From time to time it is necessary to upgrade your vBulletin installation to the latest version. This is useful to either gain new features or fix newly discovered bugs or security breaches in PHP, MySQL or vBulletin itself.

If upgrading from vBulletin 2.x to a 3.x or 3.5.x version, you need to upgrade to at least 2.2.9. You can also upgrade to 2.3.5 or whatever is the latest 2.x version though, and continue the upgrade from there.

The upgrade process differs depending upon the version of vBulletin currently installed on your web server. Sites running vBulletin 2 will need to follow slightly different instructions from sites already running vBulletin 3 and upgrading to the latest version.

If upgrading from vBulletin 3.0.x to 3.5.0, or 2.x.x to 3.x.x you will also need to recreate your includes/config.php file based on the new version of includes/ This step would not be necessary for individual upgrades within the 3.0.x or 3.5.x series. If you are upgrading from vBulletin 3.5.x to vBulletin 3.6.x you do not need to edit the config.php file.

Preparing for the Upgrade

Please, make a full backup of your vBulletin system before upgrading its version!

Next, please log into your vBulletin Members' Area and download the latest vBulletin package available. After you have successfully downloaded the vBulletin package on your computer, you will need to prepare the scripts to be uploaded to your web server. The first thing to do is to extract the package to its constituent files. When the extraction progress is complete, you will find that the process has created a new folder called Upload and another called do_not_upload.

The upload folder contains the vBulletin files that need to be uploaded to your web server. You should now rename the upload folder to match whatever name you gave to the directory containing your vBulletin files on your web server. In this example, the folder containing the vBulletin files is called forum.

If you have changed the names of the admincp and modcp directories in your config.php file, be sure to make the same change to these subdirectories prior uploading.

Having downloaded the latest vBulletin package and unzipped it to a folder, you must now prepare your web server to accept the updated files.

There are two ways achieving this:

  • The first method involves overwriting all the files that were previously uploaded to your web server, which is the recommended one.
  • The second method involves deleting all the old files and directories, and then uploading the new scripts. In this tutorial we will use the First, overwriting method.

Having renamed the upload folder as specified in the previous step, you should load up your FTP client of choice. Connect to your FTP server and start uploading your files. You will most likely be prompted by the FTP client at this point to ask if you want to overwrite the existing files. You should confirm this prompt, telling the FTP client that you DO want to overwrite the existing files. If the prompt gives you the option to overwrite all existing files without prompting again, use this option.

Upgrading Vbulletin

For the sake of this tutorial we'll assume that you own the domain and are upgrading the vBulletin located at

Follow these steps to complete the upgrade:

Step 1: The first thing to do is login to your current vBulletin and turn it off. This can be done through vBulletin admin panel -> vBulletin Options from the left side menu. The first option available to you is to set your board to 'On' or 'Off'. We're going to click the 'Yes' radio button. Your screen should look like this:

vBulletin - vBulletin Options

Step 2: With the newest vBulletin files uploaded to your web server, you can now proceed to run the upgrade script. To do this, please, point your web browser at, replacing with the correct URL to your own vBulletin installation.

The first thing you will see from the install script is a log in prompt, asking you to enter your customer number. Enter the customer code you use to login to the vBulletin website and click the [Enter Upgrade System] button to continue. It should tell you that you've entered the customer number successfully and then forward you to the first page of the upgrade system.

Having read the information on the welcome page and confirmed that it is correct, click the [Next Step] button at the bottom right of the window to proceed to the next upgrade step.

As each step completes, a [Next Step] button will appear at the bottom of the page. When the button appears, the step has completed successfully and clicking the button will advance you to the next step. The number of steps is different for the different versions. Basically from here on all you have to do is click the [Next Step] buttons towards the end. At the end you need to delete the install.php file from the /install/ directory and you are DONE!

Do not refresh/reload any page of the upgrade scripts. Doing so may cause database alterations to be applied twice, which can cause errors.

A separate upgrade script exists to upgrade between each version of vBulletin. For example, if you are running vBulletin 3.0.0 Release Candidate 3, the system will first upgrade your database to vBulletin 3.0.0 Release Candidate 4 before progressing to the upgrade script for vBulletin 3.0.0. At the end of each script, the system will search for any additional scripts it needs to run to bring you up-to-date.

When all the necessary upgrade scripts have been run, you will be automatically redirected to the Admin CP login page.

Do not forget to bring your forum back online! To do that, please, click on the vBulletin option arrow to open the options page and turn the vBulletin board back on "Yes".

If you need our assistance with the vBulletin upgrade, you can post a ticket in Exclusive Professional Services -> Application upgrade and our Senior Support Team will upgrade the script for you.

Managing Templates after the vBulletin Upgrade

When a new version of vBulletin is released, usually some of the default templates are updated to accommodate the new features or fix bugs. If you have not customized any of your templates, all is fine for you.

If you have customized some of the default templates there are a few steps you will need to follow after running all the upgrade scripts.

When running vBulletin upgrade scripts, one of the final steps imports the newest version of the default style.

Any templates that you have not customized will be automatically updated to use the newest versions.

However, any templates that you have customized will not be altered or overwritten by importing the latest style. That is why you will need to follow the steps below:

Step 1: First, you should visit the Styles & Templates -> Find Updated Templates page to find out which (if any) of your customized templates may have updated default versions.

Step 2: If you find that some of your customized templates not to have updated default versions, you have three choices. You can either:

  • Do nothing and hope that your customized templates will still work properly with the new vBulletin version. This is often not a problem, but sometimes a variable may have been renamed or some other change may have been made that will render your customized template dysfunctional.
  • Click the "Revert" link for each template, removing your customizations to ensure that your templates are fully compatible with the new vBulletin version.
  • Click on the "Edit Template" link for each template, and compare the contents of your customized template with the version available by clicking the "View Original" link in order to manually update your customized templates to reflect the changes made in the default templates.

Well done! You have now successfully upgraded your Vbulletin system!

Please, feel free to contact us if you have any questions or recommendations about this tutorial at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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