I will preface this by saying, I always suggest a clean installation. But for those of you who'd prefer to at least first attempt an upgrade, the technology is already in place for you to do so. Upgrading Ubuntu is not a terribly challenging task. It can be, depending up your network speed and machine, time consuming. In most cases a LOT of files have to be upgraded. And, as with ANY upgrade of this nature, you must backup your files. With a major upgrade there is always a chance that things could go awry and you will want to have your data on an external source.
But don't let all of this frighten you. I have had success with the 9.10 -> 10.4 upgrade. And in this article I will show you how it's done.
First things first
Before you begin the release upgrade process it is crucial that you update your current release so that it is as up to date as possible. To do this open up a terminal window and issue the command sudo update-manager which will open up the familiar tool used to update Ubuntu. If there are any updates available go ahead and let those updates happen.
After the updates are complete close out the Update Manager and then start it again, this time instructing it to check for a distribution upgrade like so:
sudo update-manager -d
This time you should notice new button in the window (see Figure 1). As you can see, even upon updating 9.10, there are still some updates to be done. If this happens, go ahead and click Install Updates again. If the Update Manager closes after this update, start it again with the above command.
Once you have reached the point where there are no updates click the Upgrade button which will begin the process of upgrading your release.
After you click this button a new window will appear (see Figure 2). During the progress of this window you will have to OK a couple of windows. One window will inform you that some of your repositories have been disabled. This will only happen if you have third-party repositories enabled that Canonical doesn't support. The next window you will have to okay is after the Update Manager calculates the amount of packages needed. In the last Ubuntu 9.10 I upgraded 1,476 packages had to be upgraded!
After you have Okay'd that final window the process of downloading the packages will begin. Upon completion of the download the upgrade will start. Do not interrupt this upgrade. And I wouldn't bother trying to work on this machine either. Just let the Update Manager do it's thing.
When the upgrade is complete, you will have to restart your computer. Before you restart, double check to make sure you have backed up all of your files. Now, restart. Don't hold your breath (it won't help). ;-)
Once Ubuntu has rebooted you can click on System > About Ubuntu to make sure the upgrade was successful (it will tell you which version of Ubuntu you are using). Hopefully you will see 10.4 listed.
I probably shouldn't have to remind you that not every upgrade instance will be successful. It can be risky. But when it works it works VERY well. Just remember to back up that data before you do anything.
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