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Thread: When to Re-Install the OS?

  1. #1
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    When to Re-Install the OS?

    Hope I am not digging up a dead discussion here, but I am curious about this.

    Currently, I use Timeshift to make a snapshot of my Kubuntu 21.10 Install. If anything goes wrong, I can run Timeshift and restore my OS back to my initial setup.

    However, Windows users say that you should "re-install" your OS (the new version with all the updates and security fixes) every 6 months. A clean-install, not a system-restore-point, or drive image.

    Does this apply to Ubuntu, or is this just a crazy notion that people think needs to happen, and really doesn't?
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  2. #2
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    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    "Just re-install" is advice given by people who have no clue what they are doing

  3. #3
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    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    I re-install when I have to, and not before.

    This current system was an artful or 17.10 install, and I've had no reason to re-install since then (even with numerous minor issues...) and release-upgrades every six months (it's jammy now as I sit on the development cycle).

    I'd only re-install IF I have need; which means I'm giving up trying to fix issues; OR I need the box functional after I've stuffed something up, and don't have the time to fix it correctly.

    I have other boxes where I don't perform any upgrades, but that's intentional; I upgrade them via re-install (upgrade via re-install or install using existing partition) as the install itself is a QA testcase and I perform the weekly update via a QA-test re-install (and check out none of my user files are touched, the additional manually installed apps I added are re-installed by the re-install). But that's a special case; I perform a QA-test install instead of upgrading the box (currently that's a jammy and focal boxes; jammy as it's the current development release, and focal as it's next out of the 'gates' (ie. 20.04.4 re-spin).

    If I made a mess of the package system; that's when I'd likely consider a re-install - but again I'm more likely fix the issue without re-install to teach myself a lesson.

    I had a box die a few months back, took out the system drive & put it in a replacement box. The replacement box was perfect, but I've performed this action before (moved disk from a dead box and into another box) & had an imperfect result; I re-installed that prior time, as I couldn't find the issue & wanted to move on (got tired of looking for it)

  4. #4
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    Ubuntu Budgie Development Release

    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    Unless an OS installation is corrupt and non functional in some way I don't reinstall and that includes testing new versions of Ubuntu. I also upgrade to new stable versions at times. Backup for me entails cloning my pictures and documents to removable sources and that's all I'm concerned about. If I had a hard-drive full of movies my backup process would be different. As a Windows user I have not heard of the reinstall every 6 months approach . Windows 10 has been getting two build/ feature updates a year and I suppose that is when some choose to reinstall.
    Last edited by Frogs Hair; November 4th, 2021 at 09:58 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Ubuntu Development Release

    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    Windows users say that you should "re-install" your OS (the new version with all the updates and security fixes) every 6 months.
    I cannot speak for what would be the best practices of a Windows user. I just hope that the development model of Ubuntu is not confusing this matter. We get a new release of Ubuntu every six months. It has all the updates and security fixes as well as an updated firmware (drivers) and Linux kernel.

    If we are using a Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) release we do get security fixes; updated firmware (drivers); updated Linux kernel and certain default applications also get up graded over a period of time.

    If for some reason an OS gets broken or messed up in some way a re-install might be the simple and quick fix. If someone is using an unsupported version of Ubuntu then a fresh install might be better than a series of online upgrades to get to a supported release of Ubuntu.

    There are different opinions on this forum about doing online upgrades to every new release. Or, doing online upgrades from one LTS to another. Or doing a fresh install each time. We recognize the value of different working practices. Any of which might prove useful to other Ubuntu users. Over the years I have certainly been educated by posts on this forum.

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  6. #6
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    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    Windows users say that you should "re-install" your OS (the new version with all the updates and security fixes) every 6 months. A clean-install, not a system-restore-point, or drive image.


    This is because Windows doesn't clean up after itself. When you load a restore point it isn't exactly as it was when it was created, even though that is what they claim it does. Lots of crap get's left behind. CCleaner is a big hit for Windows people because of how much garbage get's stuck in the registry (even when you follow the uninstallers properly). With Linux however unless you do something really dumb like rwx the entire root directory recursively a reinstall shouldn't be needed. Even then the only reason is because it would take to long to fix (if it's even possible).

    To be fair though. If you somehow cause or get an extremely obscure issue that you simply cannot find it is faster to reinstall from clean media and restore data than spend god knows how long chasing something that google doesn't seem to have anything on. This however is rare.
    Last edited by Tadaen_Sylvermane; November 4th, 2021 at 07:58 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    I almost never reinstall a system. I even always upgrade the OS, so recently I upgraded from 21.04 to 21.10 and in April I will upgrade again to 22.04. To keep my system clean and efficient, I use the "Ubuntu Cleaner". My Host OS runs Ubuntu on OpenZFS and I take weekly snapshots. I had a hacker trying to get some money in January, but I simply restored an old snapshot, changed the passwords and lived happily ever after.

