Difference Between a Joomla Upgrade, a Joomla Update, and a Joomla Migration

Many Joomla website owners are often confused between the terms “Joomla Update”, “Joomla Upgrade”, and “Joomla Migration”: some of them think that they are all the same thing, some others think that an update is the same as an upgrade, but both are different form a migration. The absolute majority, however, does know that there is a difference between the three, but just doesn’t know what it is.

Let us explain the difference between all three…

A Joomla upgrade is when you upgrade your Joomla version to a higher version than the one you currently have. For example, let’s say that you have Joomla 1.5.22. Taking your Joomla version to 1.5.25 is an update. An upgrade does not necessarily mean that you take your Joomla version to the latest in your line. (A line means the series of similar Joomla installments, for example, 1.5.20, 1.5.24, 1.5.26 are all Joomla versions in the same line – the latest version in this line, at the time of the publishing of this post, is Joomla 1.5.26)

A Joomla update is when you upgrade your Joomla version to the latest version in your line. For example, if you have Joomla 1.5.20, then upgrading to 1.5.26 is called an update. As you can see, a Joomla update is always an upgrade, but the opposite is not always true.

A Joomla migration is when you move from one line to another. For example, let’s say that your website is powered by Joomla 1.5.23 – moving to Joomla 2.5.4 (latest version in the 2.5.x line) is 5 step process:

  • An upgrade from Joomla 1.5.23 to Joomla 1.5.24
  • An upgrade from Joomla 1.5.24 to Joomla 1.5.25
  • An update to Joomla 1.5.26
  • A migration from 1.5.x to 2.5.x
  • An update from Joomla 2.5.0 to Joomla 2.5.4

As you can see, we have moved from one line of Joomla (1.5.x) to another (2.5.x). Note that a migration does not necessarily mean that we’re moving to a higher line: for example, moving from Joomla 2.5.x to Joomla 1.5.x is also considered to be a migration.

What is the technical difference between Joomla upgrades, updates, and migrations?

Upgrades and updates are technically the same – they consist of just downloading a zip file (which is an upgrade package), extracting it, and then uploading its files to their corresponding places in your Joomla installation.

A migration, on the other hand, its much more complicated and it’s not merely about updating some files in your Joomla core. In a migration, you install a fresh Joomla instance from another line (for example, if you are using version 1.5.26 and you need to migrate to 2.5.0 then you prepare a fresh installation of Joomla 2.5.0), you then export the data from your current Joomla website, and import it using self-developed or 3rd party tools to the other Joomla instance. You will also need to manually convert your template(s) and your 3rd party extensions to make them compatible with that new Joomla instance (if they’re not already). The reason why you need to do all this work is because Joomla versions from other lines have a different data structure (when it comes to the database) and have different formats for installation files (for example, a myplugin.xml for Joomla 2.5.x does not not have the same format as myplugin.xml for Joomla 1.5.x). Additionally, some critical functions/objects either behave differently from one Joomla line to another, or exist in one line but do not exist in another. (global $mainframe is a great example as it exists in Joomla 1.5.x, but it does exist in Joomla 2.5.x as it is replaced by JFactory::getApplication();)1

As you can clearly see, migrations can be very complicated and can potentially take days to finish, depending on the complexity of your website.

How to tell whether what you need is an upgrade/update or a migration?

If you’re moving from 1.0.x to 1.5.x or from 1.5.x to 2.5.x then you’re doing a migration (note that moving from 2.5.x to 1.5.x is also a migration). Moving from 1.0.x to 2.5.x is a double migration (1.0.x to 1.5.x and 1.5.x to 2.5.x), and may involve several upgrades/updates.

Now, if you need help upgrading/updating your Joomla website, or migrating from one Joomla line to another, then all you need to do is to contact us. We’re always available, we’re friendly, and our fees are extremely affordable.

1Note that there are many other differences between Joomla 1.5.x and Joomla 2.5.x, such as changes in in the configuration file and a completely different ACL.

4 Responses to “Difference Between a Joomla Upgrade, a Joomla Update, and a Joomla Migration”
  1. Pingback by Joomla 1.5.26 Is No Longer Secure! | itoctopus — September 3, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    […] not an upgrade to Joomla 1.6 (or 1.7), it’s a migration (see the difference here) that is nearly identical to the Joomla 2.5 […]

  2. Comment by christeen — September 5, 2012 @ 2:40 am


    So now i am on Joomla 1.0 and i want to migrate to 2.5.4 and i need to migrate the layout or template 1st. Could that be done manually, migrating the layout from 1.0 to 2.5.4? if yes, could you tell me how it could be done?

  3. Comment by Fadi — September 5, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    Hi Christeen,

    The migration of the template is manual (migrating the layout means more or less migrating the template) and it differs from one case to another. The time it takes to migrate a template is directly proportional to the usage of the built-in Joomla functions (the more Joomla functions/directives you’re using in your previous template, the more time it’ll take to migrate the template).

  4. Pingback by What Is the Worst Joomla Version? | itoctopus — January 25, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    […] Forget about official statements telling end users that Joomla 1.6 can be easily upgraded to Joomla 2.5. According to our experience, it cannot! In fact, on several occasions, we had to treat an update from Joomla 1.6 to Joomla 2.5 as a migration! (read about the difference between an update, an upgrade, and a migration here.) […]

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