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. Zulip’s backup process is 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 (because doing so generally 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.

Export your Zulip data

For best results, you’ll want to shut down access to the organization you are exporting with manage.py deactivate_realm before exporting, so that nobody can send new messages (etc.) while you’re exporting data. We include that in the instructions below.

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

cd /home/zulip/deployments/current
./manage deactivate_realm -r ''  # Deactivates the organization
./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

The Zulip server you’re importing into needs to be running the same version of Zulip as the server you exported from, so that the same formats are consistent. For exports from zulipchat.com, usually this means you need to upgrade your Zulip server to the latest master branch, using [upgrade-zulip-from-git][upgrade-zulip-from-git].

First 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).

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 /tmp
tar -xf /path/to/export/file/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6.tar.gz
cd /home/zulip/deployments/current
./manage.py import '' /tmp/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6
./manage 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> /tmp/zulip-export-zcmpxfm6
./manage 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).