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Follow the path : Upgrading Umbraco from V4 to V7

Recently I was required to refresh a website that I developed around two years ago for one of our clients. Like many of our sites this was developed upon our favourite content management system, Umbraco. The Umbraco platform is continually evolving and has gone through a significant number of iterations over the last few years, some good, some not so good. 

I've developed sites in pretty much every stable release over the past three years, including the short lived Umbraco 5, however it's rare that I've needed to undertake an Umbraco upgrade. 

For some reason call it brave or stupid but this latest project seemed like the ideal opportunity to see how simple the process really is. I already had an up-to-date development copy of the site with a development database so what did I have to lose...

For anyone embarking on a similar challenge I thought it worthwhile to outline the pitfalls and experiences I had during the process and more importantly share the resources that allowed me to successfully upgrade from 4.7.1 to 7.1.2.

Prior to the introduction of the new Belle user interface (UI), the team at Blix had refined the out-of-the-box and very dated Umbraco UI with a simple but effective replacement. Other than the enhanced UI the install I'm discussing here is a standard Umbraco 4.7.1 build with very few packages installed. I would think twice before upgrading any site that has more packages and bespoke development as this is where you are likely to start running into difficulties.

One step at a time

Unfortunately the main issue with upgrading Umbraco is that you cannot jump straight from one version to several versions in the future. I used the upgrade paths suggested on Lee Kelleher's site ( Which for me was:

4.7.1 » 4.7.2 » 4.8.1 » 4.9.0 » 4.11.1 » » 6.0.0 » 7.1.2

Umbraco is kind enough to have all historical releases on the Umbraco community site and also provides guidance on upgrading Umbraco alongside any version specific steps. Before starting the upgrade make sure you know your upgrade path and have read the various upgrade guides and always do this on a development site! I would also point out that you need to make sure you are logged out of the Umbraco CMS prior to each upgrade as this caught me out with a YSOD(yellow screen of death) during one of the upgrades.

The process

Upgrading 4.7.1 to 4.7.2 was a fairly smooth process, download the 4.7.2 release, copy across the /bin, /install, /umbraco and /umbraco_client folders. I downloaded and installed WinMerge and then compared each of the files within the /config folder. Fortunately this Umbraco instance was a fairly vanilla build and there were very few modifications made in the various config files and any that had been made I was happy to overwrite in the name of simplicity. So I proceeded to copy across the 4.7.2 /config folder then loaded up my site and let Umbraco do its thing. Success Step 1 was issue free and I was one step closer!

With no need to compare the config files as I had overwritten any changes in the previous upgrade I was able to complete the next 4 upgrades fairly effortlessly:

  • Download upgrade release
  • Copy /Config, /Install, /Umbraco, /Umbraco_client and /bin folders
  • Load the site and let Umbraco update the database where required.

There are a couple of version specific steps I had to undertake:

4.7.2 to 4.8.1

  • Delete /bin/app_browsers.dll
  • Delete /bin/app_global.aspx

4.9.0 to 4.11.1

  • Delete /bin/umbraco.linq.core.dll
  • Copy across /App_plugins
  • Copy across /Views
  • Delete /Config/formHandlers.config

I now successfully had a 4.11.1 version of Umbraco up and running!

Next step 4.11.1 to 6.0.0 : As before copy /Config, /Install, /Umbraco, /Umbraco_client and /bin folders. In addition I now needed to copy across the new global.asax file.

At this point I had another YSOD a quick check in WinMerge with the current and 6.0.0 release web.config files showed a handful of library references that needed updating. Up until now the web.config file had been untouched by me. You will need to go through line by line to check you copy across the updated references that are required. With a bit of luck that had fixed the YSOD and once completed I was able to load the site and let Umbraco do its various database upgrades.

There were a few issues I had noticed, but now its time to install the Path fix-up package. I couldn't install this directly from the Umbraco Package repository so had to download the zip file and install it from the downloaded file. Once installed you will see a new tab in your developer area called Utilities and a button to 'Fix Paths'. Click the button and the package will clean up any inconsistencies and fix any database issues. This was 6.0.0 up and running, time for a coffee before the final upgrade.

