How I keep My Email and Web Browser Settings While Upgrading Ubuntu

This is my little tutorial on how I do my upgrading while keeping my email and web browser settings intact after a fresh install/upgrade of Ubuntu. This could work for other O.S., but I did try this on Window$ 7, and I ran into nothing but trouble with my email, so beware, this is not full-proof. The basic idea is I archive the program’s data file so that after the upgrade, I install the software, then copy the archived data file back to its proper spot in the file directory. For Ubuntu, this has worked great for me since I started using the O.S. way back in the days of Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper Drake) era. Even before that I have kept the same the email data going since I first got set up with my ISP way back in 1996, up to the present day–so I have a very huge email data folder!


Okay, you are ready to start upgrading your Ubuntu Box to the latest greatest. So before I start the upgrade, I perform my back-ups of specific data, in this case, from my email and web browser’s data. You can use any archiving tool, and compressing data program for this, but I like to use RAR to do my archiving–it is free and open source, and works on most O.S. For Ubuntu users, it is in the repositories.

  1. Download and install RAR (Archiving software).
  2. Locate your program’s data folder. This is located in your home directory, the files that are hidden, so you need to un-hide them to view them: Open file Browser, Click VIEW–>Show Hidden Files.
  3. Now you will see folders that look like this: “./mozilla” and “./thunderbird” with a dot in front of them. These are the folders that you want to archive.
  4. Delete the dot in front of the folder’s name before archiving. This makes the folder “normal” and is viewable on the system.
  5. Now right-click on the folder, and choose “Compress.” A window will pop up giving you some options. You can keep the archive file in the same directory, so leave that alone. However, you are also given options as to what program you to compress the file with. I choose RAR. Once done, choose OK, to start the process. Depending on the size of the file, this could take some time. Please note that if the file is over 1G in size you may need to save it in parts if you are on a 32 bit system–RAR will combine the parts during the uncompressing process for you later on.
  6. Once you have created the archive files for the programs that you want to keep backed-up, store them on a USB Drive, or Disk, something that you can load it back onto your system after the upgrade.
  7. Once you have finished the upgrade of your O.S., make sure that the programs that you have archive files for are installed. In my case FireFox and Thunderbird were pre installed in Ubuntu, but other software I will need to download and install.
  8. Copy the archived files from your storage device onto your hard-drive–in the Home Directory.
  9. Now uncompress the files by right-clicking on them and choosing “Extract Here.”
  10. You should see the uncompressed folder now on your hard-drive. Move it onto your Home Directory (if you have not already done so).
  11. Delete the file folder (after you have chosen to view hidden files) with the dot in front of it, example,  “./mozilla” and “./thunderbird.”
  12. Now right-click on the folder that you have just added, and choose “Rename” and type a Period in front of the text. This will now replace the blank data folder from the upgrade with the archived data from your last O.S., right where you left off.

This method solves two issues for me. First it is a means to back-up just the data that I want, such as email content and web browser’s bookmarks. This way, if something happens during an upgrade, my data is safe and I can try the upgrade again. I cannot tell you how many times I have had upgrades fail on me, loosing data along the way. Normally I do clean upgrades, so I like to start fresh each time. Second, this method is fast, or faster, than doing an upgrade, as opposed to doing an install of an O.S. You are just uncompressing and copying the folder, a huge time saver.

But there is another reason why I do it this way–this method keeps file ownership at user level, rather than root. I have found that using the software’s archiving tools, I have run into situations where I had to play around with the file settings before I could start using it on a freshly upgraded system. Too many headaches.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation