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I recently installed Linux on a laptop and now wish to roll-back to the state it was in when I first installed it. Is that doable? If so how can I do so?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

The easiest way to roll back to installation point would be to re-install it.

If you are just referring to the desktop environment, that can be reset to default by deleting the various configuration folders in your home directory.

For example, some of the folders you would want to delete in a typical ubuntu based installation are:

rm -rf ~/.gnome ~/.gnome2 ~/.gnome3 ~/.gconf ~/.gconfd ~/.metacity ~/.compiz*

In a KDE installation, the following would reset everything:

rm -rf ~/kde*
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Is there an option or application that mimics system restore in Linux? – PeanutsMonkey Dec 21 '11 at 20:53
@PeanutsMonkey I am not aware of one. But it is far more difficult to get into a mess with Linux vs Windows. I haven't seen an issue that would require going back to a snapshot of a configuration. – Paul Dec 21 '11 at 21:41

The short answer is no unless you took a backup immediately after you installed. However what problem are you tying to solve? Which version of which distribution are you talking about?

There are several areas or places you might want to act depedning on your problem. If it is user settings you are talking about then these are stored in the users home directory, so deleting and recreating the user ensuring the users home directory was erased would take care of resetting the users settings. Obviously you need to keep a copy of stuff you want to save. In terms of system settings the vast majority of this is kept in /etc/ so there may be places here you want to act by removing config files and reinstalling underlying packages. A lot of information that is gathered and updated during run i.e. Logs and databases is under /var. Some of this can be safely deleted depending on which distribution you have. Then there is the software itself. It might not even be desirable to roll this back to the installed state as most distributions offer you the possibilty to update to the latest version of packages that have had security and other fixes applied

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I am attempting to mimic a virtual environment in that I make changes possibily rendering the system useless and then reverting it back to its original state. The reason for not using a virtual environment is that I would like to test the installation on laptops and verify any issues I may experience. – PeanutsMonkey Dec 21 '11 at 18:46

It is hard to trace every changes made to filesystem.

What about using the same installation media , installing onto another harddisk, and diff the two root directories?

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is this answer too bouncing to get a more positive reputation? – Jokester Dec 21 '11 at 6:12

Yes, this is possible through the use of the Logical Volume Manager and snapshots. What you'd do is take a snapshot at the 'known-good' state. Here's a howto on using the snapshots.

Note that in most cases, using a virtual environment is going to be easier.

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