3 Things You Need to Do Before Upgrading to Ubuntu Precise

Finally, Ubuntu 12.04 has landed, but before you rush to upgrade to the latest version, here are some things that you need to do.

1. Decide whether to install from scratch or upgrade your existing version

In my past experience, upgrading an existing version of Ubuntu to the latest version always left a bad taste in the mouth. Downloads are slow, upgrade took forever and the completed product always break things here and there. This is worst if you are two or more versions behind as the transition from GTK 2.x (11.04 and below) to GTK 3.x (12.04) would undoubtedly break some of your applications and settings. However, I have read news that the upgrading process in Ubuntu Precise is much smoother and less things are breaking, so it might worth a try.


My advise is: if you are using a much older version of Ubuntu (11.04 and below), it is good to reformat your PC and install from scratch. This will rid your system of any old and useless files, applications and settings. On the other hand, if you are inexperienced with PC formatting, don’t wish to spend the extra time and effort to install from scratch and don’t mind things breaking (the breaking could be minimal if you are upgrading from 11.10), upgrading using the Upgrade Manager is your best bet.

2. Backup, backup and backup

No matter what, you should always backup your system. In case the upgrade fails and you have to re-install from scratch, you still can recover your files from the backup.


There are several things that you will need to backup:

Files and documents

Needless to say, you should always backup your important files and documents. One good way is to back them up to the cloud, using either Dropbox, Ubuntu One or Box. When combined, the 3 cloud storage services give you a whopping 57GB of storage space to use, which should be sufficient for most users. Alternatively, you can also use the built in backup manager – Deja Dup to backup your system. That will require you to use an external hard drive or partition.


Most of us don’t just use the default applications in Ubuntu. Most of the time, we will install new applications using third-party PPAs. To save you the trouble from sourcing these PPA again after re-installing, you can backup your list of PPAs and restore them after the re-install.

There are two main places where your PPAs are kept. If you are using the add-apt-repository command or the Software Sources to add your repository, they are kept at the “/etc/apt/sources.list.d” folder. To backup this folder, you can use the command:

This will create a tar file in your home folder. You can then move this tar file to your backup drive or Dropbox.

To restore, place the tar file in the Home folder and use the command:

If you have added your PPAs manually, they are most likely to reside in the “/etc/apt/sources.list” file. To backup this file, use the following command:

Replace the “your-backup-folder” with the actual filepath to your backup folder.

To restore,

That’s it.

Note: You will most probably have duplicate or obsolete PPA in the list after the restoration. You might want to use “sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list” to remove the unwanted PPAs (follow by “Ctrl + o” to save and “Ctrl + x” to exit) before you run the “sudo apt-get update” command.

Backup config files

The config files are one thing that many people overlooked while backing up their systems. Failing to backup the config files won’t break your system, but you will have to manually configure the settings for each app again.

In Gnome, the config files are usually stored in the “/.local/share” and “/.config” folders, but some apps could have their own config folders like “/.gnome2”, “/.VirtualBox”,”/.Thunderbird”,”/.wine” etc.

One good way to backup your config files is to setup your UbuntuOne account and sync these config folders. On your next install, UbuntuOne will automatically restore your config files to their rightful locations.

3. Test out with a Live CD first

This isn’t necessary all the time, but if you have some old applications that are critical to your business and you are not sure if they are supported in Precise, you can download the ISO file and test it with a Live CD or in Virtualbox. You can proceed to install after you have verified that it can fulfill your needs. In addition, for new user who are planning to switch to Ubuntu, testing with the LiveCD is the best way to find out if you really like the distro and whether you should switch from your existing OS.



It never hurt to be careful. While you are eager to jump onto the bandwagon and upgrade to the latest version, doing a little bit of housekeeping and backing up could save you tons of trouble later on.

What other precautions do you take before you upgrade your system?

Image credit: by BotheredByBees

Damien Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.


  1. I’d only installed 11.10 for a few days when 12.04 came along. So, I elected to upgrade with the download. It went along fine until an error message appeared, saying that Nepomuk update service wasn’t running and it would have to terminate and roll back. I’ve yet to cure that, though I’ve tried. So I got the ISO and burned it. Booting from it failed saying the kernel was incompatible with the CPU. Burnt more CDs with alternative ISOs, but no luck, still the same as before. I’ve ordered the CDs but they won’t be here till mid-May, so unless these issues are soluble the upgrade is out. Drat!

    1.  If your PC supports booting up from USB, you can use the USB startup creator to create USB bootdisk. In this way, you won’t have to keep burning CD. I think you have better luck with the desktop version rather than the alternative ISO.

  2. I booted from the Live CD onto my laptop with Ubuntu 11.10 and all was fine.
    Chose to “upgrade” but part way through it suggested some of the installed applications may not have been included. When I tried to boot into 12.04 afterwards there was obviously a problem  so decided to a full install by deleting 11.10 and installing 12.04.
    Worked absolutely fine.
    I have Virtualbox running a Windows Vista Guest for a website I manage so had “cloned” the machine – installed VB on the 12.04 and imported the clone and everything worked straight away.

    1. I am glad that things have worked well for you. Installing from scratch is always the best way to get a clean and stable system.

  3. I had windows 7 installed on my netbook, but it was running way too slow so i decided to install linux 12.04 as well, because i have heard it is much faster. i used the windows installer, whiich worked fine. so now when i boot the computer i have 2 options, windows 7 or ubuntu. 

    unfortunately, ubuntu is painfully slow, i think even slower than windows. and i cant connect to the wireless for some reason. i thought it would be much quicker, but i guess ive done something wrong. what can i do? thank you for the help!

    1. Perhaps you can try unity 2d, it is less resource intensive. Just log out and select unity 2d from the logon screen. Alternatively, if you are not a fan of unity, you can try gnome fallback too.

    2.  Windows installer generally makes Ubuntu a bit slower. All disk operations (reading, copying, etc.) are slowed down.

      About wireless… this most likely occurs because manufacturer of your wireless card made drivers only for Windows. So Ubuntu don’t know how to use this card. But you can use ndiswrapper to use Windows’ drivers on Ubuntu.

      Try to identify what’s slow on Ubuntu and why. Maybe it uses too much RAM? Then you can use some lighter desktop environment (It will result in differently looking system, see attachments.). Or maybe it keeps your graphic card busy? Then you can use Unity 2D, as Damien said.

  4. Just wanted to point out a small error that might be confusing for people new to Ubuntu:

    Most of the configuration files for GNOME are stored in “/home/username/.local” and “/home/username/.config” etc.

    Thanks for a great article!

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