How long does a Linux install last for you on average, before you completely re-install (on your daily driver machine)?

I was trying to subtly impress upon my sister how awesome Linux was, and she pointed out how I kept re-installing my linux distro “all the time”.

It’s true that, try as I might to just install some distro, and just contentedly use it (say for a good 2 years, which to me seems sensible), it always seems that about the 9-month mark, I just can’t stop myself from wanting to do a nuke and pave, because some new release came out for a distro that I’ve always sort of been wanting to have an excuse to try out. My inner geek cannot be restrained beyond the 9-month mark, it seems. The flood gates of Linux debauchery burst asunder.

Has this happened to anyone else out there?

How long does a Linux install last for you on average, before you completely re-install (on your daily driver machine)? Isn’t this kind of not cool, if it’s more frequent than you were intending? How long should an install last, by your reckoning, before a nuke and pave is necessary?

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Necessary?

I don’t think it should ever be necessary, especially if you’re on a rolling release distro like Arch. Longer single release distros like Ubuntu may be better with a clean re-install with a new release now and then, but ideally they should offer a clean upgrade path too.

It’s not like the old Windows days where you’d HAVE to re-install it every 6-12 months because the system was getting really slow and needed a clearing out.

In terms of WANTING to clean install or distro-hop? A few times a year for me. But I have 4/5 SSDs I can swap out at any time thanks to my case-top SSD bay, which means I can keep a main OS on one SSD, maybe Win10 for certain apps on another, and use the rest to test bare-metal OS installs. So atm I’m installing a new distro every week or so for curiousity & testing purposes. Always pays to broaden your horizons! :slight_smile:

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I don’t distrohop and use Debian Stable. I have machines that I’ve upgraded from version 7->8->-9->10 without needing any reinstall in-between, so we’re talking… about six years without a need to reinstall.

Debian Unstable is another story - I’d say every 3-4 months something on it breaks and at times, frankly, reinstall is easier than tinkering, so I’d say about every 6 months, due to its nature, but I’ve rarely installed it in the first place.

11 years and counting (on average on my daily driver using stock Ubuntu). I do however usually do a new install once a year or so for someone else or on a non critical machine which gives me the chance to look for new features or changes that I might want to integrate into my workflow.

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I stopped my distro-hopping at Arch for PC and Debian Testing for laptop.
So, until it breaks. For the record, I did break Arch once and had a legit reason to switch to BTRFS and snapshots.

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For me, it was about a year. That was because I wanted to upgrade to a newer version that required a reinstall. I’ve been running MX Linux 18 for year and I’m getting ready to install MX 19.

Do I need to reinstall? Absolutely not.

I think the real answer to this question would be that one would have to reinstall once the OS becomes EOL and no further patches are being developed.

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I tend to go from LTS to LTS. This is what I will always recommend to users who do not like to mess with their computers.

I have kept Kubuntu installs for 4-5 years before, but my desire to try new software causes me to add backports, third party PPAs and 5 different Qt and other libraries.
Eventually the maintenance overhead makes it easier to just upgrade to a version where I can install the officially released apps from the developers (or at least follow their compilation/installation instructions).

This is the correct answer I guess.

But for me I distrohop out of whim. I would want to try new shiny things that I am not using right now. We distrohop because we want to try new toys rather than distrohopping because our toys got broken.

I change distros as soon as new things gets out. This is because I dont know what I like or dislike about the plethora of DEs or WMs yet since I’ve started my Linux journey last December. This was twice a month. Now I’ve decided to settle down on Pop!_OS because I have decided to go with Ubuntu-based, gaming friendly with a GNOME shell Integration.

MX-17 -> MX-18 -> MX-19

I do play with other distros but MX is my standard and it lasts from one release to the next… generally

On my main box which currently has Mint 19.2 unless I need to reinstall regarding hardware update I will do the inline update after backing up my data just in case of any problems. On most of my laptops the OS tends to be reinstalled with whatever I happen to be playing with apart from one Dell E6540 which is my stable portable machine and is kept as a second back up to my desktop PC so will get inline updates unless a hardware upgrade of the SSD requires a reinstall.

I have to make a distinction between my Hosts OS and my Virtualbox Guests, because the Host is a minimal install and the Guests do all the “work”.

This year I have upgraded my host frequently, because of the new ZFS release 0.8 and because I renewed my desktop. Begin of the year I moved my Ubuntu 18.04 ext4 installation to ZFS, physically without reinstalling it. In April I installed Ubuntu 19.04 (minimal install) on ZFS on my old Phenom II X4 B97. In May I moved the disks in the correct sda…sdd sequence to my new Ryzen 3 2200G and it directly booted from ZFS without any issue. In the second week of October I upgraded it to the release candidate of 19.10.

