How To Upgrade phpBB
Monday, April 24, 2006
By: Matthew Doucette

This is a very basic tutorial on how to upgrade your old version of phpBB (version 2.x.x) to the new version of phpBB (version 2.x.x) using the "Changed Files Only" download version.


Read Me First:

This article is not timeless.  This tutorial is based on modifying phpBB version 2.0.13 to 2.0.14.  I have used this tutorial to upgrade our forums from every step from version 2.0.13 to 2.0.21.  If this is some time way into the future, and you are running phpBB version 3.x.x, this tutorial may not work!


What About Forum Mods?

If your phpBB board is heavily modified, then you may not wish to use this tutorial.  Our phpBB forums are slightly modified and this tutorial seems to work great for us.  If you end up using this tutorial and it modifies one of your modifications back to its original format, then it is hard lesson to learn, but please record all of your modifications to your phpBB forums, so that you can re-do them!

Ok, let's start:


STEP 1 - Download Newest Version of phpBB:

  • download the "changed files only" package ("" in this example) from
  • if the links do not work, then scroll down some as there are usually extra mirrored links hosted on that will work  


STEP 2 - Disable Board:

  • Warning: do not backup board until you disable it, to make sure you do not miss any last-second posts before you attempt to upgrade your forums
  • go to "phpBB Administration"
  • under "General Admin" click "Configuration"
  • this page is called "General Configuration"
  • set "Disable board" to Yes
  • scroll down to bottom of page
  • click "Submit"
  • click "Preview forum" to test to make sure it is disabled (load forum)
  • this message should show up:

    "Sorry, but this board is currently unavailable. Please try again later."


STEP 3 - Backup Database:

  • under "General Admin" click "Backup Database"
  • this page is called "Database Utilities : Backup"
  • under "Backup options" choose "Full backup" and "Gzip compress file" set to "Yes"
  • click "Start Backup"
  • Save file
  • Rename the file now (I number them), and move it to where you normally store your backup files
  • Restart STEP 3 if Internet Explorer's popup blocker intervenes and makes you screw up.  Sometimes you just need to be patient with the IE popup blocker, after you click by it and choose to download the file, and it will work.


STEP 4 - Extract Changed Files (Part 1/2)

  • Choose the "changed files only" package ("" in this example)
  • extract zip file ("" in this example) into its own folder (a new folder called "phpBB-2.0.14-files" in this example); I use WinRAR to extract zip files, which creates a folder of the same name as the zip file and puts the extracted files inside this folder
  • go inside extraction of zip file ("phpBB-2.0.14-files" folder in this example)
  • create a new folder (on the desktop or some other easily accessible place)
  • copy only the root folders (and all the files contained inside the root folders) of original zip file (cache, contrib, docs, install) into new folder; do not copy all the *.zip files into new folder


STEP 5 - Extract Changed Files (Part 2/2)

  • go inside the folder where the zip file is extracted (the "phpBB-2.0.14-files" folder we created in STEP 4 in this example)
  • extract the 'from-to versions' zip file that makes sense ("" in this example)
  • go into extraction of zip file ("2.0.13_to_2.0.14" in this example)
  • copy all files and folders inside into new folder (the one you created on the desktop or other place)
  • if a folder already exists, copy it anyway, the files inside it are not already there
  • the new folder should now contain "cache", "contrib", "docs", and "install" directories, plus extra files and directories
  • please note that the "cache", "contrib", "docs", and "install" directories are from STEP 4, not this step


STEP 6 - Delete Extraced Files

  • we no longer need the extracte files, let's delete them...
  • delete ALL the extracted files you created from the *.zip files ; for example, if I delete the "phpBB-2.0.14-files" folder (that was created in this example when we extracted the "" file) it will delete all the extracted files we created all at once
  • if you recall, we extracted files from two zip files, and the second zip file was a file extracted from within the first zip file.  At any rate, just delete all the files you created from all the zip files you have unzipped so far.
  • remember to close down any Windows Explorer windows first, as Windows will not allow you to delete folders that are  being "used"


STEP 7 - Copy Files To Server

  • you can double check to make sure your forums are disabled, as they should be before this step
  • connect to your website via your FTP program
  • go into new folder (the one you created on the desktop or other place)
  • copy files from new folder to the proper server folder ("/public_html/forums/" for me.)
  • Note: server folder will not contain "contrib" and "install" folders as they are deleted after each upgrade.
  • choose to "overwrite all"


STEP 8 - Install Update Via Web Browser

  • run "install/update_to_latest.php"
  • if my site was "", and my forums were located at "", then I would run ""
  • a webpage should load with this message:

    "Updating to latest stable release"
    "Result :: No errors"

  • don't worry about the following message (if someone can explain this message to me, please contact us or discuss in our forums):

    "If you updated from versions prior to RC-3 you must update some entries."

  •  don't worry about the following message (as you have already updated your board files when you uploaded the files to your server):

    "Please make sure you have updated your board files too, this file is only updating your database."


STEP 9 - Delete Folders on Server

  • delete "/install/" and "/contrib/" folders on server
  • I put this as its own step to ensure you do not miss it!


STEP 10 - Enable Board

  • go to "phpBB Administration"
  • under "General Admin" click "Configuration"
  • this page is called "General Configuration"
  • set "Disable board" to "No"
  • scroll down to bottom of page
  • click "Submit"
  • click "Preview forum" to test to make sure it is enabled (load forum)


STEP 11 - Clean Up

  • delete new folder on desktop or other place


STEP 12 - Backup Database

  • backup database again (go back in this tutorial and repeat STEP 3)


STEP 13 - Make a Post

  • At this point, I usually make a post to my board indicating I have made changes to it.
  • I do this in case I did something wrong and I wish to let all my members know there is a slight possibility I may have broken something.


STEP 14 - Done

  • Done!


What About Your Database?

You do not need to restore your database to keep your posts and threads intact.  At the end of this tutorial, your posts should be exactly as they were before.

In fact, you do not have to backup your database, at all, to upgrade your forums, but I do recommend it.  I recommend backing up your database, just in case, whenever you make changes to your forums.  You can never have too many backups!


Final Comments:

As you can see from some of my posts on, upgrading phpBB can be quite confusing to newcomers.  I hope this little tutorial helps motivate you to consistently upgrade your phpBB board for security reasons if nothing else.

If this tutorial had any "bumps" for you, or did not "flow" well, please let us know.  We'll fix it.  All feedback is welcome, please post in our forums or contact us directly.


Contact Us:

Post in our forums or email us.


External Links:



About the Author: I am Matthew Doucette of Xona Games, an award-winning indie game studio that I founded with my twin brother. We make intensified arcade-style retro games. Our business, our games, our technology, and we as competitive gamers have won prestigious awards and received worldwide press. Our business has won $180,000 in contests. Our games have ranked from #1 in Canada to #1 in Japan, have become #1 best sellers in multiple countries, have won game contests, and have held 3 of the top 5 rated spots in Japan of all Xbox LIVE indie games. Our game engines have been awarded for technical excellence. And we, the developers, have placed #1 in competitive gaming competitions -- relating to the games we make. Read about our story, our awards, our games, and view our blog.

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