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You may not have to reinstall. You have a few options you might want to investigate.

  • You could create a new partition in the empty space, formatting it from Linux, and add it to your filesystem through the /etc/fstab file. You could mount it as your home partition after copying your existing /home contents onto it. This would create quite a standard environment

  • If the empty space is adjacent on the disk to you existing Linux system partition, you could just expand the installed partition to include this space - take a look at the 'parted' tool (you might want a live CD version of disk tools to manipulate your system hard disk, and that's just a Google and Download away).

  • If you're Logical Volume Management for your system drives, you can use the LVM tools to either add the extra space directly to an LVM partition or create a new one and add that to the virtual disks that those drives use.

If you -must- reinstall, then use your original install media, but try to preserve your /home partition and your user and group IDs (these can be found in your '/etc/passwd' and '/etc/groups' files). If you do that your desktop environment will be completely preserved.

Either back up your /home or, if its one a separate partition, just choose to use it at install time without reformatting it. During the install re-create your users, but specify the UID and GID they had before, and the /home partition should just work within the filesystem permissions imposed by Linux.