Severe upgrade disappointments

A bit of background in hopes that I can have the rest of this make any sense to other folks here:

I actually provide the support for a bunch of former windows users after setting them up with U/M.

They are very content with their PCs & generally speaking I am able to find whatever info I need if/when any problem may arise (seldom !!) - thus I post here ONLY if I am totally lost for finding workable answers.

Lately I've completed a bunch of upgrades from 18.04.x to 20.04.2 for other folks' PCs.
Most went along just fine despite being quite time consuming & with good results.

I did run into a couple of instances which got very sticky as well, so I used alternate methods - the worst of which was actually wiping & totally starting over with a fresh installation of 20.04.2.

Tonight however was absolutely THE WORST experience of them all, sadly.

Given that today was a holiday here, I cleared all my earlier work & finally did this upgrade for my own desktop...and it failed to fully boot up afterwards.

It only got as far as the desktop wallpaper with a mouse arrow that alternated with the spinny cursor & there it stayed no matter for how long - and was otherwise totally unresponsive.

Fortunately - since I was aware that it could go fubar like those couple of others did, I had used an identically sized HDD beforehand & totally cloned my daily driver PC's entire OS & data - then tested it on my spare box to be 100% sure it was as it should be - which it was.

So, when my own PC's upgrade went totally fubar, I just deleted & re-copied in /boot & / and here I am, right back where I began before I'd wasted far too many hours on this absurdity of an attempted upgrade.

Yes - I have many apps & have made this PC's OS very much my own;
Up 'till this botch it was working perfectly each & every single day, so:
It can stay as it is so that I don't get stuck like that again - and...
Later I'll re-create my preferred configuration on my spare box as time allows with 20.04.2 then freshly installed as its base.

All that having been said - after doing lots of these upgrades - and after looking for any simpler ways to go about it - I have some questions which I have not found helpful answers for, please:

1 - Knowing I might need it, I got the 20.04.2 ISO & had it near to hand - so just for yuks (as the answer was already in mind...) I did a live boot of it with another 18.04 setup connected to see what it might offer.
No direct route from that session to any upgrading was obvious - just as I expected.
I had read before that it could be done by doing an over-install whilst preserving /home & then reinstalling needed apps - so I tried that - and frankly saw zero advantages after the efforts needed in doing it that way !!

Short of making some local server with the repos, etc. in it - it there any method to do multiple upgrades SIMPLY & EASILY via some local media so as to avoid doing the downloading process for EVERY upgrade over & over & over ??

Query 2:
Is there some sort of upgrade data or media that can be gotten that is intended JUST for upgrading an existing system ??

Query 3:
Short of doing all the careful preparation & steps that I did for this roll-back, is there some better method for recovering from a botched upgrade that refuses to boot fully and is totally unresponsive ??

I did consider entering recovery mode and playing around with that & DPKG, etc. - but since I actually needed to get back to work tonight I had already wasted FAR more time on the botch than it deserved, so I did not try any of that sort of stuff.

My closing comment:
This result is the sort of thing that has folks pointing to Linux in general as being too fiddly and/or techie.

Even with my years of being a very happy & satisfied Linux user this seriously messed with me 'cuz it SHOULD have gone flawlessly - but did not even come close to that after I wasted too much of my day patiently trying to get through the process.

Thanks for any helpful pointers in reply !!

This may not provide any direct answer to your questions, but I am curious if you are able to restore from a backup with the Backups utility in UM the same way you can with macOS and Time Machine.

That does remind me, I probably set that up on mine...

Hello computerguy

Have you seen this post:

If not, I suggest you read it until the end of the first, long and detailed post, by Wolfman. It may give you some ideas as to how you may be able to simplify the path to an easier upgrade-process. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks for your replies folks !!

I have used that built-in thing before & found that it falls short of fulfilling my needs.

Thanks for your suggestion @Alpinejohn !!
Your reminder worked in showing me that I have visited that thread several times before.

Any system I work upon has at least 3 partitions:
/ /boot & /home
(My own PC has more than those...)

The 'something else' method is OK as it goes - and I also use... (when it actually works correctly) Aptik.
It does a pretty good job of restoring needed apps, but I have seen that even Aptik is not 100% dependable.

As inferred in the OP, it is a disappointment to have such a great OS & distro that can sometimes fail so spectacularly in upgrading itself.

Frankly also:
The PC for which I had to re-install 100% fresh at least wasted less time in refusing to upgrade at all - which IMO is better than wasting hours & answering all the pop-up choices then having an inoperative PC as the ONLY result of the time & efforts wasted.

