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Just curious, when upgrading from Linux Mint 19 to 20, why is it necessary to downgrade foreign packages? Why can't the upgrade utility simply ignore them? (note: this may be applicable to many Linux disttos, but I only have Mint so that's the only one I can speak to).

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The recommendation isn’t to downgrade foreign packages, but to remove them.

Upgrades from one release to another, in any distribution, can involve significant changes to the set of “base” packages that are used. For example, the upgrade from Debian 10 to Debian 11 involves many (automatic) changes to packages to handle the switch from libgcc1 to libgcc-s1. Getting such transitions right, so that the upgrade tools can resolve the set of dependencies and calculate the required upgrade steps, can become rather complex; in fact the GCC transition in Debian took a while to sort out.

These preparations, by definition, can’t account for all possible foreign packages, and the maintainers of foreign packages can’t be expected to follow all the intricacies during the development of new releases of the distributions they support. In fact, in many cases foreign packages will only start being made available for new releases of distributions once that release has happened, which is too late for at least some upgrading users.

As a result, the recommendation is always to remove foreign packages before upgrading. This reduces the risk of failure in the upgrade process itself. The foreign packages will still be available afterwards, so users can try to reinstall them after the upgrade, or ask the foreign package maintainers to provide updated versions (instead of complaining to the distribution maintainers because the upgrade failed).

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  • Excellent explanation, thank you! I'm slowly transitioning from Windows, so I guess I'm used to having a Windows program installed, and even if you update from Win Vista to Win 10, for example, it's not like the OS upgrade would really affect installed programs, or vice versa.
    – ETL
    Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 17:00

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