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I really like Linux Mint, but for most of its life, you couldn't upgrade directly from one version to another. Then, starting with Mint 18.1 in 2016, you could easily upgrade Mint. Now, after the initial release of Linux Mint 19, you can upgrade from the last version, Linux Mint 18.3, to Linux Mint 19.
However, it's not as easy as it was in the 18.x series.
Of course, before 18.x, you had to manually replace Mint while keeping your personal files in a home directory located on another partition. You can still do that if you want using the instructions I give on how to move from Windows to Mint.
To jump from one version of 18 to another was simple. All you had to do was make sure your old system was up-to-date with patches and then run: Update Manager > Edit > Upgrade to Linux Mint 18.x
It's not so easy this go-around.
You'll need to have at least a basic understanding of shell commands and the apt command in particular. As the Mint team itself states in the Mint 19 upgrade tutorial, "Upgrading to a newer package base is not trivial and it should not be performed by novice users."
So, with that in mind, let's go over the basics.
First, you don't have to upgrade. Unlike Microsoft, which seems hell-bent on pushing people off Windows 7 to 10 even before Windows 7 runs out of support, the Linux Mint 17.x versions are supported until 2019, and Mint 18.x is supported until 2021.
If you do want to upgrade, you can upgrade all three supported versions of Mint: Cinnamon, MATE, and Xfce. Linux Mint KDE's development has stopped with version 18.3. The Mint team recommends you move to Kubuntu if you want KDE with an Ubuntu engine under the hood.
Once, you've decided to update your system, you need to make a backup. Linux Mint 18.3 comes with an excellent, easy-to-use backup tool: Use it. Once done, make sure that backup can be restored. Yes, this will take a while, but you don't want to lose your data, do you? It's better to be safe than sorry.
If you have an earlier version of Mint, upgrade your way to 18.3. You can't move from 17.x or 18.2 or below directly to 19.
Next, if you don't have Mint's Timeshift tool, which makes systems snapshots, install it. You can do with the software manager or from the shell with the following command:
$ sudo apt install timeshift
Timeshift, like macOS's Time Machine, creates a system snapshot. Once installed, run "Menu -> Administration -> Timeshift" to make a system backup. This way, in the extremely unlikely chance your update goes completely haywire, you can restore your way back to a working system. To access your backup, just boot up from a Mint USB or DVD, then use Timeshift from it to find your backup, and restore your computer.
So far, you may be thinking this is simple. It's about to get more complicated.
Your next step is to determine if you're running the right display manager. MDM Display Manager, an older display manager, has been depreciated and is no longer supported in Mint 19. It's been replaced by LightDM. To see what's what, head to the shell and run:
$ cat /etc/X11/default-display-manager
If this command displays:
You'll need to replace mdm with lightdm using the command:
$ sudo apt install lightdm lightdm-settings slick-greeter
Then, reboot. You'll get a choice between MDM and LightDM on the boot-up screen. Pick LightDM. Once that's done, in your system once more, open up a terminal and run the following commands to get rid of MDM:
$ sudo apt remove --purge mdm mint-mdm-themes*
$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure lightdm
And then reboot once more.
You're now ready to start moving to Linux Mint 19. Start by opening the Update Manager and clicking on "Refresh" to refresh the APT cache. That done, apply all the updates.
Now, crack your fingers, head to a terminal, and change its default behavior to unlimited scrolling from the "Edit"-> "Profile Preferences"-> "Scrolling" settings.
It's time to install the latest system upgrade tool with the shell command:
$ sudo apt install mintupgrade
You can make sure your Mint upgrade really is the latest and greatest by running this command:
$ sudo apt version mintupgrade
And comparing the version number to the master copy of MintUpgrade on GitHub. For example, as I write this on July 9, the newest version is 18.3.11.
This can be vital. Over the weekend, for example, an upstream change to the Mesa 3D Graphics Library caused MintUpgrade to fail. This has been fixed in the 18.3.11 release.
Next, you can see if any remaining install problems lie ahead by running:
$ sudo mintupgrade check
This command doesn't make any changes, but it will tell you if the upgrade is possible. It will also tell you which packages will be upgraded, installed, removed, and kept back.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, everything should smooth sailing. But, sometimes, you'll see Linux program packages, which can prevent the upgrade. If you do, you must remove them before you can successfully run the real upgrade.
Once everything's OK, you can download the new Mint files with the command:
$ sudo mintupgrade download
This amounts to, at most, 1.9GB. With a slow internet connection, you can take off for lunch. With my 400Gbps connection, it's just a minute or two.
Once everything is downloaded, you're ready to pull the trigger and install 19 with this command:
$ sudo mintupgrade upgrade
There's no way back from here, except by running a restore.
I doubt you'll want to, though.
While I have seen people running into upgrade problems, I don't see any fundamental problems showing up. If you do run into trouble, you can ask Clement 'Clem; Lefebvre, the master Mint developer himself. for help, or go to the Linux Mint forums. I highly recommend any Linux Mint user join the forums. They can be a great help even when you're not updating your system.
Now, go and enjoy!