Upgrade vs Clean Install

I have a MacBook Pro 2009 which I use mainly for testing & experimenting that now run Ubuntu Mate 20.10. The OS works fine but not without glitches. Firefox for instances systematically crashes on opening - which is no big deal, as it is not my working computer and I can use another browser. There are other minor issues though.
My question: if I upgrade next month to 21.04, will that correct these issues? Will I have a perfectly running laptop or should I aim for a clean install?
I am thinking of course of my main pc, a Dell Inspiron. I have backups and all but I never used restore with linux and I don't know if a clean install+restore will give exactly the same result as a normal upgrade.
My Dell runs the latest LTS release and works fine. I will certainly move to 21.04 - but too many changes and masses of data since last upgrade...

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A very interesting blog post on the matter by one of the founding fathers of Ubuntu MATE:

There's no way to know whether a bug that precisely affects you will be fixed unless we're talking about a bug that's been reported and since fixed by the devs.

There's no guarantee either that an upgrade will work perfectly as expected.

My opinion: If you have time to spare (about one hour every 6 months, is it dramatic ?) a clean install cannot hurt.
WIth good organization, it can be quite fast (.config files backup, apt list --manual-installed to remember everything that was installed manually, a well kept list of tweaks applied etc...).


Many thanks. All most interesting and instructive. Given what I had read and my own experience, I was under the impression that the LTS release was sort of foolproof, impeccably stable, whereas the the intermediate versions were sort of "try at your own risk" etc and that in order to have this perfect system running, without any flaws, one had to resort to a LTS version in a clean install.
Thanks a lot for your patience & help.

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You're welcome.
Interim releases such as 20.10 pave the way for the next LTS release. They allow to try the latest features and newer software. New stuff may not come without bugs, so in that way it's kind of "try at your own risk" but stability-wise, we're not talking enterprise-grade distro with 10 year support vs the adventurous rolling release.

For instance, In 20.10, the switch's been made to Ayatana Indicators and Arctica Greeter. In the meantime we've lost the ability to tweak the greeter (the login screen) with a GUI while we were able to do so in previous releases for the old greeter. So now you get to enjoy the newest greeter and the new indicators but in order to modify your login screen background, gtk-theme, icon theme etc... you have to tweak a text file and enter a command to recompile it. When I updated to 20.10, I still had the old GUI app available in the administration category of my menu despite it not working with the newest greeter. That's not «flawless» as you said.

Ubuntu MATE LTS:

  • 3 year support (5 for Ubuntu vanilla), releases every 2 years. Point releases with newer kernel available in the long run. 20.04 LTS is currently at 20.04.2 with kernel 5.8 vs 5.4 for the original release.
  • Your current hardware can live without the newer kernel until the point releases.
  • You use your computer for precious work. Your install must not break no matter what.
  • You like polished stuff.
  • You can live without the newest features or software releases.
  • You want something that works without risking a reinstall every 9 months.
  • You want to mesmerize your relatives with Linux but don't want to bother upgrading their computers every 6/9 months. You know it will work and they won't complain much once you've set it up properly.

Ubuntu MATE interim releases:

  • 9 month support, releases every 6 months.
  • You like to play with new hardware and require a newer kernel that what is offered in the latest LTS release (before point releases).
  • You would define yourself as a Linux enthusiast that likes to try new features and software.
  • You can deal with a little less polish/flaws and are not afraid of editing a file instead of using a GUI because one is not ready yet.
  • You're already craving for the features that will be available in the next release and your USB drive is already prepared for flashing the next Ubuntu MATE iso. The beta cannot come soon enough !
  • You don't care about sparing a few hours of your life every 6 months so as to enjoy the newest release of your favourite operating system.
  • Should something break, it wouldn't matter. You would reinstall it anyway and wouldn't make the same mistake again. It's a life lesson that allows you to improve your install method and test your flashy post-install script. You'll be up and running in no time, looking for ways to again improve your linux install.
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I upgraded three PC's from 18.04 to 20.04. I did the upgrade on one PC and a fresh install on the other two. While the convenience of my settings and apps remaining after upgrade was nice, the fresh install was much faster. That includes reinstalling all the additional software. The upgrade first had me remove a few packages before the system would upgrade, then it took a few hours to complete the installation. The fresh install took less than one hour including all the software loading and configuration time.


Thanks, most thoughtful of you.
Summing up my personal experience:
(i) long years using LTS - never a problem;
(ii) using interim releases - never a big problem. Sometimes things won't work as expected but that has never been serious, as these releases are never used for something serious. Just testing & fun...

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This is just my opinion, but to do an upgrade properly you should do the same back up as a new install, just in case something goes wrong. Well if you do a good backup, why not do a fresh install and avoid problems?
What I will admit about backups is it took me a long time to get them done properly. At first I only thought about my data. Then I realized I needed to do bookmarks, saved passwords, and back up my email addresses (I use Thunderbird). I still usually have something I forget, but am getting a lot better on my backups. Regardless of what you decide, backup, backup, and then backup again.

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In my pinion just to an upgarade its mcth easyer.

Can I ask which backup tool you use? I've been using Déjà Dup, which of course comes with Ubuntu Mate.
It might be safer though to have an extra backup. Just in case.

Personally I don't use a back up tools. I do it all myself to a USB drive. That is why I said when I started I would always forget something. Like browsers, we all back up bookmarks, but do we back up saved passwords or addons? Sure it is easy to backup your documents, downloads, music, pictures and videos, but there is other stuff. I use a lot of screenshots for my backups.
I missed a lot of stuff when I started with Linux.

rsync (tons of tutorials available out there) or rsnapshot (it's in the repos, is based on rsync) are good command line tools for backups:

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I only had one slight issue upgrading to Impish and this was only a design descision not a bug. I have had lots of upgrades and all have left the PC not only working but upgraded wtih OS improvements. Once thing I have never tried is upgrading from one LTS to the next. I would have thought this was a much bigger jump hence may be more risky. But then, obviously not because this is the whole point of LTS to be LTS. I've also no Mac experience bt wouldn't have thought that would make much difference.