Almost there

This is the big one 6.0.0 to 7.1.2! There is a page dedicated to the 7 upgrade process on the umbraco site that's also worth a read. So as I'd already done 7 times before I copied the  /Config, /Install, /Umbraco, /Umbraco_client and /bin folders along with the /global.asax file from the 7.1.2 build. There are a few additional steps before we are ready to run the site: 

  • Delete /bin/Our.Umbraco/uGoLive.47x.dll
  • Delete /bin/Our.Umbraco/uGoLive.checks.dll
  • Delete /bin/Our.Umbraco/uGoLive.dll
  • Copy /macroscripts/web.config
  • Copy /views/web.config
  • Delete /Config/xsltExtensions.config

There is a lot to do in the web.config file now so again load the two in WinMerge. One of the big changes is the database connection which moves into <connectionStrings>. In addition below is the list of changes suggested on the Umbraco 7 upgrade guide but you will need to compare the files in WinMerge to make sure you have everything correct:

  • remove <section name="BaseRestExtensions"> section
  • remove <section name="FileSystemProviders"> section
  • remove <sectionGroup name="system.web.webPages.razor"> section
  • remove <<FileSystemProviders > element
  • remove <BaseRestExtensions > element
  • remove <add key="umbracoUseMediumTrust" > element
  • remove <system.web.extensions> element
  • removes <xhtmlConformance > element
  • remove <system.codedom> element
  • remove <compilation> <assemblies *> </compilation>
  • remove <system.web.webPages.razor > element
  • new <sectionGroup name="umbracoConfiguration"> section
  • new <umbracoConfiguration> element
  • ensure that the targetFramework="4.5" is added to the <httpRuntime> element
  • add <add key="ValidationSettings:UnobtrusiveValidationMode" value="None" /> to the appSettings element

All being well you should now be ready to load your site and start the database upgrade. I quickly ran into issues with the database upgrade. Fortunatly I found a forum discussion on where several people were having similar issues and used the following fixes to get me moving again. 


Fix 1

ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsMacroProperty] drop CONSTRAINT [DF_macroProperty_macroPropertyHidden]


ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsMacroProperty] ADD  CONSTRAINT [DF_cmsMacroProperty_macroPropertyHidden]  DEFAULT ('0') FOR [macroPropertyHidden]



Fix 2

ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsMacroProperty]  WITH CHECK ADD  CONSTRAINT [FK_cmsMacroProperty_cmsMacroPropertyType_id] FOREIGN KEY([macroPropertyType])

REFERENCES [dbo].[cmsMacroPropertyType] ([id])


ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsMacroProperty] CHECK CONSTRAINT [FK_cmsMacroProperty_cmsMacroPropertyType_id]



Fix 3

ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsMacroProperty] DROP CONSTRAINT [FK_umbracoMacroProperty_umbracoMacroPropertyType]



Fix 4

ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsTagRelationship]  WITH CHECK ADD CONSTRAINT [FK_cmsTagRelationship_umbracoNode_id] FOREIGN KEY([nodeId])

REFERENCES [dbo].[umbracoNode] ([id])


ALTER TABLE [dbo].[cmsTagRelationship] CHECK CONSTRAINT [FK_cmsTagRelationship_umbracoNode_id]



One by one I ran the 4 fixes and hey presto the database upgrade was successful!. There are several code changes within the macro's/master templated, that now can be transferred into Partial Views and tidied up but mostly a 4.7.1 Umbraco site was up and running in Umbraco 7.1.2!

Worth the wait

There are lots of steps and it takes time but the whole process was all in all surprisingly smooth but worth the effort because Umbraco version 7 is such a significant improvement.

Of course I benefited from the fact there we no critical packages installed and the initial build was very little more than a vanilla Umbraco instance. Time will tell if there any strange quirks but so far so good!

Every umbraco instance is different I imagine that next time I try this it might not be as plain sailing but I pleased to have completed the upgrade on this site at least. There is a great Umbraco community out there and most issues you come across have been experienced before and google will be a useful assistant!  

Posted By Simon Campbell Filed under Umbraco, Dev Tips on

About the author

Simon brings nearly two decades of software development experience to the team and is a full-stack Microsoft developer with an innate understanding of complex systems and an eye for detail.

As the "Campbell" in Campbell Sauvarin Photography Simon also adds professional photography skills to the mix of skills at Blix HQ.