What are some important directories and files to backup?

What are some important directories and files to backup before formatting and reinstalling the whole OS.?

I know I’m the minority here, but I just backup my Home folder. None of the configuration files. If I’m going to re-install I want a fresh clean OS, with none of the junk from old. I also just copy and paste, I don’t use any backup software.

Edit: I do export my bookmarks so it gets backed up. I use gmail, so I don’t have to backup my email, which was kind of a pain if I remember correctly. Also keeping my customizing simple, makes it easy to redo.

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for instance:
the ~/.mozilla folder (a hidden one) which contains the browser settings and profiles and all your bookmarks and history and stored logins/passwords - if you had the browser set to store those
or the ~/.thunderbird folder (also “hidden” - it contains all your mail and settings - if you use Thunderbird as your mail client
or the ~/.config/chromium folder (same as above, but for the Chromium browser)
or ~/.claws-mail if you use this e-mail client

You’d want to copy those hidden directories/files along with your data - but not the rest of the hidden files and folders.

An overly simplified answer would be:

  • ~/.config
  • /etc

Yes, I’m too lazy to filter the files, so just backup the whole directories instead. I’m not counting anything that does not do standardized things, though. There could be some exoteric packages installing everything, literally everything to its own directory under /opt, for instance. This should never be the case for official packages, but rather AUR ones.


I do export my bookmarks so it gets backed up.

But in firefox doesn’t it backups bookmarks automatically?
Am I missing something?

If a firefox account is used this will sync bookmarks (and more) This is not a backup btw.

all in /home and in any /home/< user >
may be list of packages installed should be save in /home

may be some change that you have applied on /etc

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If the whole Home folder is easily backed up, just back it up then you have all user files for later. If you have something like Steam installed and games, or a lot of Downloads, then you would have to probably select what to remove before, but if the Home is small, just back the whole folder so you don’t forget anything important.

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What omano said, $HOME folder could have things you may need.

Not mentioned specifically
~/.gnupg for your private keys (you can also list and export only those you need)
~/.ssh maybe if you’ve used it.

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