That PC just threw up a nebulous & misleading error that nobody has found a solution to yet;
None of the suggested paths to making it right were any help & many folks had commented to that effect as well.

Sure - it took me quite a bit of time & effort to totally start over with that PC and in the process I was thankfully able to add the renewed/updated Systemback and thus now have a sort of 'template' bootable image which can very easily & quickly create such a system anytime it may be needed.

-IF- the cautionary step which had me create a full clone BEFORE the nasty botch had been foolishly bypassed by me, then right now I'd be totally furious at having lost a good & fully functioning daily use PC JUST BECAUSE of being foolish enough to trust the official upgrade process 100%.

I'm glad to know better - but still NOT thrilled at having my time & efforts wasted on something that is 'sometimey' from what I have seen personally of its results.

Thanks again for the replies !!

Hello computerguy

In my personal experience (a) an Ubuntu-Mate computer with one drive and one partition upgrades successfully using 'dist-upgrade' in a terminal, (b) on machines with either multiple drives and or partitions I upgrade by doing a fresh install and leaving the '/home' alone. I use/support intel cpu machines at this point in time.

Observation (strange but true): following path (b) on one machine going from 18.04 to 20.04, the fresh install changed the computer booting from bios to efi. Until I realised what was happening I was struggling. I wonder if that was in part due to a firmware upgrade. For 22.04 it will be a manual fresh install on that machine, using a 'Grsync'-backup of the '/home'. :slightly_smiling_face:

Fascinating info Alpinejohn - huge thanks !!
All the PCs I work with have the same essential multi-partition setup, none use UEFI at all, and most are AMD based.

The only huge difference I see here for me is that my own most needed PC has 2 HDDs - so:
I may clone (again...) the backup/clone drive, then just for yuks try doing the upgrade on that alone via my spare box to see if it goes fubar again - but if/when that time comes, I'll -not- be without my work box at all, which will allow me to do it as a less attention demanding task.

My main gripe about doing any fresh install then adding /home back in is the extra work of re-installing other apps - which can be a nuisance.

Aside of that - 20.04 unilaterally included medit as having to be removed without any choice in the matter - and that is an app I use endlessly & daily because it really is the best text editor I've yet to find - especially with its superb session support.

Anyhow - I'd still really appreciate if there could be some media and/or method to streamline updating a bunch of PCs for all the reasons I cited in the OP.



I may have an answer.
I separate my /home and '/' partitions i thinking that I can just wipe '/';
use 'something else' which the installer gets to the partitions and then do manually.

That works great.
some of the dot directories - like .config screwed up the install.
At least I think so.
So my order is:
save address books and bookmarks
backup /home
rm -fr .bashrc .config .dmrc
do the install

This works for me.
manually restore mail stuff and bookmark

Since I last replied here & in light of the info which Alpinejohn provided so helpfully - I did clone my OS's partitions, did my usual maintenance steps, then proceeded with the 18.04=>20.04 upgrade.

It did (eventually) complete that process and I am sad to report that it did the same exact useless foolishness as when it was last attempted upon my daily driver PC.

After the required reboot=>
It arrived (sort of...) at the desktop, loaded the background as it should - no panel or desktop icons - had the endlessly spinning mouse cursor - and was otherwise totally unresponsive.

The only thing it seemed to do quite well from that point onward was pretty much to endlessly thrash the HDD.


Rather than wasting more of my life, time & efforts upon this, I'll now simply wipe that HDD & be endlessly thankful to have created good system images of my perfectly good & reliable 18.04 via Systemback BEFORE this latest abortive attempt.

Personal conclusion:
Having done a bunch of these upgrades with several which were extra troublesome, 1 that had me totally recreating the desired OS & environment & total failures repeatably with my own PC...

IMO this particular version upgrade is too finicky to consider as being reliable.

You can consider using btrfs or zfs, which will go a very long way in allowing you to boot into the pre upgraded system.

You can clone before upgrade, which you had the good forsight to do. Always advisable.

If the failed upgrade has impacted you so badly, you can use another OS, by which I mean windows. No, I am not being patronising, there is no shame in using whatever tool serves you best. Be aware though, that Windows updates can leave you hanging also.

I stick with UM because it is open source, Ubuntu based, it's quite lightweight and very responsive on my setup and in the main has excellent community support.

You can consider using snap versions of software if possible, I also make heavy use of LXD.

No development team can cover every use case, so look through your logs and try to figure out where the upgrade failed. This can be difficult, but can provide useful info to feedback to the developers.

Personally, I run each LTS for the full 3 years then do a fresh install of the next on another partition. My docs, photos etc live on another partition. Takes me a few weeks to slowly reinstall programs as I need them and it's a great opportunity to try out new ones.

