Performing a Joomla upgrade or update is not as simple as just pushing a couple of buttons to sub in the newest version. Joomla releases new versions for a number of reasons. Depending upon the upgrade that you are performing, there can be major differences between those versions. Lots of website elements must be considered, which means many opportunities for things to go wrong. Our experience in performing Joomla upgrades over the years has taught us a few things. In this case, we want to share some of the most important don’ts.

Not Running a Full Backup Before Starting

There is absolutely no excuse for not running a full backup for your Joomla site. You can use Akeeba Backup. The free version will make you a nice backup that includes BOTH your files and database.  The Pro version lets you set up automated backups, upload to Dropbox and more.

We also recommend running a plain Jane SQL backup as well because it can be helpful when working with migrating other extension data.

Not Checking System Requirements Beforehand

Joomla 3.x has higher technical requirements than previous versions.  You can see those on the official Joomla page.  Even though it lists PHP 5.2.4 and up, most 3rd party extensions are going to require PHP 5.3+ so you might as well start there.  You also need to make sure that Magic Quotes is disabled.

Using Out of Date Joomla Extensions

The absolute quickest way to break a site is to have an out of date extension on it that is not compatible with the version of Joomla you are using.  If you are upgrading from Joomla 1.5, you should be building on a fresh install and importing the database data with SP Upgrade (preferred) or JUpgrade.  If you are going from Joomla 1.6, 1.7, or 2.5 up to Joomla 3.x, then you will need to physically uninstall any extensions that are not Joomla 3.x compatible.

If you currently use an extension that does NOT have a newer version, you need to make a choice: 1) Switch over to a competitor’s extension or 2) Delay upgrading.  I do not recommend #2 unless the developer specifically has stated it is in progress and either has a release date or milestone.

Not Getting a New Version of the Joomla Template

You have make EVERYTHING else migrate perfectly, but if your template isn’t available, then you are probably not going to successfully go live.  Templates take a decent amount of tweaking to go from Joomla 1.5 up to 2.5, and some more from 2.5 to 3.x.

Many times someone will have a commercial template on a site and not have a current subscription for it.  Know that you will need to ante up and get a new license before upgrading. This is similar to what I said about budgeting for extension subscriptions.

If there is NOT a new version of your template out, you are probably better off selecting a new one that matches your design rather than paying to get your current one converted.  Most new templates are “responsive” (which means that auto-resize on different size devices) and have lots of other new features like being built on a framework that allows you to make changes.

Not Running Website Backups Regularly During the Upgrade

Just as it is important to run a backup before starting the upgrade process, you need to regularly run those backups while you are in the Joomla upgrade process. It may save you a lot of time and heartache/headache.

Once you get all the core Joomla data migrated (users, content, menus, etc), make sure you run another backup.  Anytime you accomplish another chunk of the upgrade, run ANOTHER backup (such as setting up a new template, installing new extensions, migrating data for other extensions, etc).  Many times I have gotten all the basics done, then go to migrate over a 3rd party extension and gotten completely stuck.  This way you can roll it back and not have to start over again which will save some of that headache we mentioned at the beginning.

Not Considering SEO Friendly Settings

Joomla is difficult enough when it comes to SEO, so don’t make it even harder by not using the appropriate SEO settings. If the SEO friendly settings were in place from the previous version, be sure to match them during the upgrade. While it is a very good thing to get your website running on the newest version of Joomla, you do not want to do it at the expense of tanking your current Google rank.  Make sure you set up your Search Engine Friendly links the exact same way as the previous site or you will have a TON of broken links.  You will want to check those settings in the Global Configuration of your site and check to see if you are using a 3rd party SEF extension like sh404sef, JoomSEF, MijoSEF, etc.  If so, you will want to take the time to make sure that is set up exactly the same, including installing any additional plugins.

Not Removing the Old Site from the Server

The main reason people upgrade their sites is that having the older version of Joomla can make you vulnerable.  If you leave the old copy on your server, then you haven’t removed the threat.  Someone can hack in through the old version and gain access to your database and FTP files, which means they can completely ruin your day.  For all the hacked websites I have seen over the years, the hacker doesn’t usually login to your Joomla site, they mess directly with the database and files, so don’t leave them the foothold by leaving the old site up.

You should have the full website backup of the old site you made at the beginning of this process.  Save that on your computer and/or somewhere remote like Dropbox.  Then delete all the old files and database from your hosting.


If you have any further questions regarding this, or maybe you are stuck in the upgrade process for your Joomla website, please feel free to give the Joomla Masters a call at (866) 516-8798.

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