Back Up/Restore (Move Course Content from Previous to Current Semesters)

Instructors often want to re-use the course materials they have used in previous semesters. The way to do this is to “back up” an existing course on the old Moodle server and “restore” it onto the current one.

This page has four sections:

  1. Known Issues with Backup/Restore from Moodle 1.9 to 3.4
  2. Backup and Download a Moodle 1.9 Course (Before Fall 2018-2019)
  3. Backup and Download a Moodle 3.4 Course
  4. Restore a Course in Moodle 3.4

Known Issues with Backup/Restore from Moodle 1.9 to 3.4

Before migrating a course from the old Moodle (ver 1.9) to the new one (ver 3.4), please note the following known issues with this process:

  • ACTIVITIES: The following Moodle 1.9 activities do NOT restore into Moodle 3.4:
    • turnitin assignment
    • scheduler 
  • FILES: Moodle 3.4 handles and stores files differently to Moodle 1.9. There is no “files” directory in moodle 3.4, and all files are stored in “repositories” associated with particular resources or activities. When a 1.9 course is restored in 3.4, the “files” directory becomes a repository called the “legacy files area”. Whenever you link to one of these “legacy” files from an activity, Moodle automatically creates a new repository for it. Moodle 3.4 also has a “Private files” area where you can store documents that you don’t necessarily want to share with students/other users. Moodle recommends that you move away from relying on the “legacy files area” directory, and organize files and media in the new way. You can read more about files organization in moodle 3.4 at these links:
  • WEEK/TOPIC 0 LABELS: Labels and images from “week/topic 0” at the very top of the old Moodle 1.9 may not import/display properly in Moodle 3.4 (either in the default Edwiser RemUI theme or any of the available 3.4 themes). You may need to recreate any labels and resize/reposition any images.
  • WEEK/TOPIC BLOCK HEADINGS: Titles/headings from your Moodle 1.9 blocks import as labels in the block rather than Moodle 3.4 block headings. In Moodle 3.4, you can customize the block headings, and any text you enter will also appear in the left hand navigation menu.
  • FORUMS: As with restoring in Moodle 1.9, your own forum posts or questions are considered “user data” and are not included in the backup. There is no way to import these so you will have to copy paste them across.
  • GLOSSARIES: As with restoring in Moodle 1.9, your own glossary entries are considered “user data” and are not included in the backup. You can export entries from Moodle 1.9 and import them into Moodle 3.4.

If you find other issues when restoring from Moodle 1.9 to 3.4, please let the Moodle support team know at

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Backup and Download a Moodle 1.9 Course (Before Fall 2018-2019)

  • On the Administration block of the course, click “Backup”

  • On the “Include” page, uncheck any elements you don’t want to include in the backup.

  • You can deselect all scheduler and turnitin activities, as these are not compatible with the new Moodle system.
  • You can keep all other settings as they are.
  • Scroll down and click the “Continue” button.

  • On the “Backup Details” page, you can change the name of the backup file, if desired.

  • Scroll down and click the “Continue” button.

  • Scroll down to the bottom of the readout, and click the “Continue” button that appears when it has finished.

  • Right click to download the relevant backup archive file (.zip) onto your computer’s disk.
  • You can also navigate to this “backupdata” directory by clicking “Files” or “Restore” on the administration menu.

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Backup and Download a Course in Moodle 3.4

  • Click the gear icon next to the right of the course title and select “backup”

  • Set the “Initial settings” (data/content types) as desired. Usually, the default values are enough (you cannot choose to back up any data types entered by users/students). Click either “Next” to got to the schema page or “Jump to last step” to skip it.

  • The “Schema settings” allow you to include/exclude specific resources/activities as desired. Click “Next”.

  • On the “Confirmation and review” page you can set the filename and check your previous selections. Click “Perform backup”. Click “Continue”.

  • Your backup archive (.mbz) file will be ready to download or restore from in the “User private backup area”. You can access this screen at any time by clicking the course gear icon and selecting “Restore”.

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Restore a Course in Moodle 3.4

  • Click the gear icon at the top of the course and select the “Restore” option.

  • Upload the backup archive file (.zip) you have downloaded and saved on your computer. The file should not be larger than 2 GB (2048 MB).

  • If your backup archive file is very large, you may see this screen for a long time while the file is uploaded:

  • When the name of your backup file appears in the box, click “Restore” to start the restore process.

  • If you are restoring from Moodle 1.9 (from before Fall 2018-2019), you will see the following message on the “Backup Details” screen. Click the “Continue” button.

  • Choose whether to “merge” the resources and activities in the backup file with any stuff already in the current course, or “delete” the current course content completely and just keep the stuff in the backup file. Usually, it is best to choose “Delete the contents of the current course and restore”.

  • Now, the Schema Page… You have the option of changing the configuration of the restored course (i.e., course format, course name and creator, etc.). Changing these settings is NOT recommended.

If there are any empty (blank) topics in the imported course, you can deselect them.

… and done

  • Now you can begin to edit your settings and content. If you are restoring from 1.9 to 3.4 for the first time, remember to check the Known Issues above.

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