Upgrading plugin data

Every now and then there comes a time when a plugin needs to change the contents or the structure of the data it has stored either in the database or the dataroot.

The motivation for this may be that the data structure needs to be converted to more efficient or flexible structure. Or perhaps due to a bug the data items have been saved in an invalid way, and they needs to be converted to the correct format.

Migrations and convertions like this may take a long time if there is a lot of data to be processed. This is why Elgg provides the Elgg\Upgrade\Batch interface that can be used for implementing long-running upgrades.

Declaring a plugin upgrade

Plugin can communicate the need for an upgrade under the upgrades key in elgg-plugin.php file. Each value of the array must be the fully qualified name of an upgrade class that implements the Elgg\Upgrade\Batch interface.

Example from mod/blog/elgg-plugin.php file:

return [
        'upgrades' => [
The class names in the example refer to the classes:
  • mod/blog/classes/Blog/Upgrades/AccessLevelFix
  • mod/blog/classes/Blog/Upgrades/DraftStatusUpgrade

The upgrade class

A class implemening the Elgg\Upgrade\Batch interface has a lot of freedom on how it wants to handle the actual processing of the data. It must however declare some constant variables and also take care of marking whether each processed item was upgraded successfully or not.

The basic structure of the class is the following:


namespace Blog\Upgrades;

 * Fixes invalid blog access values
class AccessLevelFix implements \Elgg\Upgrade\Batch {
        const INCREMENT_OFFSET = true;

        const VERSION = 2016120300;

         * Check whether the upgrade is needed
         * @return bool
        public function isRequired() {


         * Count the amount of items that need to be processed
         * @return int
        public function countItems() {


         * Run the upgrade
         * @param Result $result
         * @param int    $offset
         * @return Result result
        public function run(\Elgg\Upgrade\Result $result, $offset) {


Class constants

The class must declare the following constant variables:


This is a boolean value that tells Elgg core whether it should increment the offset of the upgrade after each run. If the upgrade leaves the data itself intact and simply modifies it in some way, the value should be set to true. If the upgrade either moves or completely deletes the items within the data, the value should be false.


The version constant tells the date when the upgrade was added. It consists of eight digits and is in format yyyymmddnn where:

  • yyyy is the year
  • mm is the month (with leading zero)
  • dd is the day (with leading zero)
  • nn is an incrementing number (starting from 00) that is used in case two separate upgrades have been added during the same day

Class methods


Checks the database or the dataroot whether there are items that need to be upgraded.


Counts and returns the total amount of items that need to be processed by the upgrade.


Takes care of the actual upgrade. It takes two parameters:

  • $result: An instance of Elgg\Upgrade\Result object
  • $offset: The offset where the next upgrade batch should start

For each item the method processes, it must call either:

  • $result->addSuccesses(): If the item was upgraded successfully
  • $result->addFailures(): If it failed to upgrade the item

Both methods default to one item, but you can optionally pass in the number of items.

Additionally it can set as many error messages as it sees necessary in case something goes wrong:

  • $result->addError("Error message goes here")

In most cases the $offset parameter is passed directly to one of the elgg_get_entities*() functions:

 * Process blog posts
 * @param Result $result Object that holds results of the batch
 * @param int    $offset Starting point of the batch
 * @return Result Instance of \Elgg\Upgrade\Result;
public function run(Result $result, $offset) {
        $blogs = elgg_get_entitites([
                'type' => 'object'
                'subtype' => 'blog'
                'offset' => $offset,

        foreach ($blogs as $blog) {
                // Do something to the blog objects here
                if (do_something($blog)) {
                } else {
                        $result->addError("Failed to fix the blog {$blog->guid}.");

        return $result;

Administration interface

Each upgrade implementing the Elgg\Upgrade\Batch interface gets listed in the admin panel after triggering the site upgrade from the Administration dashboard.

While running the upgrades Elgg provides:

  • Estimated duration of the upgrade
  • Count of processed items
  • Number of errors
  • Possible error messages