Database-Only Upgrade Instructions

Lower cost quickie upgrading


This is not the standard upgrade procedure. It will DEFINITELY cause you to lose functionality associated with your older customizations and could break things as you will have configuration settings with no associated files (sideboxes, template, etc.).

Doing a database only upgrade might be appropriate in situations like this:

You will lose your customizations, but you won’t lose your data and you’ll be using the latest software, which is more secure.

You will be using the responsive_classic template initially. You can always add a new template later after your store is up and running.


Note that if you are building a test version of your cart that uses a different version of PHP than your live site, see Multiple PHP Versions for instructions, since the procedure is a little different.

  1. CRITICAL: Back up your site
  2. CRITICAL: Backup your database
  3. Create a new directory called “test” and put the latest version of Zen Cart into it. We’ll call this your test site.
  4. Then create a new database and load your old database in it
  5. Do any database conversions necessary - only necessary if you have custom date fields
  6. Next, change the two configure.php files to utilize the new directory and database This way … when you attempt to upgrade you are “practicing” to see where the problems, if any will happen
  7. Run the installer at Note: if your current PHP version is very old, you may need to change it to run the installer. This will likely take down your live store. If you aren’t sure you can get this whole procedure done quickly, consider setting up a test environment and doing the upgrade there.
  8. Choose the Upgrade option

Use the upgrade button!

The zc_install process

Once you press the Upgrade button, the screen will show you a list of updates to be performed.

Updates being performed

Be patient - it can take a while to do all the updating required.

Once this action completes, you have an up to date copy of your database.

Database Changes

  • Go to Admin > Tools > Template Selection and set your template to Responsive Classic (since your old template won’t exist on your updated site).
  • Visit each of the admin pages Modules > Shipping, Modules > Payment, Modules > Order Total to allow your modules to insert any missing keys. Some modules may require re-installation to add keys.

Copy from live site

  • Copy the /images folder from your live site onto your test site.
  • Copy in any new images you created from your live site’s includes/templates/YOURTEMPLATE/images folder to the test site’s includes/templates/responsive_classic/images folder.
  • Copy in any new images you created from your live site’s email folder to the test site’s email folder.



  • Create a test order, take it all the way through to checkout success, then view the order in your test admin. Make sure everything is working as expected.

Updating PHP

If you have a little more time …

It’s worth your while to switch from the Responsive Classic template to the Bootstrap template. It looks much better and it’s just a bit more work. Redo the basic language customizations step for the storefront, using placing the files in includes/languages/english/bootstrap.

After Golive

  • Check out the Regular Periodic Maintenance thread for things you should be doing regularly.
  • Be sure you are subscribed to the Known Bugs thread for your release. Update your store as fixes are announced.

Still have questions? Use the Search box in the upper right, or try the full list of FAQs. If you can't find it there, head over to the Zen Cart support forum and ask there in the appropriate subforum. In your post, please include your Zen Cart and PHP versions, and a link to your site.

Is there an error or omission on this page? Please post to General Questions on the support forum. Or, if you'd like to open a pull request, just review the guidelines and get started. You can even PR right here.
Last modified January 21, 2024 by Scott C Wilson (44968a8).