[xubuntu-users] How to organize your disk to simplify reinstalls (was: Re: Desktop fails to start after login - after 13.04 to 13.10 upgrade

Michael Shiloh michaelshiloh1010 at gmail.com
Fri Dec 27 22:26:07 UTC 2013

This is an excellent discussion, I have learned lots.

I too have been trying to figure out what to put things to simplify 
reinstalls or recovery.

I've been using Ubuntu One to back up all my files of importance, except 
for big files like pictures, music, and videos. Those get backed up to a 
local disk, along with my entire home directory.

I have one laptop at my workshop and one at home. They both sync the 
Ubuntu One directory, so I have a backup there, although I'm not 100% 
convinced that Ubuntu One syncs very well.

As Benjamin points out, the problem is the various local configuration 
files, e.g. .config and others. Some we want to keep, some we want to 
discard and rebuild.

Case in point: Before I understood how Thunderbird worked, I ended up 
with 3 different email folders, some of which are valuable archives of 
accounts I no longer have access to, others are duplicates of my active 
accounts and could be deleted. I use Thunderbird for all my email, so it 
has 4 active email accounts, and archives of several inactive accounts. 
Some day I need to sort this out, but meanwhile every time I re-install 
I just copy the whole mess over. It's a huge waste of space but doesn't 
really cause trouble.

I think what Benjamin (and me, and others) are getting to is that there 
is a while mess of dot files and dot directories, some of which we would 
like to copy and restore to a new installation, and others of which we 
would like to discard and recreate.

I think key to navigating this is understanding what all these files 
are, what programs or functions they belong to, whether they can be 
recreated or should be saved, whether they duplicate something that 
exists in the cloud, etc. etc.

Is anyone aware of an article that describes this?

Of course the combined wisdom of this mailing list embodies that 
information, which is one of the many reasons I subscribe and read. I 
thank you all for sharing your wisdom.


On 12/27/2013 01:48 PM, Benjamin Shadwick wrote:
> There's so much baggage stored in your home directory, though, that it
> seems like preserving it across a reinstall would negate half of the
> advantages of doing a reinstall in the first place.
> Case in point: Chris' issue was solved by getting rid of a corrupt xfce4
> config in his home directory. Chances are, if he had /home on a separate
> partition and reinstalled the OS, the problem would still be there.
> Personally, I just make backups of /home, /etc, and /opt (the latter being
> where I install stuff that doesn't come from an APT repo) to a remote drive
> (e.g. another computer on the LAN) so that I can hand-migrate stuff back
> after a reinstall.
> Regarding using synaptic to reinstall packages: Does it know to mark
> dependency packages as automatically installed, or does it end up marking
> everything as manually installed? I hate having dependencies listed as
> manually installed, because it means they don't then get removed if I
> remove the only packages that depend on them.
> On Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM, Cody Smith <cody.smith9202 at gmail.com>wrote:
>> also, on the subject of making reinstallations easier, a seperate /home
>> partition goes a long way. as for packages, synaptic has a method of
>> generating a list of installed packages that can be plugged into synaptic
>> on the new install so that it can install those packages again one go.
>> instructions here:
>> http://askubuntu.com/questions/168352/how-do-i-generate-a-package-download-list
>> just make sure to save the generated package list somewhere it won't be
>> lost in the reinstall, such as the /home partition.
>> --c_smith
>> On Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 12:37 PM, Benjamin Shadwick <benshadwick at gmail.com
>>> wrote:
>>> Closest thing I can find is ~/.cache/upstart/startxfce4.log or possible
>>> /var/log/lightdm/*.log, but I'm not sure how useful they are.
>>> On Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 11:31 AM, Chris Green <cl at isbd.net> wrote:
>>>> On Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 07:21:54PM +0000, Chris Green wrote:
>>>>>>     - While not logged into the GUI desktop, rename the
>>>> ~/.config/xfce4
>>>>>>     directory and then try to log into the desktop. This will result
>>>> in the
>>>>>>     use of default XFCE desktop settings for your account.
>>>>> OK, I'll try that.
>>>> ... and now I get a desktop after logging in!  :-)
>>>> Thank you, I'll have to recustomise it of course but that's not too much
>>>> work, it's not very intricately configured.
>>>> Is there any way to work out what broke things - i.e. is there some sort
>>>> of xcfe error log that will tell me what I broke?
>>>> --
>>>> Chris Green
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Michael Shiloh	

Arduino Education at Arduino.cc
Electronics, Robotics, Digital Fabrication, and Arduino educator
California College of the Arts
San Francisco Art Institute
San Francisco State University

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