Preparing to Install openSUSE 12.1 from Scratch

You may already know, but openSUSE released v12.1 of the community distribution this week. With a new number before the decimal point, I thought it would be a good time for a fresh, clean install on my aging laptop. I could just upgrade my existing v11.4 installation, but I like to see what the new install looks like from time to time. Doing a clean install also means I can share the process with you too.

Clean installs do require a bit of preparation, though. You will be wiping your partitions, so you want to preserve your existing data, and a bit of your configurations before embarking on a new install. In this post, I’ll share what I did.

1. Review Existing Repositories in YaST

While you can find software to do just about anything with just the default repositories in openSUSE, sometimes you need something that isn’t in there, or even in the community repositories that you get access to with every installation. Fortunately, the openSUSE Build Service (OBS) allows anyone to create packages to distribute with openSUSE, or any major Linux distribution.

When you use the 1-Click Install option, the packager adds his/her  repository to your system so you get all the updates. Checking what packages come from what repositories can save you some time later.

As I write this, it occurs to me that the repo list is probably stored in /etc somewhere, but you will still want to write down the repo names and the relevant packages that to install on 12.1.

2. Full Backup

Speaking of packages I got from a non-standard repository, I use BackInTime to handle regular backups of my /home drive to my ever-trusty Seagate FreeAgent external drive. It backs up that info weekly, and is a no-brainer to set up. Nonetheless, I wanted to ensure that everything got backed up before the uninstall/reinstall, so I wanted to make my own archived /home drive, and also the /etc space (where system configuration files tend to be kept).

I thought that would be a simple task with KDE‘s handy Ark tool, but I ran into a permissions issue. Apparently the place I wanted to back up to was restricted to Root! So using the Krusader file manager in Root mode, I was able to change the permissions for the backup folder, and perform the backup; shrinking the 25GB on my /home path to just 9GB. Data is safe!

3. Understand Your Partition Table

Now some people might get angry with me, but I still have the occasional need for that Microsoft operating system. Lots of folks still use it, and the appropriate screen shot is still helpful for my readers (thanks, all of you!). So I’ve been running a dual-boot system for pretty much this entire millennium. Maybe you don’t have to, so you can skip this step. Otherwise, I highly recommend knowing what your system currently looks like. the openSUSE install program should recognize everything that’s there already, but in the off-chance that something goes wrong, if you know how Linux already sees your drive, chances are better it will stay that way.

Again, YaST helps in this regard with the Expert Partitioner module. This tool will reorganize your drive if you need it to, but I’m just going to look at the table now. I wrote down the current partition table, noting that the physical drive was split up into eight pieces (including an extended partition that holds just about everything). I made careful notes of the file system on each partition (so I know where Windows sits) and the size of each. After I wrote it down by hand, I took a screen shot  for additional peace of mind. I should be able to recreate that during the install.

4. Release Day Arrives: Let’s Pull Down Torrents!

As I awoke on the morning of November 16, openSUSE v12.1 was released. I went straight to the download site, and downloaded the torrent files for the full 32-bit DVD release, and LiveCDs containing the GNOME 3.2 desktop and KDE 4.7.2. I can’t make DVDs with this laptop, but I suspected that I could be of help to others if I got all the stuff. The Transmission torrent client went to work as I did the same. When I got home from work, all three files were downloaded to the FreeAgent drive and seeding other people’s downloads.

I guessed right, as my share ratios indicate the DVD is by far the most popular form of download. Interestingly, the GNOME LiveCD has maintained a slight edge over KDE every time I’ve checked the ratios.

BTW, If all this talk of torrents and share ratios have you scratching your head, please let me know. This post has gone on too long already, but I’m happy to take up the topic later.

5. Burn the KDE LiveCD

So let’s see: Data’s backed up; we know where to find random packages, we know where to install the new version and got the installation program. All that’s left is to put the install program on CD. For that task, I use K3B, the excellent CD/DVD burning tool that comes with KDE. Throw a CD-RW into the drive, go to Tools > Burn Image, and point to the openSUSE-12.1-KDE-LiveCD-i686.iso file. Another dialog comes up, where I ask K3B to confirm the data is valid on the CD after writing it, and 10 minutes later, I have a CD ready to go.

In the next post, I’ll tell you how the install went. In the meantime, let me know how you prepare for a new install. Fewer steps? Always just a dist-upgrade?

If you’ve already upgraded to openSUSE 12.1, I’d love to hear how it went, and what you think. Of course, if anything went badly, please file bug reports!


10 thoughts on “Preparing to Install openSUSE 12.1 from Scratch

  1. I installed 12.1 on a Lenovo T420 with KDE and the install went perfectly, the system ran great. Shutdown no problem. Reboot …. crap it thinks the drive is bare. No dual boot just openSuse 12.1. Still trying to sort this out.

  2. Installed 12.1 on my laptop, first I tried to upgrade from 11.4 but this did not work, then I did a clean install on my HP Pavilon, and everything went smooth.
    It maintained the dual boot system, no major problems.
    The only thing I miss is the gnome screensaver. On 11.4 it worked perfectly with pictures from f-spot.
    Somehow I can’t get this working on 12.1 with gnome 3.2, any help is appreciated.

    1. Werner, I haven’t had the chance to play with GNOME yet on this system, but I’ll check and get back with you.

      Glad the clean install worked. What happened with the upgrade? Did you use zypper dup from the command line, or some other method? When upgrading using Software Management, you have to make sure to point all your repositories to the new version. So if, for example, the main repository for open source software is pointing to, you need to change “11.4” to “12.1” before running the upgrade. Since everything (except for the screensaver) is now working nicely, I’ll assume that your repos are now pointing to the right place.

      1. I tried to upgrade from the DVD (install and then upgrade) it did not properly reboot, got stuck, so I installed from scratch.
        About the screensaver, in 11.4 we had it under /usr/share/applications, but we do not have it in 12.1. I installed the screensaver and also added it to the Startup Applications, but nothing….
        Yes the repos are pointing to 12.1.

  3. What about btrfs?….this is the next big thing…..
    on paper looks great, I never tried but if anyone has any experience with this please let me know
    I am interested about btrfs because the snapshot feature …is revolutionary…

    are there any bugs that I should be aware of?….how much space takes the snapshots? (I also have a dual boot linux/win7x64)


    1. Mateo, I have to admit I was a little timid about installing btrfs on my production system. When I get some extra time, I plan to run another copy in a virtual machine on btrfs.

      1. I recommend to try on a real machine because in VM you don’t have a accurate cpu usage.
        I tried on a laptop that I have for testing and I was surprise about the huge cpu load….(comparing with ext4)….they are saying that has a backup features embedded but they don’t say how much space this backup will take on a regular hdd and where is writing the backup file (is important when you create the partition)…I feel like we are flying blind around here …. 🙂

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