Exporting Custom Configurations From a Drupal 7 Site

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After installing a Drupal7 site, I have made several configurations/customizations over time. Now I would like to export them somehow, in order to load them to another site. But the problem is that I don't remember exactly what I have done. The Features module does not help because you have to tell it exactly what to export, but I don't remember all the changes.

This is a difficult problem on Drupal 7, which is expected to be solved on Drupal 8, by the Config Management Initiative. However there is the Configuration Module that tries to solve the configuration problem on Drupal 7, as a backport feature from Drupal 8.

With the help of the Configuration module you basically track certain elements of configuration on your site (this bit is relatively similar to Features), and then it tells you when there are differences between what is stored in the filesystem and what is stored in the database (referred to as ActiveStore and DataStore). These config files can then be versioned and deployed. If the Diff module is installed, you can also see what has been changed with regards to ActiveStore vs DataStore.

This is useful for keeping track of specific configurations on a Drupal site, provides the ability to move these configurations between different environments (local, dev, qa, prod), and also allows to move configurations between completely different sites (migrate configurations).

This module helped me to solve my problem, although the solution was not 100% automatic and required some manual work. The basic steps are these:

  1. Install a fresh Drupal 7 site. Install also the Configuration module.
  2. Export all of its configurations (with the help of the Configuration module).
  3. Install the Configuration and Diff modules on the original (customized) Drupal 7 site.
  4. Export all the configurations of the customized site (with the help of the Configuration module).
  5. Migrate the configuration of the fresh Drupal site to the customized site. Now the ActiveStore (DB) is different from the DataStore (files) and the Configuration module will show you what are the differences.
  6. Untrack all the configurations that are not different. Some of the configurations that may contain sensitive data or useless data (for example cached data) should be untracked as well.
  7. Export again the remaining configurations. Now these configurations can be imported on another Drupal 7 site, in order to make it very similar to the original customized site.

Below is described in more details how to accomplish some of these steps.

1 Installing the Configuration Module and the Diff Module

These modules are installed on both Drupal sites. Doing it through the admin GUI takes a lot of time, and in my server very often the web server times out, so I have to do it with drush on command line, no matter whether I like it or not (actually I like it).

cd sites/all/modules/
wget http://ftp.drupal.org/files/projects/configuration-7.x-2.x-dev.tar.gz
tar xfz configuration-7.x-2.x-dev.tar.gz
drush --yes pm-enable configuration configuration_ui

cd ../../
sudo mkdir sites/default/files/config
sudo chown www-data: sites/default/files/config

cd sites/all/modules/
wget http://ftp.drupal.org/files/projects/diff-7.x-3.2.tar.gz
tar xfz diff-7.x-3.2.tar.gz
drush --yes pm-enable diff

drush php-eval "menu_rebuild();"

2 Exporting all the configurations of the site

This is also done on both sites. Again I prefer to do it from the command line.

drush cc drush
drush config-start-tracking --all
drush config-export --all

After this, the directory sites/default/files/config/ will contain all the exported configurations of the corresponding site. The ActiveStore (DB) and the DataStore (config/ directory) will have the same configuration.

3 Migrating the configurations of the fresh site to the customized site

This can be done maybe using Export and Import from the GUI. However it is much more easy to just copy the directories from the command line. We can move the config/ directory of the old site to config_bak/ (or something like this), and in its place we copy the config/ directory of the new site.

After this, the ActiveStore (DB) and the DataStore (config/ dir) will have different contents. Comparing them from the UI of the Configuration module is more easy and reliable that using any other tricks (for example from command line).

4 Finding changes in the configuration of the old site

On the path admin/config/system/configuration we will find all the configurations that are being tracked. Since we have changed the DataStore from the command line, the status of each configuration will be 'Processing…' for some time. After all the processing is done, the status will show us what configurations are the same and what are different with the ActiveStore.

Now we simply select and stop tracking all the configurations that have not been changed. We should also stop tracking some of the configurations that are not relevant or that contain any sensitive data (this part is a bit manual and tedious, since we have to check all the configurations one by one). In the end, we can export the remaining configurations and import them on another site.

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