Install Ubuntu-MATE using the "Something else" method

Hi all,

this guide can be used on any Ubuntu based system and is intended for people who have a basic working knowledge of an Ubuntu installation and wish to keep the contents of their home folder after doing a re-install.

This guide is also intended for those that already have an existing swap, root and home partition setup!!.

If you have not done/never done any pre-partitioning, please see this guide about using Gparted partition editor:

See also:

People who have a PC/Notebook with UEFI, please see this link before commencing as it may be necessary to add a UEFI partition to your partition layout!:


If you are updating lets say Ubuntu 12.10 to 13.04, you can keep your "/home" as is without the need to format the home partition, do not however keep your home folder if you are changing from say Ubuntu 12.10 to PeppermintOS because the system configuration files may well cause a system crash or at least make the system unstable or even unuseable!.

If you are changing to a different distro then my advice is to format your "home" partition but make sure that you backup all your files before you do so; otherwise you will lose everything stored within the home partition!.

Follow the steps below and you should have all your data intact in your home folder without losing all your data from the original home folder!.

If your system has more than one drive... click on the triangle to expand this extra information

This section is an extra posted by alpinejohn

If your system has more than one drive you will need to know where the different parts of your system are spread accross the drives.

Let us assume in this example that your system has 2 drives e.g. a 120 GB SSD for the system and a 1TB spinning disk hard drive for your data.

The 3 most important components are (a) the SWAP partition, (b) the ROOT partition and (c) the HOME partition. To find out where they are located open a terminal (CTRL+ALT+T) and type
Your output will be something like fig. 1


Then type
lsblk -f


###Looking at figures 1 and 2

The drives and their partitions are presented as a tree-like structure. The useful columns are:

Figure 1: NAME - gives the name of the drive e.g. sda = storage device "a" N.B. sda1 = storage device "a", partion 1

SIZE - gives the size of the drive in GB
N.B you can tell the difference between the 120 GB SSD and the 1 TB HDD

TYPE - tells you if the listed item is a drive or a partition i.e. "disk" or "part"

MOUNTPOINT - the mount location
N.B. here is where you can read where your HOME (/home), SWAP ([SWAP]) and ROOT (/) are located

Figure 2:
FSTYPE - gives the type of file system
N.B. SWAP partitions have a special format

LABEL - gives the name of the drive, if it has one
N.B. I've attached an external USB-drive called "videosdrive" to demonstrate this

UUID - the UUID is a number used to identify information in computer systems. I've covered mine over as they are not relevant to this topic.

###Examining figure 1 tells us that:
sda is the 1 TB HDD disk
sdb is the 120 GB SSD disk
/home is located on partition sda1
[SWAP] is located on partition sdb1
/ is located on partition sdb5

###Examining figure 2 tells us that:
sda1 is formatted using the "ext4" file format
sdb1 is formatted using the "SWAP" file format
sdb5 is formatted using the "ext4" file format

###Use this information when following the rest of wolfman's guide.

Close the open terminal by typing

This is the end of the added section

Start the installer icon on the desktop and the Welcome Window will open.

Select your prefered language and click on "Continue".

Make sure you have an active internet connection and if you are using a notebook/netbook; that you have it plugged in to the mains and it is not running on battery power alone!.
Put a tick in both the boxes "Download updates while installing" and "Install this third-party software" and then click on "Continue":

At the screen "Installation type", select the "Something else" option and click on "Continue":

Assuming you already have a "swap" partition, there is no need to re-do it as it will be automatically detected by the system!!.

Make sure that the "Bootloader" is set to install to "/dev/sda" which is where the normal "Master Boot record" (Grub Bootloader) is contained!.

Now here you need to highlight the partition that you want to place your "root" ( / ) mountpoint, in my example; I highlighted partition "sda12" which already has Ubuntu 14.10 installed on it and for the purpose of this tutorial; is being erased:

Once the desired partition has been highlighted, click on the "Change" button and the "Edit partition" Window will open which is where you need to set your: File type- Mountpoint and Format option:

Now select "Use as" = Ext4
Format the partition = "Yes" (Put a tick in the box!)
Mountpoint = "/" (Forward slash)

Click on "OK" If you are certain that the changes you just made are correct. Remember that you cannot "UNDO" this operation once you commit and click on the "Continue" button in the next window:

After clicking "OK", this window will open an all you need to do is click on "Continue":

Now select (highlight) the partition you want to use as your home and click on "Change":

Now select "Use as" = Ext4
Format the partition = "NO" (DON'T PUT A TICK IN THE BOX!)
Mountpoint = "/home" (Forward slash and the word "home")

Click on "OK" if you are certain that the changes you just made are correct:

Click on "Install Now" when you are happy that everything is as you want it!. Check that the boot loader is set to the correct HDD, that is to say, your internal hard drive and not an external hard drive unless that is your intention!, the normal location for the boot loader is "/dev/sda". If you have a UEFI boot loader partition, direct it to that particular partition!.


