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The best way to test out a new Magento release without potentially destroying your production store is to setup a staging area.
A staging area is a duplicate of your primary store that you can use to see if the upgrade process will go smoothly, and also allow you to use both the frontend and backend of your site to see if everything is running properly.
This article is based on CPanel, but the principles will apply no matter where you are hosted or what control panel you're using.