on re-installing things
Often over in the #fedora IRC channel, we have people who come in with some issue or problem who only spend a minute or two gathering information on it before asking: “Should I just re-install?”. Sometimes they mean re-installing the application/package, and sometimes they mean just reinstalling the entire OS! I fear this is a ingraned reaction from the closed source software world where there is really sometimes no way to tell what the application/os is doing and returning it to a clean state is the only choice. Thats not (usually) how things work in the open source world though. 🙂
- First ask yourself: Did this thing work before? It doesn’t now? What changed? Check /var/log/yum.log or other history and find out exactly what changed. Did you change a setting? Did you upgrade a package? You can think look for how to revert that specific thing that caused the problem. No need to re-install.
- Do you have reason to think the package or application was messed up somehow on your disk? ie, do you have disk problems, or did you run a script as root that might have messed up binaries? Sure, then a ‘yum reinstall package’ might be in order.
- Does the problem/issue occur with another newly created user? If not, then that points to a user specific setting. Reinstalling the package won’t do any good, because the setting is tied to your user. Instead look for what that setting is or how to revert it.
- Is the problem/issue causing you to not be able to boot? Instead of re-installing, look to a rescue media. You can often fix the issue by booting ‘linux rescue’. No need for a re-install.
About the only time you should absolutely re-install your OS is when your machine has been compromised. Otherwise, it’s a lot better to fix the real issue, no only because it’s often easier, but because you will learn something in the process!