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Joomla 2.5 support ended on December 31, 2014 but fortunately, it includes a very easy way to update itself to the latest version. However, although Joomla can update itself, it cannot update the third-party extensions installed.

This guide aims to help you get your Joomla website updated in very simple steps. We strongly suggest to read it completely before starting the process so you get familiar with it first.

On each one we describe a very simple way to do it but some people might know alternative ways to do the same. As long as you know what you are doing, this guide will serve as an easy checklist of things to do. Keep in mind the Joomla universe is quite large and some websites might require additional efforts depending on the extensions installed and/or the hosting system.

Step 1: Check requirements

Joomla requirements:

Ensure your hosting system complies with Joomla 3.x requirements as recommended on Joomla's website here: https://www.joomla.org/technical-requirements.html

Pay attention to the specific requirements for PHP, Apache and MySQL as these might require you to ask your hosting company for support to enable them on your server system.

FTP access:

It is always good to have a read/write FTP account and a FTP client (such as FileZilla) ready in case you have to download/upload files.

Database access:

Also ensure you have access to a Database tool such as phpMyAdmin (found on your host administration panel) from where to do a database backup. Ask your hosting provider if needed, all of them offer such tools.

Step 2: Get all extensions

Make a complete list of all third-party extensions installed on your website including all plugins, modules, components and templates not included in the standard Joomla distribution.

Then, go to each extension's website to download their latest release for Joomla 2.5 AND Joomla 3.x. Some extensions have only one ZIP file for both, others have different ZIP files for each one.

If an extension is not available yet for Joomla 3, you have to consider uninstalling it or switch to a similar extension and migrate the content.

Step 3: Backup! Backup! Backup!


You have heard this a thousand times but it is always true: Make a backup of everything before doing any changes. What's more: after doing the backup, make sure you can restore it!

There are many tools out there to make Joomla backups, but one simple and effective method is to use the tools listed above:
  1. Use an FTP client to download a copy of all files (to restore: simply upload all files back to the server)
  2. Use phpMyAdmin to export the database to a .sql file (to restore: delete the database, re-create the database then import the .sql file)
Your hosting provider might offer other facilities to backup and restore your site in case something goes wrong. Get familiar with the options first. You don't want to start learning about backups and restores when you NEED one.

Step 4: Tidy the system

Getting your Joomla system in shape before starting the upgrade process will save you from probable errors and make everything more efficient.

Uninstall dead or unused extensions

The extensions that are not compatible with Joomla 3 have to be uninstalled before updating the system. If you have to migrate content from one extension to another then you have to take additional steps for each one. For example: Install the new extension on your Joomla 2.5 system, then somehow populate it with the content from the old extension, ensure everything works OK then uninstall the old extension.

Keep in mind the steps above are just a general description, you will probably need to come up with a migration plan for each extension to suit the particular needs of each one.

Update third-party extensions

Before updating to Joomla 3, update all third-party extensions to their latest Joomla 2.5 versions, this will ensure you have the most up to date code and better compatibility when switching to Joomla 3. You can do this with Joomla's Extension Manager "Update" tab or downloading the extension ZIP file from the author's site and installing it.

Step 5: Update to Joomla 3

Updating Joomla itself is a straight-forward process:
  1. Login to your website's Joomla administrator page with a super user account.
  2. Select the "Components / Joomla! Update" menu option.
  3. In the Joomla! Update view, click on the "Options" button in the top right.
  4. On the Joomla! Update Configuration window, under the Update Source tab, set the Update Server parameter to "Short Term Support" and click on "Save & Close" button.
If Joomla does not show an update option for Joomla 3 at this time, you have to clear the update cache as follows:
  1. Go to "Extensions / Extension manager" menu option.
  2. Click on "Update" tab and then click on the "Purge Cache" button on the top right.
  3. Go back to the "Components / Joomla! Update" menu option.
You should see the update option for Joomla! 3.x now. Do not change the Installation Method parameter unless you know you have to, then click on "Install the update" button. This will initiate Joomla's update process and will take a few minutes to complete.

Once finished, your core system will be Joomla 3.

Step 6: Install third-party extensions

Before the system can be used you need to update the third-party extensions to their Joomla 3 versions. Just follow the standard extension install process for each one of the files you gathered on step 2.

Existing extensions

Most extensions will install just fine and need no further action to work. That is the case of all JoomlaXTC extensions and templates but some other third-party ones may not be able to update themselves giving a "folder already exists" or other similar error messages. In this case, the following trick might help:
  1. Extract the contents of the extension ZIP file to a folder on your PC.
  2. Find the .xml file and edit it with a plain-text editor like Notepad++ or Sublime Text 2.
  3. At the top of the file, locate the line that looks like this:   <extension type="module" version="3.0" client="side">
  4. Change that line to look like this:   <extension type="module" version="3.0" client="side" method="upgrade">
  5. Save the file changes.
  6. Create a new ZIP file with all the extracted extension files and folders, including the updated .xml.
  7. Use this ZIP file to install the extension on Joomla.
Note the xml line might look different on each extension however, the important bit here is to add the method="upgrade" attribute to the <extension> tag.

If the extension still refuses to install you may have to uninstall the old one first. This will probably require you to restore a backup and restart this guide from Step 4.

New Extensions

These should have no problem at all, just remember to configure and populate them with any data necessary.

Step 7: Test the system

You should have a fully working Joomla 3 website now. Take some time to validate all the features both on the Frontend and the Backend. Ensure your SEF URLs are OK, all menu options work, no PHP errors are shown, etc.

Congratulations! You have successfully updated your system!

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