My Guest OSes are very stable. The oldest Virtual Machine (VM) is an installation of Windows XP Home done in 2011, it has been used on 3 of my desktops (Pentium-4, Phenom II and Ryzen 3). It is mainly used to play the copies of my old CDs and LPs. I use Xububtu 18.04 VM for office work, email, torrents, WhatsApp etc. I use a Ubuntu 16.04 VM exclusively for Banking and Paypal. Note that these Ubuntu VMs have been used on 2 desktops now. The last main VM is changed each half year and now it is Ubuntu Mate 19.10 and I use that one for all experiments and try-outs.

Note that I use the same VMs on my laptop, so I have exactly the same facilities on holiday.

Needless to say that I only “distro-hop” using Virtualbox and infrequently say 2-4 times per year. In general it is all just a small variation of the same again.

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I had Debian on my main server for over a decade. I’ve replaced probably every piece of hardware in that box, but haven’t had to re-install Debian. It’s still installed, but I installed Arch to a new Logical Volume and have had that running my Xen hypervisor for quite a while, now.

As far as how often I re-install: I don’t. I install and keep it for years. I have a new laptop every few years, and I’ll install Linux on it, but I don’t distro-hop and I don’t re-install. I use Virtual Machines if I want to have a look at another distro, but I don’t wipe out the distro I’m running. For the last many, many years, I’ve been running Debian. I moved to Arch well over a year ago, and in doing so, I’ve solved most of the problems I had with Debian. I imagine I’ll keep Arch on this desktop through multiple hardware upgrades/replacements.

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I don’t really know much about SSDs being stuck with much older hardware currently, though I was wondering about using VMs on SSDs - aren’t magnetic hard drives preferable for that due to VMs constantly writing to a file that emulates a whole file-system, potentially?

I use VBox on my work laptop that has a sata M2 NVM SSD in it, and it works absolutely fine. SSDs are cheap as chips these days, and a 120Gb one costs about £20 on Amazon. I bought a couple of these and another 460Gb one at £47 to test out various distros on bare metal and get an install of Win10 for a few apps that won’t interfere with my main linux install.

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Prices have certainly come down, on eBay I’be bough Adata and Vaseky SSDs that have worked well for the last year. The difference in speed over a “spinning rust” drive is amazing.

I went ‘cheap’ when I bought them for the 2nd drive bays on a few of my laptops because they were refurbished machines and didn’t see the point of installing an SSD that cost as much as the laptop, and I was unsure of how long they would last. I did put Crucial or WD Green SSds as the main drives. These days the price difference between the Crucial and WD Green drives has reduced quite a bit too.

If I splashed out on a new, power-house or gaming rig computer I might go for the more expensive premium brand SSDs but a couple of reviews I saw said that while those are faster on benchmarks, in real world use you’d be hard pressed to see the difference.

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@ak2020:
If you use the VM for something, it uses as many disk IOs as the same action on your host.
You can improve the response times and reduce the disk load, if you use e.g. ZFS for your VMs, the majority of their disk IO will be served from the ZFS memory cache. My hit rate for the cache after 7 hours is currently 95%. So only 5% of my disk IO has been served by the disks/SSD and 95% has been served from memory.

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I’ve used Mint Mate for over 4 years, but a disclaimer is that I usually have 4 - 5 distros on my main machine. My INTEL NUC has Mint 19.2 Mate, Solus4 Budgie, Solus4 Mate, MX18.3, and EndeavourOS. Yesterday I made MX19 my boot distro. For some reason my wired internet connection kept dropping out on Mint 19.2, and I even reinstalled it twice before I gave up the ghost and went with MX.

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Three to six months’ish. I’ve run this fedora 30 workstation install since April.

I’l probably nuke and pave for Fedora 31 but that’s more to do a minimal install vice having all of workstation.

The laptop died but I used Debian sid on it for 5 years. No issues, no re-installs. It was still the machine that I used for the longest time with one distro installed on it.

My wife’s laptop runs Debian Stable since 2015 after various dist-upgrades. Try that with Windows! :wink: There is no EOL, you can just go to the next version.

There should never be a reason to ‘nuke and pave’ IMO.
I only reinstall if I really must, new hardware or something breaks. I hate to set up everything again. In fact, one of the reasons I use Linux is that I can do in-place upgrades.

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I have this impression that software gunk builds up over time (leftover configuration files from uninstalled programs, unused libraries, fonts, etc. This seem pervasive in Windows (particularly in the registry entries) but does a similar process happen on Linux?

Does Linux slow down in an “old” installation vs a fresh install?