Key migration terminology

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While the following migration terms are commonly used in the software industry, these definitions are specific to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).


Sometimes called a software patch, an update is an addition to the current version of the application, operating system, or software that you are running. A software update addresses any issues or bugs to provide a better experience of working with the technology. In RHEL, an update relates to a minor release, for example, updating from RHEL 8.1 to 8.2.


An upgrade is when you replace the application, operating system, or software that you are currently running with a newer version. Typically, you first back up your data according to instructions from Red Hat. When you upgrade RHEL, you have two options:

  • In-place upgrade: During an in-place upgrade, you replace the earlier version with the new version without removing the earlier version first. The installed applications and utilities, along with the configurations and preferences, are incorporated into the new version.
  • Clean install: A clean install removes all traces of the previously installed operating system, system data, configurations, and applications and installs the latest version of the operating system. A clean install is ideal if you do not need any of the previous data or applications on your systems or if you are developing a new project that does not rely on prior builds.

Operating system conversion

A conversion is when you convert your operating system from a different Linux distribution to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Typically, you first back up your data according to instructions from Red Hat.


Typically, a migration indicates a change of platform: software or hardware. Moving from Windows to Linux is a migration. Moving a user from one laptop to another or a company from one server to another is a migration. However, most migrations also involve upgrades, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.

  • Migration to RHEL: Conversion of an existing operating system to RHEL
  • Migration across RHEL: Upgrade from one version of RHEL to another
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