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If I'm running a version of Ubuntu more recent than that on which elementary OS is based, can I install elementary's components onto it for a working elementary OS setup?

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You could install the elementary desktop and all the standard applications on top of your existing Unity desktop with these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/stable
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/os-patches
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install elementary-desktop

You'll probably have to logout and switch to Pantheon in your display manager.

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    I believe there are two elementary PPAs, not one. If using 14.04, then the second PPA upgrades the necessary Libraries. If using 15.04, then there may be some incompatibilities. – Lewis Goddard Jul 5 '15 at 12:45
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    Are you referring to versable? – Huey Jul 5 '15 at 14:46
  • No, I think there are two official PPAs enabled when you install elementary. – Lewis Goddard Jul 5 '15 at 14:56
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    I would specify that this is not a recommended method. Although you certainly can end up with a working system, it can harldy provide the "real elementary experience" the devs have designed. I think there are many more tweaks under the hood which cannot be reproduced just by adding a couple of PPAs. – Giulio Sant Jul 7 '15 at 8:32
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    It might be worth adding that adding PPAs does not change your settings and won't remove stuff that's already installed. It also won't perform any other tasks that our build system does that isn't provided in packaging. You won't get the exact same experience as a clean install of elementary OS. You'll have a Pantheon on Ubuntu experience. – Daniel Foré Jul 8 '15 at 20:06

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