Export and import

Zulip has high quality export and import tools that can be used to move data from one Zulip server to another, do backups or compliance work, or migrate from your own servers to the hosted Zulip Cloud service.

When using these tools, it’s important to ensure that the Zulip server you’re exporting from and the one you’re exporting to are running the same version of Zulip, since we do change and extend the format from time to time.


If you want to move hardware for a self-hosted Zulip installation, we recommend Zulip’s database-level backup and restoration process for a better experience. Zulip’s database-level backup process is faster, structurally very unlikely to ever develop bugs, and will restore your Zulip server to the exact state it was left in. The big thing it can’t do is support a migration to a server hosting a different set of organizations than the original one, e.g. migrations between self-hosting and Zulip Cloud (because doing so in the general case requires renumbering all the users/messages/etc.).

Zulip’s export/import tools (documented on this page) have full support for such a renumbering process. While these tools are carefully designed and tested to make various classes of bugs impossible or unlikely, the extra complexity required for renumbering makes them structurally more risky than the direct postgres backup process.

Preventing changes during the export

For best results, you’ll want to shut down access to the organization before exporting, so that nobody can send new messages (etc.) while you’re exporting data. There are two ways to do this:

  1. supervisorctl stop all, which stops the whole server. This is preferred if you’re not hosting multiple organizations, because it has no side effects other than disabling the Zulip server for the duration.
  2. manage.py deactivate_realm, which deactivates the target organization, logging out all active login sessions and preventing all accounts in the from logging in or accessing the API. This is preferred for environments like Zulip Cloud where you might want to export a single organization without disrupting any other users, and the intent is to move hosting of the organization (and forcing users to re-login would be required as part of the hosting migration anyway).

We include both options in the instructions below, commented out so that neither runs (using the # at the start of the lines). If you’d like to use one of these options, remove the # at the start of the lines for the appropriate option.

Export your Zulip data

Log in to a shell on your Zulip server as the zulip user. Run the following commands:

cd /home/zulip/deployments/current
# ./manage.py deactivate_realm -r ''  # Deactivates the organization
# supervisorctl stop all # Stops the Zulip server
./manage.py export -r ''  # Exports the data

(The -r option lets you specify the organization to export; '' is the default organization hosted at the Zulip server’s root domain.)

This will generate a tarred archive with a name like /tmp/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6.tar.gz. The archive contains several JSON files (containing the Zulip organization’s data) as well as an archive of all the organization’s uploaded files.

Import into a new Zulip server

(1.) Install a new Zulip server, skipping “Step 3: Create a Zulip organization, and log in” (you’ll create your Zulip organization via the data import tool instead).

(1a.) Ensure that the Zulip server you’re importing into is running the same version of Zulip as the server you’re exporting from.

For exports from zulipchat.com, run the following:

/home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/upgrade-zulip-from-git master

Note that if your server has 2GB of RAM or less, you’ll want to read the detailed instructions here. It is not sufficient to be on the latest stable release, as zulipchat.com is often several months of development ahead of the latest release.

(2.) If your new Zulip server is meant to fully replace a previous Zulip server, you may want to copy the contents of /etc/zulip to your new server to reuse the server-level configuration and secret keys from your old server. See our documentation on backups for details on the contents of this directory.

(3.) Log in to a shell on your Zulip server as the zulip user. Run the following commands, replacing the filename with the path to your data export tarball:

cd ~
tar -xf /path/to/export/file/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6.tar.gz
cd /home/zulip/deployments/current
./manage.py import '' ~/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6
# supervisorctl start all # Starts the Zulip server
# ./manage.py reactivate_realm -r ''  # Reactivates the organization

This could take several minutes to run, depending on how much data you’re importing.

Import options

The commands above create an imported organization on the root domain (EXTERNAL_HOST) of the Zulip installation. You can also import into a custom subdomain, e.g. if you already have an existing organization on the root domain. Replace the last two lines above with the following, after replacing <subdomain> with the desired subdomain.

./manage.py import <subdomain> ~/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6
./manage.py reactivate_realm -r <subdomain>  # Reactivates the organization

Logging in

Once the import completes, all your users will have accounts in your new Zulip organization, but those accounts won’t have passwords yet (since for security reasons, passwords are not exported). Your users will need to either authenticate using something like Google auth, or start by resetting their passwords.

You can use the ./manage.py send_password_reset_email command to send password reset emails to your users. We recommend starting with sending one to yourself for testing:

./manage.py send_password_reset_email -u username@example.com

and then once you’re ready, you can email them to everyone using e.g.

./manage.py send_password_reset_email -r '' --all-users

(replace '' with your subdomain if you’re using one).

Deleting and re-importing

If you did a test import of a Zulip organization, you may want to delete the test import data from your Zulip server before doing a final import. You can permanently delete all data from a Zulip organization using the following procedure:

realm = Realm.objects.get(string_id="")

The output contains details on the objects deleted from the database.

Now, exit the management shell and run this to clear Zulip’s cache:


Assuming you’re using the local file uploads backend, you can additionally delete all file uploads, avatars, and custom emoji on a Zulip server (across all organizations) with the following command:

rm -rf /home/zulip/uploads/*/*

If you’re hosting multiple organizations and would like to remove uploads from a single organization, you’ll need to access realm.id in the management shell before deleting the organization from the database (this will be 2 for the first organization created on a Zulip server, shown in the example below), e.g.:

rm -rf /home/zulip/uploads/*/2/

Once that’s done, you can simply re-run the import process.