Migrating vBulletin onto existing and live Discourse instance

Background, we are moving from vBulletin to Discourse.org.

We recently signed up for a free trial with Discourse.org. During the trial, we’ve setup categories, and invited key members of our forum to claim their username on the new platform. Naturally, conversations have started to occur and we’re off to a solid start, with new members already posting. The old forum on vBulletin is still up and running but I’ve posted an announcement that we are moving the platform to Discourse, so naturally several community members have already jumped ship.

Now, we are ready to migrate our data into Discourse.

But Discourse is telling us that when we migrate the data in, that it will WIPE OUT all that we have built on the new account…including usernames etc! - which means we would have to ask our key members to again sign up for a new account on Discourse. We don’t want to do that and I need to understand the consequences of not starting over again. What impact will there be if I simply do not bring in the migration into the forum.

  1. How can I still benefit from the vast amount of content on vBulletin now that we are on the new platform? can this be integrated or brought over as blog post on our website instead? that way it is available and archived on our site - even if it is not available on the forum?

  2. Or can we simple pick the top 100 conversations and replicate or introduce them manually into the new forum? This way the content will be on the new forum, but it would have gotten there as new post not via a migration. Obviously we cannot do this for all topics as there are topics dating back to 2006.

  3. for SEO purposes, I know we want to bring in our content. The question becomes if we need to bring it over as “seed” to the new forum, to jump start it and keep it going, or if we should bring the content over and convert it to blog post or page content on our website and then LINK the forum to the content that way.

We have a clean fresh looking forum now and I would like to build on it. But I am concerned that if there isn’t enough content on the new platform that users who do make the move or visit looking for someone wont find it and will then leave.

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How much content are you talking about? If only a few hundred topics, you can create a Old Archives category and put all old topics there.

But, if you had plans to do the migration all along, why did you start using the empty Discourse?

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  1. We started to use the empty discourse because we only have a limited time in our free trial to TEST and USE it. We needed to see how it works and what it could do. Then, conversations happened!..so I guess it works :wink: – I do think you should disclaim upfront to new migrating customers and tell them NOT to go live. And if you do, I missed that memo.

  2. We are not married to the “migration”. What we have is an old forum with lots of good information and A LOT of old material that no one looks at. There are several areas that have not been visited in a long long long time. But they all come together to add history, content, and SEO juice to the site. SOOO I want to be sensitive to that and not screw myself in the process by not bring over our content.

  3. There is ver little we’ve done on the new platform, my concern is that key users have already been inconvenienced to set up their new accounts and asking them to do this again is pushing it.

What would be ideal for me is for us to be able to get the content, organize it by the categories that we currently have, and then dump the content into those categories without destroying the little there is there now and without making users have to sign up again.


Can topics be imported one post at a time? Maybe I sit at my computer for next few days slowing bring in new content manually or via uploads on categories. In other words, if a migration is the most automated solution but it wipes everyone out. I would be willing to give up the automation, and manually enter the best material via a less global method.

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To think about proper advice I really need to know

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The entire database with images is approximately 500 mb

Having done this myself I suggest to create a separate temporary Discourse instance for the purpose of converting the existing vBulletin content. Then you can:

  • export the bulk of the posts and users from the temporary Discourse
  • import the migrated content into the first Discourse in a category (e.g. Old forum)

You can follow this howto

for the details of the export import procedure.


Oh. Darn. I hadn’t realized that. We should have talked more about how imports worked when we started our discussions.

A more useful measure is how many users and topics/posts there are.

That’s probably what to do, though it’s possible to backup your existing instance, restore it on a dev box and do the import on top of it. I think it may duplicate user accounts, though. The vbulletin importer creates permalinks for topics, which might be important to you for maintaining SEO juice. It’s not a recommended path, but it could be one way to proceed.


Did you end up doing the migration? If yes, how is it working for you? If no, why?

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Yes, I made the migration and it is going well. The discourse platform is performing well. I would recommend making the switch to it.

Have a look for yourself: