how to backup and restore from a complete reinstall?

I upgraded by ubuntu 8.04 laptop installation to 8.10 a few weeks ago, and due to a pretty stupid move on my part (trying to move the laptop in the middle of the upgrade and losing power), I coudlnt get back into the OS and had to reformat the OS partition and do a clean install.  All my data was safe as it was intentionally stored on a seperate partition, but I had a complete waste of a day trying to reconfigure my firefox browser back to the state I am used to.

I didnt appreciate just how much I depend onit now, for saving passwords, updated scnaner ettings, bookmarks, quick links etc.  I certainly know now!

My question is this: if I had to do this again on the same machine, which directories in linux do I have to backup so that if I could recreate exectly the system I have now, armed only with the backup and a fresh ubuntu 8.10 OS CD?

Suggestions welcome pelase!

Lesson:  backup now.

BTW, I did use FEBE, but I couldnt restore from it.

  • Hi Adrian,

    the simplest way to deal with most of this is to put the /home area on a different partition of your hard disk. When you install Ubuntu, select the manual partition option. The general principles that work for most are something like this:

    first partition: (sda1 or hda1) is for your root partition. Make it about 10-15G and you will have loads of space.

    Next create a partition (ideally at the end of the disk) for your swap area and that is normally made to be about twice the size of the RAM.

    Then allocate the rest of the disk to /home.

    If you have “lots” of capacity, it is also nice to have a spare partition where you can install a different OS.

    This has several benefits:

    1. /home can be backed up independently of the OS and can even be mounted on a different machine if you wish (NFS).
    2. When you do a new install of the OS (or if you want to try Mandriva or Fedora etc…) you can mount /home during the install and *all* your settings:GUI look and feel, mail boxes, passwords, etc will be retained. This assumes you don’t blindly click past the “use the whole disk” option during the new install. Just be sure to take care.

  • That sounds too good to be true. The easiest thing for me to do is now just backup my /home directory in full to an external HDD, and if I ever have to do a reinstall, then I can just copy it back and keep all my settings.

    thanks Alan!

  • Yep. This is another great example of the way Linux/Unix systems have been designed for multi-user systems from the ground-up.

    Windows, on the other hand, spreads your data, personal settings and other pertinent stuff *all* over the hard disk. It’s a nightmare.

    The FHS and LSB try to keep:

    * all user’s settings in their respective home directories.
    * all system settings in /etc
    and keep binaries, libraries and log files in separate areas of the file system hierarchy too.

    It makes maintenance easier and enables the administrator to design the system for their environment: You can mount or store any directory structure on separate partitions and even mount them across the LAN.