Site Migration: moving a 1.5  to a 3.+ release

If you are moving from a 1.5 release to the latest Joomla release of 3+, this involves migration of the site. Migration is more involved than upgrading and it means that you are moving from to a different structure for the database. You must take specific steps to make the migration go as smoothly as possible.

Per, you need to install a clean new Joomla 3.+ website (whatever the latest versions is at the time) and then move your data into the new installation. The table structure is so different between the two versions that it requires a different approach than a regular upgrade.

Consider hiring a professional Web Developer

If you aren't familiar with extensions, databases, style sheets and the like, you may really want to consider hiring a professional Joomla developer to do the migration for you. It could save you many hours of frustration and the result should be a nice new clean Joomla site, if the developer knows his trade.

Consider just rebuilding a whole new website

It depends on your Joomla 1.5 site and how much of the content you need to hang onto and how big and complex your current site is. It may be that you are better of to start fresh and move some content over through the Administrative interface of Article Manager and Module Manager, rather than trying to migrate the various database tables. 

Doing the migration yourself

If you are determined to do the migration yourself, you should be aware of the steps involved. The migration should be done methodically and in a separate development environment, not on a live site.

Review your Joomla 1.5 installation

You need to review at a number of aspects:

  • the hosting environment
  • the way your site appears on screen
  • the site structure
  • the menu structure
  • the installed 3rd Party Extensions
  • the current URLs for the pages
  • the current template

Backup your current site and database

Before you start to do anything you want to be sure to make a complete backup of all the folders, files and the database of your 1.5 site as it is before you start to clean it up for the migration.

Consider a development environment

You may wish to install XAMPP or WAMP on your local computer to develop the new site. You can also develop Joomla in a subfolder at your web host. You hosting environment must meet the minimum requirements for Joomla 3.+. Having the 1.5 site and the 3.0 site in the same hosting environment can cause issues with the PHP version. If you upgrade the PHP for the 3+ installation, it can cause problems for the 1.5 site. Contact your hosting company to see if you can have different PHP versions for two different sites in the same hosting environment.

Visit this site for the minimum requirements for Joomla 3.+:

Finish the development site before going live with it

The development process for installing a Joomla 3.+ site and migrating the data can take hours or even days depending on the complexity of the site. Leave your 1.5 site live and do the development of your new site in a separate location.

Clean up the current site

Delete any thing that you know that won't need in the future site, unpublished articles, old contacts, unpublished modules, user profiles, old image files, etc. Clean out any items that have been trashed.

Do an inventory and assessment of the installed extensions

List out what 3rd Party Extensions have been installed. Go to and see if they have matching extensions for the latest Joomla 3.+ version. If they don't, see if there is another extension that has similar functionality. If you have data associated with a defunct extension, it may not be transferable.

Create a URL listing for the pages of your 1.5 website

With your updated site, the URLs may change for your pages. You can create redirects so people still get to the correct page even if clicking on a link to a page that no longer exists. One way to do this is to go to a sitemap generator website and have them crawl your site, but this may not be all the pages if there are any broken links. If you have a large site, this can be a tedious process, but necessary.

Look at your template

It is very likely that your 1.5 template is no longer available for later Joomla 3.+ releases. It may be that you need to migrate your site to a completely new template with different position names and different style sheets.

Did you hack the core files of Joomla 1.5?

If you edited the core files, those changes will not be reflected with Joomla 3.+. You will need to assess if these changes are necessary for the new site and may need to replicate them with overrides (don't hack the core again - not a good idea). If you did hack the core, you may lose these hacks when you prep your site for the migration as you need to have the latest 1.5.26 version of Joomla installed prior to migration.

If you have hacked the core files, you may want to do the 1.5 to 1.5.26 upgrade on a copy of the site in a separate development environment as it could change the layout or functionality of the live site. If it is in a development environment, it is likely not necessary to fix all the issues, as you are going to be moving it to 3.+ anyway.

Upgrade Joomla 1.5 site to 1.5.26

Before you migrate, you need to have your 1.5 site upgraded to the last 1.5 release of 1.5.26. Before running this upgrade, backup all the sites files and database as it is. 

You can find the Joomla 1.5 to 1.5.26 update patch here:

Select a migration tool

There are a number of Joomla migration tools available that do the legwork of moving the 1.5.26 site to 3+.  You need to access what all you are migrating. Some tools perform only certain steps. You may also need to research if your extensions and template require separate migration tools. It is important to keep the item ids intact as this is crucial to your navigation and interior links.

You can see a list of migration tools here:

Research, research, research

Here are some other articles to read regarding migration:

Here is a link to the Joomla Forum page on migration: