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I keep hearing about new versions of Ubuntu with their own Live CD and what not...

If I just run Update Manager on my existing installation of Ubuntu, is that getting me all the new goodness, or just providing maintenance releases? Should I install fresh? Is there some upgrade path that requires getting the new distro version, or is just updating sufficient?

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4 Answers 4

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It is possible to do a full upgrade and have the latest and greatest though the update manager.

That being said, doing this is not the same as a fresh install.

Personally, my OSs tend to have a 3-6 month lifespan before I reinstall them. As I use them, they tend to generate cruft that gets rather annoying. I have learned how to keep the bits that I care about (like, say, music player statistics) through these reinstallations.

In short, no matter what:

Upgrade != Fresh Install

edit more details: The way Ubuntu does it's updates is every 6 months a new release comes out. If your options allow it (and by default i think they do), the update manager will ask if you want to update to the newer release. Otherwise, almost all of the updates are only security/bug fix.

So every six months, you get new goodness, otherwise you are only getting security updates. For example, Firefox 3.5 still is still not in the official Ubuntu repositories, and won't be until you are running Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic).

Oh, and by the way, if you havent figured out why Ubuntu's versions are so funny, 9.04 = 200**9**, 4th month (ie: April) because that is when it came out. so 9.10 will come out in 10/2009, probably near the end.

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3  
-1 because no explanation what so ever. sounds like just a personal opinion. Also, of course fresh-install != upgrade-your-customized-environment. That's not the question. –  hasenj Aug 24 '09 at 6:32

Does Update Manager get me the new releases?

What the Update Manager gives you depends on how you configured it to behave using the Software Sources menu.

The Release upgrade section from the screenshot below has 3 options:

  1. Never
  2. Normal releases
  3. Long term support releases

Software Sources

If you choose Option #2, you're then on board the 6-monthly Ubuntu upgrade cycle. Choosing Option #3 means you get prompted to upgrade only when there is a LTS release, so you wouldn't get prompted to upgrade to Jaunty for example.

What this means in concrete terms is best explained through the release cycle diagram on Ubuntu's site:

Ubuntu Release Cycle

Should I install fresh?

No, you don't have to. You should configure Update Manager to upgrade you to the releases that interest you. Each release of Ubuntu comes with upgrade instructions, and following these instructions should be sufficient. Very rarely, something will go wrong and you will have to install fresh. So, you should prepare your system for a fresh install before you upgrade versions (ie. backup data, configurations etc), but you shouldn't have to do a fresh install unless required.

Is there some upgrade path that requires getting the new distro version?

No. You can configure Update Manager to upgrade you to any new release. It will get the updated version of the packages, configure and upgrade your system.

When there is a new release, Update Manager will show you its availability and ask your permission to upgrade. You will be given a warning that it's a new release, with the option to continue on your current release till you feel ready to upgrade. It is not done in usual fashion i.e. the packages that constitute the new release don't just show up in the Update Manager list, with no indication that installing them will upgrade you to a newer system version.

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Update Manager is providing regular security and stability updates to the various packages installed on your computer. Occasionally it is also providing the possibility to update a whole new version of your distribution (e.g. Ubuntu 8.10 --> Ubuntu 9.04).

In the case of Ubuntu, they are following a 6-month release-cycle, that means a new version in April and in October. These new releases usually contain newer versions of the same packages and improved usability and visual appearance, so a simple package update would not be sufficient.

If you are not using an LTS (long term support) version of Ubuntu, then it is a good practice to upgrade to the latest distribution, maybe immediately after release, but a little bit later, after the initial quirks are smoothed out. Update Manager will tell you when a new release is available.

But if you partitioned your drive in a way that /home is a different partition, then maybe it is a better practice to reinstall from scratch, but you should save your package list and configuration beforehand, and restore them. So update for convenience and reinstall for performance.

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I can't answer your question definitively, but have a look at: http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/upgrading

It seems that upgrades can be done using the update manager:

upgrade

If I just run Update Manager on my existing installation of Ubuntu, is that getting me all the new goodness, or just providing maintenance releases?

In my very humble understanding, you have to update your /etc/apt/sources.list to use the repositories of the newest release. Otherwise it will just be maintenance releases for the older version. Though if you use the "upgrade" button in the update manager as shown in that picture, you shouldn't have to edit any text files.

Please bear in mind that this is mostly just an "educated" guess.

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