You will get a final warning, click on “Continue”:

Select your region and click on "Continue":

Select your keyboard layout, test it if you wish and click on "Continue":

Who are you?. Enter the required details and click on "Continue:
(I advise you not to encrypt your home folder as this has led to problems in the past with Ubuntu based systems!)

Wait for the installation to finish:

Installation Complete > click on "Restart Now":

A suggestion from me: Restart in "Recovery Mode":

Immediately after installing your system; I recommend booting into "Recovery Mode" (don't do a first boot but boot straight into "Recovery Mode") select "Network" and run "dpkg" using a cable connection, once you have run dpkg; and you re-boot, set your "Software Sources" (see update link below) list and update again due to the changes made to the software sources lists!!. DO NOT CLICK ON "RESUME" BUT RESTART USING "CTRL + ALT + DEL BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE HAD ANY UPDATES FOR YOUR GRAPHICS CARD; IT WILL LEAD TO SEVERE PROBLEMS WITH YOUR GRAPHICS IF YOU DON'T!.
(I know this may sound strange but its something I found that seems to work well for me!.)

Ubuntu Update Guide link:

To further speed up your re-installation process, after your first boot and you ran "dpkg" per my recommendation above, run a meta command in the terminal with a pre-written favourite package list like the example below (make a copy and save for future use!):

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install synaptic shutter gparted gpart xsane hplip-gui deluge bleachbit libreoffice me-tv kaffeine linux-firmware-nonfree devede handbrake libxine2-all-plugins transcode ubuntu-restricted-extras vamps videotrans playonlinux mono-complete p7zip-rar winbind kshisen amarok kontact skype faac flac chameleon-cursor-theme clamtk mate-desktop-environment-extras alien k3b chromium-browser pepperflashplugin-nonfree poedit git

The above is just an EXAMPLE, make a list of your own favs!.

I hope this is of help to you.

Regards Wolfman :smile:

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Would you mind if I give you some info to add to this, that I learned the hard way, about installing UM along side Windows? There are some more specific things that have to be done in order for both to be able to work. Otherwise you totally frag both OS installs, although it’s far easier to recover UM than Windows. Personally, I think Windows is a Fking Spoiled Brat that needs a beating.

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if you have any advice that will help others, be all means share it so it will help everyone!.

What tips do you have?. :smiley:

When installing this way - a new version of the same os, not a distribution switch - Shall I delete the hidden folders like .config or .local in the home partition or leave them?

You don’t need to mess with any files as all the important ones will be dealt with by the installer, by not formatting your home, all your data is kept intact, this will include your music, documents, pictures and any other folders you may have manually created including your system settings!. :smiley:

You will still have to re-install any apps you would normally install, if you are a clever, you can create a “meta” terminal command which will do that for you, see the following example and don’t forget to save the command as a LibreOffice doc on an external memory stick!:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install synaptic shutter gparted gpart xsane hplip-gui deluge pepperflashplugin-nonfree bleachbit libreoffice me-tv kaffeine linux-firmware-nonfree devede handbrake libxine2-all-plugins transcode ubuntu-restricted-extras vamps videotrans playonlinux mono-complete p7zip-rar winbind kshisen amarok kontact skype faac flac chameleon-cursor-theme clamtk mate-desktop-environment-extras alien k3b chromium-browser browser-plugin-freshplayer-pepperflash nvidia-352

My setup for partitions is an Ext4 partition for root, an extended partition with a smaller-than-average Ext4 partition for home, and other data goes into an NTFS partition. Some symbolic links later, and stuff is being saved to the NTFS partition when I select any of the folders I store my crap on.

IN hindsight, I should had also made the first partition extended as well, just so I can stuff in a 1GB Fat32 partition for Clonezilla.