Thanks Very Much for the giggles here Thehatterman !!

As stated by me many times - I am done with with that 'other OS', thanks:

If the failed upgrade has impacted you so badly, you can use another OS, by which I mean windows. No, I am not being patronising, there is no shame in using whatever tool serves you best.

To clarify - it has NOT impacted me badly AT ALL - it did waste my time & efforts, which I do object to.

Here, I am expressing my disappointment specifically directed at a .2 LTS release upgrade mainly because it needs to display some HUGE WARNINGS for upgraders, and it does not do that very well at all.

I did my 20+ years of supporting many, many M$ users - and cautioning said users NOT to -ever- 'trust M$' - and that work ended due to all the abortions posing as OSes they released after XP:

Be aware though, that Windows updates can leave you hanging also.

And my users ALWAYS had that update baloney intentionally shut off for that very reason !!

I see no advantages in snaps, personally:

You can consider using snap versions of software if possible, I also make heavy use of LXD.

And using snaps would not have been likely to alleviate whatever was behind the 100% unusable post-upgrade state either.

I do use APPIMAGES whenever possible & find that many are quite well made.

As to LXD - I may use it at some point;
I do have some VMWare & VMs, but it all mostly just sits there because WINE really does all the extra (non-Linux) stuff that I may need.

Yes, separate partitions are the ONLY way to go IMO:

My docs, photos etc live on another partition.

As I said above - this upgrade should have HUGE flashing warnings for upgraders BEFORE the process can even be started.

I've done so many version upgrades since 11.04 that I cannot even say how many.
ALL of those went flawlessly up until this one, AND:
Even when it completes successfully it breaks too many things - like Zerotier - which was 100% perfect under 18.04 all the way to 18.04.5 - but now cannot even be made to work AT ALL.
(It also breaks Systemback - which I've used under 18.04.5 to PROTECT from the very mishap detailed herein.)

My Linux exposure dates back to the era of BBSs, when the internet had been born, but was mostly unknown yet.

I spent loads of time testing & re-testing distros until Ubuntu finally crossed into the wonderful measure I had been watching for in Linux, generally...
The ability to be 'grandpa friendly'.

Right after that amazing time around version 11.04, I switched an 80+ y/o man's PC from XP to Ubuntu - and he was thrilled with it.
He literally used Linux ONLY until he left this world - and with no troubles at all.

My favourite comment from him about Linux was this:
'YAY !! No more yearly antivirus tax to pay !!!'

I have been called a Linux fanatic - and that seems a bit extreme to me, but I do not complain if someone wishes to label me that way.

Regarding Systemback, please see -

where Norbert states that it is solidly broken.


I posted my findings as well, here:

1 Like

Another thing I would consider given this situation is ESM - if it can be used somehow...

I tried using the free version & got the token here:

Which says=>

Your free personal subscription
Anyone can use UA Infrastructure Essential for free on up to 3 machines (limitations apply).

But it also says=>

Initially, this free subscription is available for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS only.

I did get Livepatch activated, and sudo ua status tells me=>
esm: disabled (not available)

So then in looking at the paid ESM, here:

It tells me=>

1x UA Infrastructure - Essential (Desktop) - $25.00 / year

Which is quite attractive for now, all things considered, but I've no idea whether it is useful with U/M.

Has anyone else here made use of this service with success on U/M 18.04.5 ??

Thanks for any helpful replies !!

Ferrrry Eeeenterestink !!

I posted my latest query here ~4 days back AFTER emailing the Canonical folks asking how to get & use ESM.

Neither effort has brought me any new info.

The absence of more info seems to point out that nobody here has tried this to keep 18.04.x, AND - that Canonical really cannot be bothered to help out users who may wish to throw money at them in the interests of continuity.

As Mr. Spock was known to say:

OK for now - sort of...what a confusing subject !!

After I responded to one of their marketing email addresses & added 'support' to it, they replied to my query within hours - amazing & maybe that is because their web contact form is inoperative or ignored ??

Here is what they told me:

Thank you for your email. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is still in its standard
support till April 2023. After that, 18.04 will go into the Extended
Security Maintenance for another 5 years till April 2028.

So therefore I now conclude...
Big whoopty-doo.
There is absolutely zero hurry or any necessity a'tall to leave 18.04.5 behind for quite a while yet;
Therefore my trusty & great running 'daily driver' PC can stay as-is.

I'll set up a replacement system for taking its place - but now it'll simply be done at my leisure along with care & absolutely zero urgency to have it all done.

What the heck - April 2023 is quite a ways off & being as old as I am & what with the craziness of the world at large these days ANYTHING could happen 'tween now & then !!!