ExpressionEngine® User Guide

Legacy Documentation

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Updating ExpressionEngine 4

This guide will help you update your site from a previous version of ExpressionEngine 4 to the latest version of ExpressionEngine 4.

See also

If you are upgrading from ExpressionEngine 3 to ExpressionEngine 4, see Upgrading from ExpressionEngine 3.

One-click Updating

ExpressionEngine offers a one-click updater to make updating fast and easy for you. When an update is available, you’ll see the version number in the control panel footer turn yellow or red. Click the version number, and then click “Update Now”.

Updating via command line

You can also update ExpressionEngine via the command line on your server. This allows you to keep your installation’s files only writable by your user and not also by your web service.

To update via the command line, execute the tool located at system/ee/eecms:

php system/ee/eecms upgrade

If you give executable permissions to the eecms file (chmod +x eecms), you can also execute it directly:

system/ee/eecms upgrade

Or if executing from the ee directory:

./eecms upgrade

Add a -v flag for verbose output:

./eecms upgrade -v

If you encounter a problem that requires rolling back the upgrade, you can run this command:

./eecms upgrade --rollback

If you cannot use the one-click updater or command-line updater, you can still do a manual update.


If you have code in your config.php that relies on $_SERVER variables or anything else not available in a command-line environment, you can check for REQ == 'CLI' to set alternate values, e.g.:

if (REQ == 'CLI')
  $config['site_url'] = '';
  // ...
  // Set config via environment variables

Troubleshooting automatic updates

Below are potential issues you may run into while using ExpressionEngine’s automatic update methods.

“The following paths are not writable:”

This error occurs when the process running the updater does not have proper filesystem permissions to move the new ExpressionEngine files into place. Take a look at the Set File Permissions section of the installation guide to make sure correct permissions are set.

Cannot rollback a failed upgrade

If an error occurs while ExpressionEngine is updating its files or database, the updater should provide a link to rollback to your previous installation. But in the rare case that doesn’t work, here is how you can get back up and running again.

  1. Navigate to system/user/cache/ee_update/backups/ and check to make sure there are backups in the system_ee folders and themes_ee folders.
  2. Delete the contents of system/ee/ and move the contents of system_ee to system/ee/.
  3. Delete the contents of themes/ee/ and move the contents of themes_ee to themes/ee/.
  4. If there is an SQL file located at system/user/cache/ee_update/database.sql, import that into your database to rollback database changes. This is only a partial backup to restore what the updater has changed, so do NOT delete the contents of your database first.
  5. Open system/user/config/config.php and set the is_system_on config to y.

At this point, your site should be restored and you should be able to re-enter your control panel.

If there are no files in your backup directory, it’s likely the updater failed before it could make a backup and your files and database are still intact. You likely just need to remove the folder located at system/ee/updater/ to access your control panel again.

If you hit an error you cannot resolve and need to contact support, there should be a log file located at system/user/cache/ee_update/update.log that may contain helpful information to help us diagnose the issue.

Manual Updating

If you cannot use the one-click updater, here is how you can manually perform an upgrade:

1. Backup and Prepare

  1. Back-up your ExpressionEngine database and files.
  2. Download the latest release of ExpressionEngine (either ExpressionEngine Core or the standard edition, whichever your site is currently running) and unzip the files to a folder on your computer.

2. Copy Files

Working either locally with your backed up files, or on the server (not recommended), copy the following files from the newly downloaded release to your site:

  1. Copy system/ee/ to system/ee/
  2. Copy themes/ee/ to themes/ee/

3. Run The Update Wizard

Go to your site’s control panel URL (typically found at or and follow the on-screen instructions to update ExpressionEngine.

4. Clean up

You’re Done! ExpressionEngine is now fully updated. But before you go…

  • If the updater could not automatically rename the installer, rename or remove system/ee/installer/ directory manually. The installer directory can be safely removed after installing ExpressionEngine.
  • To enable you to use the one-click updater next time, make sure your file permissions are all set.
  • Review the Version Notes since they outline any version-specific changes that you may need to make to your installation.
  • Review file permissions if something isn’t working quite right.