XenForo has the ability to import information from other forums, including users, forums, threads, posts and private messages, along with various other data.

This can be extremely useful if you are migrating your forum from another software package, or if your forum needs to merge with, or absorb another forum site.

At the time of writing, XenForo 1 supports importing data from the following sources:

  • XenForo 1.2+
  • vBulletin 3.6, 3.7/3.8, and 4.x
  • IP.Board 3.1, 3.2/3.3, 3.4, and 4.0/4.1/4.2
  • phpBB 3.0.x, 3.1.x, 3.2.x
  • MyBB 1.6/1.8
  • SMF 2.0


Unofficial importers for other forum software, and add-ons, maintained by members of the community, are available in the XenForo Community Resource Manager.

Before you start

Before you begin an import, there are a number of considerations and preparatory steps you may want to make prior to the configuration process. These steps vary depending on the system from which you will be importing, and are described in the system-specific importer notes below.

Retain content IDs

The first option is to decide whether you want to Retain imported content IDs. This option can only be used on a completely empty XenForo installation, that has no threads and posts. The setting will attempt to retain the IDs of the data that is imported, so that a thread that has an ID of 2563 in the source database will be imported with an ID of 2563 in the XenForo database.

If Retain imported content IDs is not selected, data will be imported with sequential IDs that do not match the source database. This is the default option, and in most cases is faster and more reliable.

Don't worry about existing links in search engines etc. pointing to URLs using the old source IDs. Many importers supply redirection scripts that can seamlessly redirect visits to old pages in your source system to their corresponding new pages in XenForo.

Selecting an importer

You can start the import system by clicking on Import External Data, in the Tools section of the XenForo admin control panel.

On this page, you will be asked to choose an import source. The sources listed are grouped by the system into which they are designed to import.

Once you have selected an importer that matches the source data you want to import, click the Configure Importer button.

Configuring an import

Each importer defines its own requirements, and will present you with a series of forms to complete in order to gather the information it needs in order to proceed. Generally, this will involve the database connection details for the source system.

After you have completed the necessary details, click the Validate Configuration button and the importer will attempt to connect to the source database. If a successful connection is made, the system will be able to proceed. If not, the system will show an error message that may help you to diagnose the connection problem.

Depending on the source system, other steps may need configuration. For example, the vBulletin importers need you to verify the location of your avatar and attachment files if they are not stored in the database.

Running the importer

On the next page, you will be presented with a list of steps that the importer can run, each corresponding to a different data type. Some steps are dependent on other steps - for example, posts can not be imported without threads, and threads can not be imported without forums.

Notwithstanding step dependencies, you may omit any steps that you want to skip - for example you might want to import users but not bother with their avatars.


Once the import has started, you can not go back and change the steps you want to import. Ensure that you have selected all the steps you want to import before you set the system running.

If the system imports users, you will usually be asked if you want to automatically merge users with the same email address, and if you want to merge users with the same user name. These options are particularly important if you are importing into a XenForo installation that is already live and has a collection of users.

It is usually a good idea to enable these user-merge options, particularly the same email option, as it is highly likely that two users with the same email address are in fact the same person. Whether or not you enable the same user name option depends on whether or not you know that some of the users in your source database share names with users in your XenForo database, and are in fact the same user.

For example, if your XenForo installation has a user called 'Admin', and so does your source database, the merge option will import all data belonging to 'Admin' in the source system as data belonging to 'Admin' in your XenForo installation, rather than creating an 'Admin2' user and attributing all the threads and posts to them.


Always perform a full backup of your XenForo database, and the data and internal_data directories before running an import. Your source database and source files will never be modified, but a backup of your XenForo database and files provides for a safety net in the event that the import goes wrong and you need to start again. It is also a good idea to close your forums (using the Board active option) for the duration of the import process.

Import log table

Once the import process has run its course, you will be directed to complete the import.

You will also be asked to provide the name of a database table that can be used to store the log of the import. You can use any valid database table name, provided that the table does not already exist, or is an empty table.

We would suggest a name using only lower-case letters, digits and underscores, such as import_log.

If the table does not exist, the system will attempt to create it. If it does exist but already contains data, you should run a TRUNCATE TABLE your_table_name; query, assuming that you are certain that the data contained within the your_table_name table is okay to delete.

Once you have completed the form successfully, hit the Continue button...

Completing the import

Only one thing remains before your imported data is ready to be used, which is a rebuild of all the caches that XenForo uses.

Navigate to the Tools section of the XenForo admin control panel and select the Rebuild Caches option. This process may take a few moments, or several minutes to complete, depending on the volume of data that was imported, and how much data was already in your XenForo database.


Some importers provide redirection scripts, which are designed to sit in the location of your original source software and intercept request for content from that source system.

The redirection scripts can then query the table you defined as the import log table in order to get the necessary URL for the content in your XenForo installation that corresponds to the data requested by the original URL.

The scripts the seamlessly redirect the visitor to the new content, while sending an HTTP header that tells the browser that the content has permanently moved to a new location.

This permanent redirection HTTP header allows search engines to find any content they previously indexed from your original source software, and they will update their URLs to point to the new location as a result.

Redirection scripts

Several redirection scripts are available in the XenForo Community Resource Manager.

Import speed

While it is entirely possible for importers to fetch data from a remote server, network latency will be a significant factor in these instances, due to the fact that each import step could be running several thousand queries to fetch and import the data.

The time spent waiting for the data to be fetched over even a very fast local area network will result in massive slow-down compared to imports performed on a single server.

For the fastest possible import process, back up the database and files on your servers and then perform the import on the fastest possible server available to you, with both the source and destination databases and files located on that server. Once the import is complete, you can deploy the resulting database and files to your live production environment.