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Migrations are simple files that hold the commands to apply and remove changes to your database. This allows you and your team to easily keep track of changes made for each new module. They may create tables, modify tables or fields, etc. But they are not limited to just changing the schema. You could use them to fix bad data in the database or populate new fields.

While you could make the changes to the database by hand, migrations provide a simple, consistent way for developers to stay on track with each other's changes. It also makes it simple to apply the changes in your development environment to your production environment.

Using migration files also creates a version of your database that can be included in your current code versioning, whether you use git, svn, or another solution. While you might not have your data backed up in the case of a devastating loss, you can at least recreate your database and start over.

Migrations are contained in sequentially numbered files so the system knows the order to apply them or remove them.

Migration Groups

By default, migrations are stored under the application/database/migrations folder. You can add more folders, or simply relocate the migrations altogether. This is done in the application/config/migration.php config file.

$config['migration_paths'] = array(
    'app' => APPPATH . 'database/migrations/'

To add a new folder where migrations can be found, simply add a new row to the array. The key is an alias that you will use when you call the migrations from the command line, or define the groups to be automatically migrated in the config/application file. The value is the location on the server where the migrations can be found.

Module Migrations

Each module can contain its own migrations, that can be applied completely separate of any application or core migrations. This allows for you to easily re-use your modules in other applications.

Module-level migrations are stored in modules/my_module/migrations folders.

Enabling Migrations

A clean install has migrations enabled by default. However, it is recommended when you move to production to disable migrations for security.

To disable migrations, edit the following line in application/config/migrations.php to be false.

$config['migrations_enabled'] = true;

Anatomy of a Migration

A migration is a subclass of CI_Migration that implements two methods: up (perform the required transformations) and down (revert them). Within each migration you can use any of the methods that CodeIgniter provides, like the dbutils and dbforge classes.

Creating a Migration

The easiest way to create a migration is to call the database newMigration task from the command line.

php sprint database newMigration {migration_name}

The {migration_name} will be used as part of the filename. The filename is prefixed with the current date/time to allow for ease of working in teams. If your migration name was CreateUserTable the filename would look something like 20141001052249_CreateUserTable.php.

This file will be created in the app migration folder be default. You can change by passing in the alias of the folder you want it created in after the migration name. You cannot have it automatically placed within a module's folder currently.

The Forge CLI command can build migrations from an existing database table if you prefer to get things working first, and write the migration later, or if you're porting an existing application.

File Structure

The file is a standard PHP class, that must follow three simple rules:

  • The class must be named the same as the file, except the number is replaced by Migration. For a file named 20141001052249_CreateUserTable.php, the class would be named Migration_CreateUserTable. The name is case-sensitive.
  • The class MUST extend the CI_Migration class
  • The class MUST include two methods: up() and down(). As the names imply, the up() method is ran whenever you are migrating up to that version. The down() method is ran whenever uninstalling that migration.

A Skeleton Migration

class Migration_CreateUserTable extends CI_Migration {

    function up() {


    function down() {


Running Migrations

Migrations can be run, both up and down by using the database tools on the command line.

For all of the following commands, you can replace the group name with mod: followed by the module name.

php sprint database migrate mod:users


This will run the migrations to a specific version, or to the latest if no version is supplied. The first parameter is the alias of the migrations group. The second parameter is the version to migrate to. This would be the filename you want to end your migrations on. Any migrations past this will not be ran. If no version is passed in the second parameter, then will be prompted to run to the latest version available for that group, or cancel.

php sprint database migrate app
php sprint database migrate mod:users


This is identical to the migrate method, but will not return any output to the command line, just a success/fail result. This is useful when part of a build script process.

If no migrations are found, or the database is already at the current migration, the script will return true.

php sprint database quietMigrate app
php sprint database quietMigrate mod:users


This will run the down() method on all migrations in the specified group in reverse order, effectively uninstalling those changes, and then rerun them up to the latest available migration. This is useful to reset the data to a pristine version before running seeds.

php sprint database refresh app
php sprint database refresh mod:users

Auto-Running Migrations

Migrations can be set to auto-run when discovered by changing a couple of lines in the application/config/config.php file.

$config['auto_migrate'] = array(

This array holds the group names that you want to have automatically migrated. Each group will be migrated, in order, to its latest available migration.

These are very handy to have set in both Development and Staging/Test environments, but will slow your site down some since they check on every page load. It is recommended that Production environments set both of these to `false' and run your migrations manually or as part of an update script.