping backup copies of your important config files. (e.g. /etc/samba/smb.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/fstab ....) These are things that generally get rewritten, but you should keep a working reference around.

    6.) I'm not sure how you installed your "from source" programs, but I always try to unpack them in /home/<user> or /usr/local. You should keep the binaries or tar files from these installations, but don't 100% count on them working from distribution to distribution.

    In essence you need to separate your files into 3 categories. 1.) Data which can be transfered between any OS (most things in /home/) 2.) Files which you should keep backups of in order to troubleshoot your new installation (/etc/X11/xorg) and 3.) distribution specific system files.

    Hope this helps, but in the end this process will require you to make decisions on what will need to be backed up and what should not be.
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  3. #3
    oz
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    Welcome to the forums!

    Try the PartMagic LiveCD for working with your partitions. It's a small download and quick burn to disk, and is very easy to use.

    I generally only make / , swap , and /home partitions. You can do it with all the others if you need them, or you just want them for some reason.
    oz

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    sdimhoff ~ Thanks a bunch for your quick and helpful response.

    To clear a couple things up(which I probably should have done in the first place)--we're switching from the newest version of openSUSE to Debian. That means that the "under the hood stuff" should be different(correct?).

    My biggest question is about the /boot partition. I also probably should have mentioned that windows is still on her computer so I set up a dual boot using GRUB. I did make a backup of the menu.lst and fstab files. So am I correct in my understanding that I should reformat and simply re-setup my /boot partition when I install debian?

    From source I just meant that I had to actually compile them the old fashioned way. Nothing too bad(a couple dependencies...), but it would be easier if I didn't have to do it again. However, I suppose the apt-get thing might make that irrelevant.

    From reading your post, here is what I think I should do:
    / ~ reformat
    /boot ~ reformat
    /swap ~ doesn't matter
    /tmp ~ reformat. As you mentioned, I don't have anything on there anyway.
    /var ~ leave alone?
    /opt ~ leave alone?
    /usr ~ leave alone?
    /home ~ leave alone?

    I feel a bit embarrassed and disappointed for not mentioning some of these things earlier. I do support myself(for Mac's) and I am always ranting about people not giving enough information. I didn't mention the two distributions by name because in my experience it always starts a huge flame war(***I can't believe you're leaving SUSE for Debian!!!***), but I guess it was more relevant than I thought. As for the dual boot... I guess I didn't think I was going to need to reformat my boot partition.

    Anyway, thanks again for all the help. Maybe someday I'll be able to pass along the information myself!

  5. #5
    Administrator MikeTbob's Avatar
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    This is just my opinion but I'd Format everything except for /home. Sometimes stuff gets installed into /opt, like Java, format it.
    /var is where log files are kept, you really shouldn't want these anymore.
    I don't know about /usr, I don't/haven't created one yet.
    /boot is pretty obvious, format it unless you want to keep old kernels on hand. I like deleting stuff anyhow, and you just know if you don't format these partitions, it's more than likely going to come back and bite you on the tail end.
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  6. #6
    Super Moderator devils casper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tessseract
    To clear a couple things up(which I probably should have done in the first place)--we're switching from the newest version of openSUSE to Debian. That means that the "under the hood stuff" should be different(correct?).
    I would suggest you to backup data, remove all Linux Partitions and create three new partitions only.
    /, /home and SWAP.
    SuSe is RPM based and Debian uses .deb pacakges only. Install Debian from scracth.
    Quote Originally Posted by tessseract
    My biggest question is about the /boot partition. I also probably should have mentioned that windows is still on her computer so I set up a dual boot using GRUB. I did make a backup of the menu.lst and fstab files. So am I correct in my understanding that I should reformat and simply re-setup my /boot partition when I install debian?
    As I mentioned earlier, there is no need of /boot partition. If you dont touch Windows OS partition(s), nothing will go wrong with Windows OS. Debian installer will detect it and setup dual boot itself.
    It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
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