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When should I upgrade to Joomla 4?

The Joomla 4 Dashboard The Joomla 4 Dashboard

Well managed Joomla upgrades can mean you keep the same valuable content you have curated, the same valuable links, SEO effort, software and extensions working hard for you and your business. Trying to update too early or without correct precautions is asking for a headache. In this article we take you through deciding when to update to Joomla 4 and how to ensure a safe & smooth process so you can enjoy Joomla 4 working for you for years.

TL;DR Wait until lots of the community have switched over, and all the bugs have been found. Summer 2022 is a good bet, but watch the Joomla release roadmap for changes.


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Upgrading from Joomla 3.x to Joomla 4.x should be a carefully managed process. It should not be done directly on a live website because that is a very risky option. Instead, we prefer to test the migration on a development clone. This way, if an issue arises we can solve it and move forward without scrambling to manage a site down situation. This sort of risk averse approach is the gold standard for good web development.

Joomla 4 is currently available as a stable release meaning it can be used for live websites. Most Joomla sites also run some add-on software called extensions which add extra features and functionaloity to Joomla websites. This might be an online shop using Virtuemart or JStore; or a community forum using Kunena bulletin board; or any one of the thousands of available Joomla extensions. Now that Joomla 4 has a few stable releases under its belt, the development teams that maintain these extensions are able to test their Joomla 4 compatible versions with customers on live sites, finding and fixing problems as they go. If your Joomla site is important for your business, its best to wait until that work is well seasoned before moving forward with your Joomla 3 to Joomla 4 migration project.

What should we be doing now?

If you have not yet checked, you can list the extensions you are using on your Joomla 3 website and see if they have a Joomla 4 compatible version available. It will also be useful to know how long those versions have been available and how many releases there have been because that will indicate how mature the release is. A mature release has far fewer bugs than any fresh release of course.

How to manage a Joomla 4 update

Once you are happy that the extensions for your Joomla 4 update project are all mature enough, the next step you should take is to clone the live website to a development area where you can test the migration. This way you can work on it in a safe area without risking the live site. Once you successfully complete, you can replace the live site with the new site. I suggest taking advantake of the amazing Akeeba Backup extension to facilitate this. It's a really great tool for Joomla backup and restoration.

When you have a development copy running, check the Joomla 4 technical requirements. Ensure all of the extensions and the Joomla 3 version you have are all up to date. Next, navigate into the Joomla Update Component and run the Pre-update Check for Joomla 4. If you are missing the "Pre-Update Check for Joomla 4" or the Joomla Update screens reads "You already have the latest Joomla version" you will first need to select the Options button in the top right of the Joomla Update screen and change the Default Update channel from Default to Joomla Next. Later, once the Joomla 3 to Joomla 4 migration is successful, switch this setting back to the Default update channel.

Joomla 4 Pre-update checks

Once you are on the Pre-Update Check for Joomla 4 screen, if anything shows up as Red or Orange, investigate those items. An Orange item doesn't mean the migration will fail, often its just a recommendation but it can show you a concern. If an item is showing as Red, the migration will likely fail so investigate each of those and figure out if that extension is missing a Joomla 4 version or of that setting is not up to scratch. It is also worth testing the basic functionalty of the site as you make updates, for example complete a checkout if its an ecommerce site, sign up if its a membership site; or simply check you can navigate around and see everything if its a content or marketing website. Another tool you can use is the Error Reporting feature in Joomla global configuration. Navigate into System > Global Configuration. On the Server tab, under Server Stettings select "Development" in the Error Reporting drop down and save the change. This will show you any important warnings or errors when you check the public front area of the site and give you information to investigate the problem before proceeding.

Green lit? Start the migration

Once you have brought everything up to speed and the Pre-update check for Joomla 4 shows Green for all of the items you can proceed. If some still show Orange, these are potential incompatibility warnings which you can try to turn green or proceed if you think they are unlikely to be problematic. If some of the extensions are not important for now, you can uninstall them before proceeding and find a Joomla 4 compatible version later. Of course, it's still worth running another backup so you have another fallback point to restore to should the next steps fail. Next, navigate to Components > Joomla Update and select the Live Update tab. If there are still items blocking the upgrade, you may select "Do you wish to ignore the warnings about potentially incompatible plugins and to proceed with the upgrade?" at the bottom before proceeding by clicking the "Install the Update" button. If there are no red items, you will see the Install the Update button directly. If the update is successful, Congratulations! You now have a Joomla 4 platform running. If the update was not successful, research the error(s) you see, roll back to the last good version where you took your backup and try again.

Is my template Joomla 4 compatible?

One of the main items that blocks a successful Joomla 4 migration or update process is the compatibility of the template. Templates are extensions also and they can contain older code that is not compatible with Joomla 4. If you purchased the template recently, you shoud contact the developers to see if they have a Joomla 4 compatible version available. Otherwise you can choose a new design with a Joomla 4 compatible template or you can rectify the older code in your current template to make it compatible. Which options you choose will depend on circumstances, time and budget.


Do you need help with a Joomla update or migration? Get in touch for a free assessment.


Last modified onWednesday, 31 August 2022 21:43

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