    I use a lot of VMs and also there I have a number of old installations like Windows XP installed in March 2010 or Ubuntu 16.04 LTS now 16.04 ESM (Extended Security Maintenance) . Both run without re-installation for 11 and 5 years now and I still use XP and 16.04 a couple of times per week. But also for Windows I use a program to keep the system clean; "Advanced System Care".

    I only reinstall, when it is unavoidable and that is mostly caused by bugs, my stupidity or a combination of the two. You can reduce the stupidity reason by using a VM for all your experiments.

    Sometimes HW changes require a re-installation, but not always. I remember in 2019 I moved my disks 'lock stock and barrel' from a 2010 Phenom II X4 B97 to a 2019 Ryzen 3 2200G and the system booted without re-installation. I used that installation for half an year, till I had to reinstall it, because I bought a nvme-SSD.
    Last edited by lammert-nijhof; November 4th, 2021 at 09:25 PM.

  8. #8
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    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    Good question.

    First, typical Windows users aren't like typical Linux users in many ways. This means the systems aren't "exercised" the same ways.
    I have a Windows install that is over 10 yrs old and working fine, so the need to do a reinstall every 6 months is obviously some need based on use patterns, not the OS.

    Every 3-5 yrs, I have moved the Windows install completely to new storage, so the typical "bit rot" that seems to cause issues on Windows is mitigated by this periodic move of all the bits.

    Linux kernel updates are really easy and happen about 2x a month for supported released. This is different than the WinNT kernel in Windows systems which probably gets updated at most, once a year. I honestly don't know how often this happens and would welcome specifics from someone who does.

    New Linux and Windows users tend to install all sorts of junk.

    I'm different in that regard. My Windows systems haven't seen any new installs in about 5 yrs and had very few changes the 5 yrs prior to that. Without all the crap installed on the systems, the cruft that builds up doesn't happen. I ran 10.04 - 16.04 systems for many years in less than 15GB of storage. Because I know which programs I need to use for the workflows I use and Linux makes removing programs and dependencies easy, unlike Windows, there is less cruft with Linux OSes.

    Both systems have issues with personal setting conflicts. Gnome uses a DB to store setting - eeew. That's very similar to how Windows uses "the registry." The solution to problems on both these systems is to create a new userid for logins and use that every few years. This is more of an issue for people not using LTS releases. If you only use LTS releases, that reduces the problem opportunity greatly.

    If there are issues on Linux, creating a new userid is a common troubleshooting issue. No need to reinstall. I suppose this could work for Windows too, but I don't recall anyone suggesting to create a new user to troubleshoot issues on Windows all that often.

    For some issues that have been traced to be OS setting and not tied to an individual userid, I might spend 30 minutes troubleshooting, but since a fresh install on Linux isn't that big of a deal, after 30 minutes and failing to solve an issue, I'll wipe and do a fresh install much quicker than I would ever do on Windows. Then 15-30 minutes to restore system and personal settings, followed by data, and finally I feed a list of manually installed packages into the package install tools and in 45 minutes, I've gone from an empty system to a system that "feels" like it is mine, with my settings and my data, but completely refreshed. Because I do versioned backups, I can restore the system as it was 60, 90, 120, 180 days ago or any other day between last night and 180days ago.

    On Windows, I'd probably have to spend a few days pointing and clicking to install software and get everything setup with my settings (assuming I don't miss something), all hands-on effort. Perhaps there's an easier way, but my Windows knowledge isn't strong enough to make it easy and getting all the "setup.exe" files for each 3rd party program is a major hassle. Then there are the OS patches which aren't available anymore for my OS (unsupported), so I think I'd be screwed trying to recreate a Windows system from 60 days ago.

    If I were less skilled at Ubuntu, the same issues would likely hold me back too. The point-n-click and the fear of reinstallation.

    • Avoid cruft. Install what you need, nothing more. If something isn't needed/used anymore, remove it.
    • Have backups that are proven to be restored. Spend the time BEFORE you need it, now.
    • Stay on supported releases, and move to a newer, supported, release BEFORE EOL happens.
    • Always have a "Try Ubuntu" flash drive ready to troubleshoot boot issues and to see if hardware driver issues are tied to the installed OS or Ubuntu in general. Lots of issues can be quickly resolved using this Try Ubuntu solution.


    Simple things to avoid traps.

  9. #9
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    Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa

    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    I believe in the if it ain't broke leave it alone philosophy.
    Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.
    (Mark Twain)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    34

    Re: When to Re-Install the OS?

    I have a family member that's been running Ubuntu for the last 2 years going through upgrades with no noticeable slowdown and for 5 years I had the same OS on a machine and never noticed slow downs.

    Windows used to have a bad rap with ntfs file fragmentation on spinning hard drives so the system would slowly slow down over time if no defragmentation was done and mechanical hard drives slow down as they age.

    A lot of the problems Windows users have are caused by the users themselves by installing incompatible drivers, badly written software, or modify system files all of which can cause weird side effects that users may blame on the Windows Operating system itself, rather than their own actions.

    When would I reinstall Ubuntu? When your hardware is faulty or you're moving to another computer.
    Last edited by bunny9000; November 6th, 2021 at 11:26 PM.

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