Ideas from other projects: recovery partition(Pop_OS!)

I wanted to make this thread because a lot of times people do not look at what is happening beyond their space, and I think its a shame because we can learn a lot from each other.

The feature I want to showcase is the custom /recovery partition present on every Pop_OS! system(minus the ones that were manually partitioned).
The /recovery partition is a separate, bootable FAT partition that contains a recovery image of the entire Linux distribution. A user can use this to repair, reinstall, recover their system without the need of separate install media like a USB stick and without losing their data. It is seems to be aware of what the root partition is using a config file.

Similar systems are also present in Windows OEM laptops. And it makes sense that System76 implemented this as it is in their interest as an OEM.

This partition is also separately upgradeable from the system, using the utility pop-upgrade which also has a graphical front end in the GNOME control center.

The user can enter the recovery partition by selecting the recovery partition on systemd-boot

It could probably also be used as a way handle “offline major updates” but its probably not the best solution for that. I can imagine a scenario where a Fedora user can boot into said partition and from there follow various recovery actions like “find and fix broken packages”, “repair bootloader”, “refresh system and keep data”.

What do you guys think?


Do you have to be root to use thise feature ? Remember Fedora does not have a root account password to set up. You end up with the scenario currently on Fedora, where since no root account password is set up, you can’t properly use Emergency Mode to fix the system.

you need to have administrator access to update it.
Other than that it’s a live system much like any other liveUSB system that you can use to chroot into a linux system. It is completely separate. It is completely unlike the emergency system Fedora.
Theoretically it doesn’t even have to be a pop_OS image I can imagine a “funny scenario” where you somehow shove an archlinux live image into the partition.

I think this is very important feature for both atomic and non atomic os.
This should be on discussion @mattdm

I can’t think of a situation when I would need a recovery partition.

For sure I need to backup my files, a loss there is the worst thing ever and it is not recoverable.

I may find useful BTRFS system snapshots and if they are technically possible, I think Fedora should invest in those instead of the recovery partition.

From Ask Fedora to The Water Cooler

Added tech-talk and removed installation, partitioning

Hello @svin24 ,
I moved your post because this is not really a question for help.

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The recovery partition is essentially a completely separate system so it can be configured however is appropriate for the goal it is trying to achieve.

The audience is probably not us. Where it is most useful is for the low information user. Easily restore the system from a GUI with a single easy to understand option.

Restoring a btrfs snapshot is not as simple nor as foolproof as this. A lot can go wrong with restoring a snapshot. On top of that, btrfs snapshots are inside the filesystem so they can’t be used to recover from filesystem corruption.

I am all for btrfs snapshots but I think the use-case is slightly different.


Thank you, I wasn’t really certain where to put it.

I am “low information user” and I don’t know how I can break my system by doing “sudo dnf install/remove”, never happened a single time.

I had issues with version upgrades, even with “clean install”, due to the new version not working well with my hardware and I had issues with system updates like the GUI did not come up any more. In both situations I moved to a different distribution because when it fails that bad it is time to move on.

I bet it happens more frequently with a “rolling release” distribution but again me being “low information” I am not going to use Arch.

In my experience the worst thing can happen to “low information users” is to lose the content of “/home”. Then they need a backup much more than a recovery partition. It doesn’t cover disc failures but the installer could automatically set a “backup partition” and configure a backup tool to push some copy of “/home” in there.

Back to BTRFS, I see it being used on OpenSuse and even on Spiral Linux. If we wait anything to have zero defects we wait for ever. I am not a fan of it just because, in my eyes it is just a way to backup the system. I insist that we need backups BEFORE we need installers.


Now, the good thing is the “/home” is still there. The bad thing is the “I have lot of useful code I have written that I hate to lose” part, meaning the user seems to not have ANY backup. This thing that backups are “optional” is suicidal. If something ever must be made “automatic” this is the one.

Could not agree more!

But the problem is that you need a place that the user has access to, and they can trust, to store the backups.

I have backups going to a Fedora Server that I manage that stores my macOS, Windows and Fedora systems backups. But that requires an investment in hardware and admin expertise. Far from being automatic.

When we speak of “low information users” it is a whole different area than servers and professional environment.

We speak of people who do like the guy in the linked post, who attempted an upgrade that failed without having a backup.

I am not any better, I learned the hard way miself.
I lost days of work because I did not save it.
Since I am stupid, I would like some automatic feature that helps with stupidity but I have also learned that some things are more stupid than others.

Since we are speaking of a “recovery partition” to help the “low informed users” to get out of possible issues, my reasoning is the very first thing we should do is to automatically make some copy of “/home” in some place that is not overwritten and automatically detect it and retreive data when necessary.

Only after that we can worry of restoring the system. Because, I think it is simple, I don’t care of reinstalling everything from scratch when I have a backup. The opposite instead is a catastrophe, I have a working system but I have lost my files.

Please note that the “recovery partition” at best IGNORES the existing “/home”. It does nothing for whatever happened to it, which instead should be the first priority.

A 3rd redundant recovery option :stuck_out_tongue: Fedora has Btrfs and rpm-ostree.

I prefer the idea of a recovery partition the most, but I have a feeling it doesn’t fit-in with immutable or RHEL’s more-preferred solutions.

I really prefer the idea of people actually knowing the OS they’re choosing to run on their computers, knowing how to handle backups, and not needing piles of redundancy slowing down my OS and extra disk space taken to cater to the lack-of that :stuck_out_tongue:

Recovery for years has already been as-easy as booting the same LiveOS installer used to install the OS. Most people don’t need to be recovering their OS to have a persistent secondary limited version of it sitting around, assuming their chosen OS has good enough QA.

However, one recovery option that actually works I guess isn’t bad. There’s already Btrfs snapshots. openSUSE seemingly went with that. Fedora defaults to Btrfs. Btrfs is “the future” from ext4. What’s with reinventing the wheel? Pick something, integrate it well, and stop the redundancy :stuck_out_tongue:

Could be useful for me who is constantly reinstalling Fedora many times, having to boot into a Live ISO or dealing with partitions and stuff :D.

I reinstall operating systems probably at least twice a week and on SSDs that includes trimming the whole thing any way; a recovery partition would slow me up :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course, and I’m saying that backups for that type of user are a hard problem. How will such a user do backups?

I wrote about it already.
I imagine that the installer creates a “backup partition” and sets up some backup software to copy “/home” over there. The backup software must be set to take a backup automatically with some interval. Optionally it can also be done manually.
Then any following installation will detect the existing “backup partition” and offer to either copy data elsewhere (external drive, remote) or restore the backup, probably at the end of the new install.
Regardless, the “backup partition” is never overwritten.
Something like that.
I don’t see anything “hard” for the final user, she/he would not be asked of anything unless something goes wrong or a new install is performed.
Again this is not meant fix software issues like problematic updates or upgrades, it is a sort of “ejection seat” that saves the user’s data automatically.

Ideally “average users” should never reinstall.
if we speak of some tool that helps in frequent reinstalling that goes in the opposite direction.

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That only works so long as the hardware does not break.