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Migrating Sitefinity 3 to 4 Deep Dive: Preparation

by User Not Found

As you know, Sitefinity is dedicated to bringing the benefits and improvements available in Sitefinity 4 to all our customers. The latest internal build and upcoming releases represent a year’s worth of enhancements to the Migration Module to improve this experience.

As part of that effort, I am preparing new resources to aid customers who are migrating based on real-world user feedback. Where the Migration Guide and migration webinar are meant to introduce you to migration and help you get started, the next few blog posts are more of a “What’s Next” resource, describing common scenarios, issues, and errors you might encounter along the way.

To get things started, however, today we’ll be taking a detailed, step-by-step look at best practices to help you achieve a smooth start to migration. The next post will look at common error messages you may encounter along the way.

1. Run Sitefinity 3 Locally

It is highly recommended that you run the Sitefinity 3 site from which you will be importing content locally. This should be run as a standalone website in IIS.

Sitefinity-4-Migration-Sitefinity-3-IIS Sitefinity-4-Migration-Sitefinity-3-Website

Do not run the website in a Virtual Directory, and do not use the Visual Studio web server. Sitefinity 3 should run as a root website in IIS.

2. Update Sitefinity 3 to Latest Version

The site to be migrated must be running Sitefinity 3.7 SP4 (build 3.7.2136). Both the Standard and Community Editions are supported.


In addition, the site must be running on either ASP.NET 3.5 or ASP.NET 4.0.

Migrating from a website running ASP.NET 2.0 is not supported.

A future post will look at common error encountered during migration, including those resulting from upgrading to the latest version of Sitefinity 3. I will link to that post here when it is ready.

In the meantime, here are several resources you might find helpful in patching your Sitefinity website.

How to Tell Which Version of Sitefinity You Are Running

One of the questions asked in the webinar was how to tell which version of Sitefinity 3 a website is running. You can do this two ways:

View the HTML source of our Sitefinity 3 website. Look for a meta property named Generator. The content of this property contains the build number of Sitefinity.


Alternatively, you can open the bin folder of the Sitefinity 3 site, then check the properties of one of the Sitefinity DLL files (such as Telerik.Cms.dll). The Details Tab should show the build number under Product Version.


3. Install Migration Web Service

Sitefinity migration works by first installing a Migration Web Service in your Sitefinity 3 website, then calling that web service from the Sitefinity 4 Migration Module.

You have two options for installing the web service in Sitefinity 3.

Automatic Installation

Automatic installation is available using the Sitefinity 4 Project Manager. Simply point the Project Manager to the working folder of your Sitefinity site and specify the local url (again, running in IIS) to the website.

Sitefinity-Project-Manager-Migration-Tool Sitefinity-4-Migration-Sitefinity-3-Location

This installs the migration service dll binaries, adds the migration service file, and modifies the web.config file to register the service. You may need to set permissions in your Sitefinity 3 folder to allow the Project Manager write-access.

If you encounter any issues using the automatic installer, you can try the manual installation.

Manual Installation

This requires performing the steps of the Project Manager above manually. Detailed instructions for this are available in the Sitefinity Documentation: Manual Migration Setup.

Test Migration Service

Once you have completed installation, you can test that the migration service was installed by navigating to the path ~/MigrationService.svc. For example if your local Sitefinity 3 website url is http://localhost, the path to the migration service would be http://localhost/MigrationService.svc.

The migration service is secured, which means if everything is setup correctly, you should see this (and only this) exception:

Exception Type: Telerik.Sitefinity.Migration.MigrationServiceException
Message: Authentication failed.

If you encounter any other error message, check the Sitefinity 3 error log, located at ~/App_Data/error.log.

4. Create a New Sitefinity 4 Website

It is highly recommended that you import your content into a new Sitefinity 4 site. This not only prevents any possible conflicts from existing content, but also makes your project easily resettable if you need to run the migration tool again.

For more details on creating a fresh Sitefinity 4 site, see the official documentation: Create a New Sitefinity 4 Project.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do Not Use the Project Manager Web Server

Although the Sitefinity 4 Project Manager has an internal web server, it runs your website as a virtual directory folder instead of at the root.


This will cause issues when you migrate content, since it will append this directory to the urls. When you deploy the finished website to your live server, this extra folder path will result in broken links.

Instead, use either the Visual Studio browser or IIS. By default, both of these will run your site at the root so there are no extraneous paths added to your content urls.


Optional Step: Modify Images Library Settings

By default, the Sitefinity 4 Images library uses the ~/images/ path for its content. This means that any urls that begin with ~/images are expected to be served from the Images library.

If you are using a physical folder called images, you will encounter a 404 error when viewing them (as outlined in this KB article), since they are in the file system, and not the image library.

Fortunately you have three options to resolve this issue.

