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I want to do a fresh install of Linux Mint 13 on my laptop, but I do not want to backup / restore my home directory because it is HUGE, and will take a long time to complete. Instead, I decided I would boot up with a live cd, delete all directories excluding the home directory, and reinstall Mint without formatting the drive.

Obviously this is dangerous so I decided to test in a virtual machine first. The installation warned that all system directories would be deleted, I clicked proceed. Then the installation halted without completing. I rebooted the live cd in compatibility mode, but the same thing happened. I also tried another iso, same thing happened. So I've been unable to test this in a vm. The setup may have said system directories, but I'm still paranoid, and googling was fruitless.

Has anyone tested this? Is it ok to take the lazy route and just reinstall, or will the setup delete the home directory and make me a sadder person?

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Why don't you just delete the partitions? This If you don't want to backup your home directory then you don't care about the personal data on the partitions. – Ramhound Oct 4 '13 at 10:39
Would it be possible to create a separate /home partition to move your stuff there? Yes, it would take time, but this way your personal data would be independent from the installed system on another / partition. – Lennart Oct 4 '13 at 10:44
@Ramhound - No. If crossing the street is safe then do so. If a truck is coming, then don't. I'm want to know if that truck is coming. If the setup doesn't delete the home directory, then why care about a backup? There are no low level drive operations if you don't format, so the setup deliberately deleting the directory is the only threat. – aggregate1166877 Oct 4 '13 at 10:44
@Lennart - that's actually what I'm going to do if no one gives a straight answer. That in itself is pretty much almost a backup because you're still transferring data to prevent data loss ;) – aggregate1166877 Oct 4 '13 at 10:45
You don't indicate how long you wait when the installation halted. If the installation says data in the home directory will be lost then it will be lost. – Ramhound Oct 4 '13 at 10:47
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm surprised no one answered the question. It's such easy rep.

The VM freezing problem was resolved by increasing the RAM size from 1GB to 2GB. I then reinstalled Mint without reformatting the drive. The home directory was not deleted. The biggest problem is that the old configs didn't merge well with the new system (probably due to different software versions) so the interface looked horrible. Apart from that everything completed flawlessly.

So the answer the question: it is safe to install Linux Mint 13 over an old Linux Mint 13 installation without backing up the home directory, although you might end up with messed up settings if you don't delete the interface configs before installing.

Note that just because it worked this way in Mint 13, it won't necessarily work this way in other versions of Mint. It won't necessarily work this way in other Linux setups, either. Always test before doing this to the real computer.

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