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Replying to myself, the above setup makes absolutely no sense for somebody not using Windows. But if you are going to be taking a USB drive over to somebody’s house, or going to a library, using NTFS is the safest possible bet, unless that place also happens to use a Mac, in that case the format that is most compatible would be ExFAT. Shame I seem to have trouble making a usable ExFAT directory in GParted, I am either missing some libs or I need to format the partition in Windows to make it ExFAT

Have you tried using NTFS format?. :smiley:

I had. I was playing with exFAT, seems I was better off leaving everything alone; if I wanted full, all-around compatibility with every mainstream OS I’d need to make an extended part for system and home, then another extended part for a large NTFS partition and a smaller exFAT partition I can move stuff into whenever I happen to need it.

exFAT doesn’t support symbolic links, sadly.

If you open Synaptic (assuming you have it installed), search for "gparted" and then right click the package and look for all the other packages available for installation, you will have to click them one at a time to install them.

If you don't have Synaptic installed but want it, open a terminal (Ctrl + Alt + t) and paste the following command:

sudo apt-get install synaptic

Check out the partition guide too!. :smiley:

GParted partition guide for Linux and Windows users

Many times if you simply type the name of the software into a terminal you will be prompted on the exact syntax to install the package. I find this method much faster that launching synaptic or software center. Of course one needs to know the exact name of the software!

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Huh? I was already tooling around with that stuff long before you suggested it. I had to install gnome-disk-utility just so I can execute gnome-disks and make an exFAT partition through there.

It was long after I did that and moved my stuff over to it, I discovered the error of my ways; I could use xdg-user-dirs to set my folders to that partition, but there are some things I wouldn’t be able to do, such as link stuff from Dropbox or other applications from the exFAT partition into my home.

The way I am doing things now allows me to get away with a paltry 32GB for home, which is pretty scant for somebody who does stuff with various media consumption and creation tools but if something in my home directory is getting a little cramped, I can just move it off to the NTFS partition and link from that into home.

Nice guide wolfman. :slight_smile: Got some question though, I want to install Ubuntu Mate on an external Hard Drive, and I don’t want to put Grub on my C: Drive. So if the external hard drive is unplugged I can boot directly to windows without seeing the grub bootloader, and if I connect it I can choose it with the windows bootloader by pressing F12. What do I need to do to make this possible?

BTW, I already have grub installed, so the proper way to remove it on a windows 10 machine is making a recovery drive, on the repair option use the command prompt and type “bootrec/fixmbr” correct?

Hi @Cold,

I would use this tool myself:

Please start a new thread if you have any further questions about Grub and look at the following links too:

Hi Wolfman, Great guide, but I have a small question.
I’m currently using unity 14.04, and have a separate home partition.
Is it safe to install mate 16 without formatting the home partition?

Hi @decrepit,

I would say it is safe but what I would do in your case is install the Mate de on top of Unity, that way you can keep everything you want in a safe fashion, upgrade Unity to 16.04 first and do the normal updates, then install the complete Mate de on top with the following terminal command:

sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment-core mate-desktop-environment-extras

That should install all you need but I am not sure about things like “Welcome” or other things that the devs included in the pure Ubuntu Mate version!, log out and back in again after selecting the Mate de at the login window!. :smiley:

You can throw caution to the wind and simply try keeping your Unity home folder as is and install per the instructions above, I cannot say whether or not it will create a problem though so on your head be it!. :smiley:


As far as I am aware, Ubuntu Mate will/should overwrite the Unity config files but I am not 100% certain, maybe one of the devs can answer that, I seem to remember doing it in the past and I don’t remember having a problem!. :smiley:

I hope it helps. :smiley:

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Thanks for the quick reply wolfman, I’ll thing about your two options, and get back with the results of whichever way I go.

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See my post at the bottom of this thread @decrepit

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Also, I just did a bit of reverse engineering and installed Ubuntu 16.04 (on my test partition) leaving the Ubuntu Mate 16.04 home partition intact and did as I described to you earlier about taking a chance (on love) and installed Mate on top of Unity, the only thing left to do was to install the "Welcome" app, you can install all the Mate stuff with one command!:

sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment-core mate-desktop-environment-extras ubuntu-mate-welcome

and then click on "Subscribe to Welcome updates" after starting Welcome. :smiley:

All my FireFox bookmarks and other things were intact no problem and I have not had any problems with the system thus far!.

Good luck!. :smiley:

I have noticed a difference in the updates received from laptop [UM 16.04 direct install] and desktop [MATE desktop added to Ubuntu 16.04] - the difference is somewhat subjective - when laptop received updates sometimes desktop did not. Since both are in a test partition and 16 had not been released I didn’t persue the delta