If you don’t keep your data separate from your operating system, i.e. on another volume, then when you “distro hop” you need to be able to backup you Home folder before you install your new OS. This is the problem I’ve recently faced when moving from XFCE based Xubuntu to CrunchBang.
If you have a second hard disk (internal or external) then this is relatively easy, alternatively assuming you have space you cold use Gparted to create an additional partition on your hard drive and use this, although as it is all on the same physical disk it is more risky and therefore not my preference.
Whilst you can use rsync, TAR is the traditional way of backing up in Linux / Unix / MAC OSX and ships as standard with all Linux distros.
For my purposes I have used the rather helpful instructions on Ubuntu forums http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-93193.html provided by…
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