1. Rename your physical images folder. This is only recommended in the simplest of scenarios, because if you have content (such as blog posts, news items, etc) that reference these paths, you will need to manually update them to the new folder.

2. Rename the library default path. You can change the default path from “images” to something like “sf-images” so that there is no longer any conflict. However, it is important that you make this change before importing content so that the paths to these library images can be correctly updated in content items such as news, blogs, etc.

Instructions on changing this path are available in this KB article: Static Files are not served from Images or Videos folders.

3. Enable File-System Fallback. This is by far the simplest and most recommended option. It tells Sitefinity that if an image is not found in the Library, to fall back to the file system and serve it from there. However, there is a slight performance overhead when selecting this option, since each file-system request must first check to see if it exists in the library.


5. Copy All Static Files from Sitefinity 3

The migration module only imports the actual content from the database; the underlying static files (such as master pages, images and documents in the file system, scripts, etc) need to by copied manually.

Simply copy them from the Sitefinity 3 folder and paste them in the same relative location in the Sitefinity 4 folder.

Do not copy the App_Data or Sitefinity folders, as these are incompatible with Sitefinity 4.

Additionally, if you are using the App_Code folder for dynamic, custom code, this is also incompatible, as Sitefinity 4 uses Web Application Projects. Sitefinity 3 by default is a Web Site Project. You will need to re-add this code to Sitefinity 4 manually.

5. Run Migration, Recommended Sequence

At this point, you are ready to run the Migration Module and import your content. It is recommended that you run the tool importing all content at once, allowing the migration to handle the sequence of import.

However, if you encounter issues, you can also run the migration in phases. However, because of dependencies among content, it is recommended that you run it in this sequence:

  1. Users and Roles
  2. All Content Items (Libraries, News, etc)
  3. Themes
  4. Templates
  5. Pages

Be sure to import pages last, as they require all related content (underlying template, links to images in the library, etc) to be in place before they are migrated.

If you encounter any issues at this point, check the Migration Log for exceptions and share them in our Migrating from 3.x to 4.x discussion forum.

Optional: Handling Multiple Providers

The current version of the Migration Module imports ALL content from ALL providers at once. Although a future build will address this issue, you can currently workaround this problem.

Create matching providers in the Sitefinity 4 website. Then run the migration tool once for each provider, enabling ONLY that provider in Sitefinity 3. Be sure to select the correct provider in the drop-down menu that corresponds to the one from which you are importing.

We are still improving this story, so if you are using multiple providers, please share your experiences with us.

What’s Next

Now that we’ve taken a detailed look at Migration preparation, we’ll next focus on common error messages you may encounter. This includes both during preparation, during migration, and after migration is complete.

Until then, I encourage you to grab the latest build of Sitefinity 4, which has massive improvements to the migration story. Try the migration yourself and share your experience with us so that we can continue to improve and enhance this tool.


Leave a comment
  1. Marko Dec 28, 2011
    There are a few broken links on this page (various screenshot images).  They are linked with   Just changing the url to seems to fix them.  Just thought you should know.
  2. Josh Dec 28, 2011
    Indeed you are correct Marko, thank you kindly for pointing that out! I have updated the urls to the path (this was likely due to our recent site update) and all the images seem to be working.

    Thank you again for the notice, I apologize for any inconvenience!
  3. Mike Sharp Feb 17, 2012
    In step 3, you state:

    "You may need to set permissions in your Sitefinity 3 folder to allow the Project Manager write-access."

    Ok, so what account does the project manager run under?
  4. Josh Feb 23, 2012
    Mike, generally I just give access to "Users" so I don't have to think about it.

    The official answer I got from the team was whatever worker process runs the w3wp process and application pool. Usually this is NETWORK SERVICE.

    Hope this is helpful!
  5. Daniel Mar 16, 2012
    I have some issues in migration log that are related with templates. I have 8 templates, and 3 of them in sitefinity 3.7 dont use any theme and pages; this templates passed in migration with no issues. But the other templates, that have themes and pages related, give errors in migration. How I resolve this?
  6. Josh Mar 19, 2012
    What specific errors are posted to the migration log when the templates fail? I've encountered this issue in the past when I had controls on the templates but this issue was resolved in a newer build.

    Are you migrating to the latest 5.0 release?

    Finally, did you make sure to manually copy the .master pages and theme files to the migrated site? remember the migration tool doesn't copy these files.

    Feel free to email me your migration log if you are still having issues to josh . morales @
  7. Will Mar 08, 2013

    I'm getting this when I browse to MigrationService.svc:

    {"ErrorMessage":"Authentication failed.","StatusCode":"403","Status":"Forbidden","Data":""}

    does that seem right?

  8. Mike D Aug 13, 2014
    I am also getting this when I browse to MigrationService.svc: {"ErrorMessage":"Authentication failed.","StatusCode":"403","Status":"Forbidden","Data":""} does that seem right?

    Leave a comment