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Upgrading/replacing Linux Lite 2.6 (and Mint 17.3) in multiboot system

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  • Linux Lite: 2.6 64bit
I had a rush of enthusiasm after making the transition to Linux two or three years ago.  But I didn't want to abandon entirely the OEM install of Win7 on my laptop.  So with the help of goldfinger and others on the Lite and Mint forums, I set up a multiboot arrangement.
Now both Lite 2.6 and Mint 17.3 (which I installed....) have reached End-Of-Life.  I want to replace/upgrade them.  I need guidance on how to do so without interfering with the rest of the multiboot setup.

Here are the basic facts:
 I have a Samsung laptop with a 750GB hard drive, partitioned and set up with MBR/Legacy (no UEFI);
 On that drive I have four OSs:  Win7 (the OEM operating system), Linux Mint 17.3, Linux Lite 2.6, and PCLinuxOS;
 As well as the System Reserved (Windows) partition at the beginning, there is a Samsung Recovery partition at the end;
 The Linux OSs are installed in an extended partition, each one in its own logical partition,;
 There is a Swap space and a Data partition shared by all three Linux OSs;
 I don't have a separate /home for each of the Linux OSs, but symlinks from their respective File Managers to the Data partition.
 A screenshot from Disk Manager probably helps to give the picture (the 1.3MB of unallocated space is an odd leftover from the original Gparted partitioning):
  Samsung disk partitions - April 19.png
 Samsung disk partitions
 And a screenshot of my Mint File Manager shows the symlinks from relevant folders to the folders in the  Data partition (the Lite File Manager looks pretty much exactly the same):
  Samsung - Linux Mint File Manager - April 19.png
 Samsung Mint File Manager
 That's not quite all.  The booting is still managed by the Win7 MBR bootloader.  The GRUBs of each Linux OS are installed in their respective /root partitions.  Thanks to EasyBCD, the Win7 bootloader lists all the other OSs and passes the boot task onward to the GRUB of whichever Linux OS I want to use.
 So..... I now want to replace Lite 2.6 and Mint 17.3 as both have reached EOL.  To make things marginally simpler, I am inclined to replace these two OSs by only one upgrade - either Lite 4.x or Mint 19.x.

 I have been trying to ensure I get clear all the steps I ought to take to replace the operating systems concerned without risking, or losing, my personal data and files.  I am hoping that the fact I don't have separate /home partitions, and I do have a separate Data partition, will help.
 These are the steps which I think I ought to take.  Can anyone tell me if I have got them wrong or overlooked anything?
 1.  From a Live session of my 'new' OS (let's say Lite 4.x), using GParted, delete or format the Mint and Lite logical partitions sdb6 and sdb7 and reconfigure them into a single larger partition.
 This will of course wipe out not only the two OSs, but also their Grubs, which are on those partitions.   It might enable me also to tidy up that odd little 1.3MB unallocated space between them. But I hope it will not affect the personal files, docs, pics, music etc which are on the Data partition. [First question - Will the formatting and merging of what are currently partitions 6 and 7 into one result in all the partition-numbers being changed?  Or would the new one become partition 6 and there would be no 7, with the rest remaining as-is?]
 2.  Using the "something else" option, install the new Lite 4.x into that newly-formatted and 'empty' partition, and install its Grub there too.
 3.  Go into Win7 and amend/update the MBR bootloader using EasyBCD to remove its existing entries for the 'old' Mint and Lite OSs, and add an entry to link to the Grub of the new Lite 4.x.
 4.  Boot into the new Lite 4.x, and create symlinks in its file manager to point to the Data partition.
 Is that it?   Already I have three questions about possible other steps....
 i)  do I need to selectively save, copy or backup any other stuff - such as config settings - from the two old OSs before I delete them?  If so what and where is the stuff I should salvage?
 ii)  related to that point, should I save or copy all my Thunderbird emails and my Firefox bookmarks in order then to  import them into the new OS?(I'm sure the answer to that is Yes!)
 iii)  as it's ages since I created the symlinks, and I can't quite remember the steps..... what exactly do I need to do to re-create them?  I'm thinking that it's something to do with "chown" or organising a mount point, but I can't remember exactly what and how!
 Obviously I don't want any of this to impact on the existing installed Win7 or PCLinuxOS, which ought to be unaffected by the changes.
 Wise advice, cautionary warnings and detailed how-to comments would be appreciated.  I'm holding to the old carpenter's maxim:  "Measure three times, check twice, cut once".


Linux Lite 5.0 Final is now available for download and installation