Upgrading and updating phpBB

(Post updated July 17, 2017 to reflect phpBB 3.2.)

In general, upgrading from a major version to another version (2.0 to 3.0, for example) or from a minor version to another minor version (3.0 to 3.1) is error prone and a hassle, particularly if you used shared hosting or are not technically inclined. In these cases you might want to contact me and have it done professionally.

The phpBB group has instructions for upgrading that are linked below:

Upgrades move you from a minor version of phpBB, such as 3.1, to another minor version, such as 3.2. Updates keep you on the same minor version but add patches and bug fixes, such as 3.2.0 to 3.2.1

There are many ways of updating phpBB 3.2 to a newer version of 3.2. The phpBB group suggests the automatic update package. I disagree. It is faster and simpler to use the changed files method. This is because the automatic update package involves the hassle of telling phpBB how to use FTP and setting various file permissions. In addition, I have found it error prone.

Here is how I upgrade clients easily with the changed files method:

  1. I back up the forum’s database locally using the Administration Control Panel, Maintenance tab.
  2. I make a file backup of the phpBB directory, usually using the web host control panel file manager. This is an extra precaution but is probably not necessary if you are careful with the remaining steps. Select all files and directories in the phpBB root folder and select the compress option. Give the file an easy to remember name like forum_files_backup_before_upgrade_to_3.2.1.gz. Store it wherever you want on your web host or download it, just make sure you don’t accidentally delete it.
  3. I download the changed files archive for the current version of phpBB.
  4. Once downloaded I expand (uncompress) the archive. Inside are more archives showing the changed file for each micro version. For example, when downloading the 3.2.1 archive you will find phpBB-3.2.0_to_3.2.1.zip archive. I’ll expand that. It will create a directory called phpBB-3.2.0_to_3.2.1. You should expand the archive for your current version of phpBB, which you can find on the main Administration Control Panel web page.
  5. I go into this folder. This contains all the files that have changed from that version to the newest version. Be careful not to accidentally delete the following:
    1. config.php
    2. files folder
    3. images folder
    4. store folder
  6. Carefully use FTP to upload these to your phpBB root folder using FTP. File folders should match. For example, if there is an adm folder in the archive there should be an adm folder in the directory you are uploading to, your phpBB root directory. You will overwrite the old files, which is fine because they have been improved to add features and fix bugs.
  7. Inside the main archive is an install directory. I upload that to the phpBB root folder.
  8. Inside the main archive is also a vendor directory. I upload that to the phpBB vendor folder, overwriting whatever is there.
  9. For upgrading to phpBB 3.2, change the URL to the install folder, ex: http://www.myforum.com/phpbb3/install. Click on the update tab. Select the option to update the database only.
  10. For upgrading to a newer version of phpBB 3.1, run the program install/database_update.php, ex: http://www.myforum.com/phpbb3/install/database_update.php.
  11. After completion, I delete the install folder using FTP.

That’s it, you are done.

If for some reason something is not working correctly, you just recover your files and database since they are backed up. You may need to manually clear the contents of the phpBB cache folder with FTP.

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