Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ubuntu install cd - two purposes (1) update (2) fresh

You have just download an Ubuntu cd - what to do?

An ubuntu cd has two ways of operating.

  1. You want a fresh install or are installing Ubuntu for the first time
  2. You have a previous version of Ubuntu and you want to upgrade, keeping some settings.

(1) cd inserted at boot time - menu from the cd:

This is the classic use. If you have installed any operating system before, and somebody gives you an Ubuntu cd, this is likely what you would do.

The cd is booted by bios and you get a menu for Ubuntu Natty or whatever the latest version is.

This mode is generally used for installing Ubuntu for the first time. The default will help you setup that computer hardware for a brand new installation of Ubuntu.

(2) cd not inserted at boot time - update manager is the key:

I have Ubuntu, I like it, I want a newer version <-- If this is you then keep reading.

Have the cd drawer unloaded or grab the cd before it is pulled in.

Boot your existing Ubuntu (from the hard disk) where you have been using it for the last few months whatever.

Here you system does not know (just yet) that you are planning to change anything.

So you have your desktop now loaded and fully updated*. Now you insert the cd.

Ubuntu should automatically start 'Update Manager' or give you a pop up prompt.

The message should say "a volume with software packages has been detected.
  would you like it to open with packager manager?"

You choose 'Start Package Manager' ... (in effect you are saying yes / OK)

Next you will see a new dialogue title "Do you want to start the upgrade"

Proceed if you are happy with what you are being asked to confirm.

Updating this way, you can be sure that your settings (/home) have the best chance of being retained, as there is simply no option to remove them by accident.

But I am not sure if I want to upgrade - what should I do? See this earlier post describing some factors which you might consider.

*Quoting from
Be sure that you apply all updates to your current version of Ubuntu before you upgrade.

Notes and Further Reading:

If you have your desktop already running, then you insert the cd and nothing happens, then do the following:

System -> Administration -> Update Manager

From the menu you have now started 'update manager'.

Now you should be able to upgrade your existing system.

Note: This method is only for existing installs, if you have no existing install then the cd needs to be inserted already at boot time - see (1) above.

Ubuntu Natty - more menu options on the boot cd:

Now with the latest Ubuntu cd, an existing installation will be detected and the menu will be headed:
This computer currently has Ubuntu xx.yy on it

The second option in that menu, allows you to update an existing version to the latest version.

The icon for that update option looks a little like the reload icon on Wikipedia:

( Creative Commons Icon courtesy of Wikipedia )

I still suggest (for updating rather than fresh install) booting your system without the cd inserted and updating that way (2), as folks who do not do a lot of upfront reading, seem to find it easy to wipe hard disk partitions* by using the install cd boot menu way to update.

Updating my recommended way (2), you can be sure that your settings (/home) have the best chance of being retained, as there is simply no option to remove them by accident.

*Read the forums and you will from time to time see a posting from some eager beaver, who inserted a cd for the latest Ubuntu, and did the happy key dance, resulting in the loss of some partition they wanted to keep.

If it is your intention to update an existing Ubuntu installation and booting from the Ubuntu cd asks "who are you?", and prompts you to pick a username and password, then you will likely have no alternative but to reboot, and follow instructions for (2) above.

The problem then is likely that the detection routines have failed. This is unusual but can happen. Ubuntu is pretty good at detecting existing operating systems, here is a Debian / Ubuntu dual boot example:

Ubuntu - can skip versions? ... say Lucid skip Maverick goto Natty:

Yes. Look closely at the screenshot above which is promising to upgrade 10.04 to 11.04

In the example above, not skipping versions would instead see you upgrade 10.04 to 10.10 and then 10.10 to 11.04 by two manual update stages.

If you are pushed for time and have not kept up with your versions, then go ahead and use that cd boot menu option to jump directly to the latest version.

My recommendation*: Avoid skipping versions unless you are in an awful hurry. Rather than choosing the above highlighted menu option, do instead follow option (2) at the beginning of this article, and use update manager.

This will inevitably remove a small utility program or two as part of the upgrade (version shifting usually does). By going the update-manager way you can see what is being removed and manually reinstall those utilities right after the upgrade.

Run the intermediate Ubuntu version for a week and iron out any issues you find. Then you are certainly ready to use update-manager again, to make the next hop :)

*my recommendations are based on past experience, I cannot say for sure that you will feel any ill effects from skipping an intermediate version when upgrading your system.

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