Migrate projects and groups by using file exports

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Migrating groups and projects by using direct transfer is recommended. However, in some situations, you might need to migrate groups and project by using file exports.

Migrate projects by uploading an export file

Existing projects on any self-managed GitLab instance or GitLab.com can be exported to a file and then imported into another GitLab instance.

Preserving user contributions

The requirements for preserving user contribution depends on whether you’re migrating to GitLab.com or to a GitLab self-managed instance.

When migrating from GitLab self-managed to GitLab.com

When migrating projects by using file exports, an administrator’s access token is required for user contributions to map correctly.

Therefore, user contributions never map correctly when importing file exports from a self-managed instance to GitLab.com. Instead, all GitLab user associations (such as comment author) are changed to the user importing the project. To preserve contribution history, do one of the following:

When migrating to GitLab self-managed

To ensure GitLab maps users and their contributions correctly:

  • The owner of the project’s top-level group should export the project so that the information of all members (direct and inherited) with access to the project can be included in the exported file. Project maintainers and owners can initiate the project export. However, only direct members of a project are then exported.
  • An administrator must perform the import.
  • Required users must exist on the destination GitLab instance. An administrator can create confirmed users either in bulk in a Rails console or one by one in the UI.
  • Users must set a public email in their profiles on the source GitLab instance that matches their primary email address on the destination GitLab instance. You can also manually add users’ public emails by editing project export files.

When the email of an existing user matches the email of an imported user, that user is added as a direct member to the imported project.

If any of the previous conditions are not met, user contributions are not mapped correctly. Instead, all GitLab user associations are changed to the user who performed the import. That user becomes an author of merge requests created by other users. Supplementary comments mentioning original authors are:

  • Added for comments, merge request approvals, linked tasks, and items.
  • Not added for the merge request or issue creator, added or removed labels, and merged-by information.

Edit project export files

You can add or remove data from export files. For example, you can:

  • Manually add users public emails to the project_members.ndjson file.
  • Trim CI pipelines by removing lines from the ci_pipelines.ndjson file.

To edit a project export file:

  1. Extract the exported .tar.gz file.
  2. Edit the appropriate file . For example, tree/project/project_members.ndjson.
  3. Compress the files back to a .tar.gz file.

You can also make sure that all members were exported by checking the project_members.ndjson file.

Compatibility

History
  • Support for JSON-formatted project file exports removed in GitLab 15.11.

Project file exports are in NDJSON format.

You can import project file exports that were exported from a version of GitLab up to two minor versions behind.

For example:

Destination version Compatible source versions
13.0 13.0, 12.10, 12.9
13.1 13.1, 13.0, 12.10

Configure file exports as an import source

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Before you can migrate projects on a self-managed GitLab instance using file exports, GitLab administrators must:

  1. Enable file exports on the source instance.
  2. Enable file exports as an import source for the destination instance. On GitLab.com, file exports are already enabled as an import source.

To enable file exports as an import source for the destination instance:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the bottom, select Admin Area.
  2. Select Settings > General.
  3. Expand Import and export settings.
  4. Scroll to Import sources.
  5. Select the GitLab export checkbox.

Between CE and EE

You can export projects from the Community Edition to the Enterprise Edition and vice versa, assuming compatibility is met.

If you’re exporting a project from the Enterprise Edition to the Community Edition, you may lose data that is retained only in the Enterprise Edition. For more information, see downgrading from EE to CE.

Export a project and its data

Before you can import a project, you must export it.

Prerequisites:

  • Review the list of items that are exported. Not all items are exported.
  • You must have at least the Maintainer role for the project.

To export a project and its data, follow these steps:

  1. On the left sidebar, select Search or go to and find your project.
  2. Select Settings > General.
  3. Expand Advanced.
  4. Select Export project.
  5. After the export is generated, you can:
    • Follow a link contained in an email that you should receive.
    • Refresh the project settings page and in the Export project area, select Download export.

The export is generated in your configured shared_path, a temporary shared directory, and then moved to your configured uploads_directory. Every 24 hours, a worker deletes these export files.

Project items that are exported

Exported project items depend on the version of GitLab you use. To determine if a specific project item is exported:

  1. Check the exporters array.
  2. Check the project/import_export.yml file for projects for your GitLab version. For example, https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/blob/16-8-stable-ee/lib/gitlab/import_export/project/import_export.yml for GitLab 16.8.

For a quick overview, items that are exported include:

  • Project and wiki repositories
  • Project uploads
  • Project configuration, excluding integrations
  • Issues
    • Issue comments
    • Issue iterations (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Issue resource state events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Issue resource milestone events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Issue resource iteration events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
  • Merge requests
    • Merge request diffs
    • Merge request comments
    • Merge request resource state events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Merge request multiple assignees (introduced in GitLab 15.3)
    • Merge request reviewers (introduced in GitLab 15.3)
    • Merge request approvers (introduced in GitLab 15.3)
  • Commit comments (introduced in GitLab 15.10)
  • Labels
  • Milestones
  • Snippets
  • Releases
  • Time tracking and other project entities
  • Design management files and data
  • LFS objects
  • Issue boards
  • CI/CD pipelines and pipeline schedules
  • Protected branches and tags
  • Push rules
  • Emoji reactions
  • Project and inherited group members, as long as the user has the Maintainer role in the exported project’s group or is an administrator

Project items that are not exported

Items that are not exported include:

  • Child pipeline history
  • Pipeline triggers
  • Build traces and artifacts
  • Package and container registry images
  • CI/CD variables
  • Webhooks
  • Any encrypted tokens
  • Number of required approvals
  • Repository size limits
  • Deploy keys allowed to push to protected branches
  • Secure files
  • Activity logs for Git-related events (for example, pushing and creating tags)
  • Security policies associated with your project
  • Links between issues and linked items
  • Links to related merge requests

Migrating projects with file exports uses the same export and import mechanisms as creating projects from templates at the group and instance levels. Therefore, the list of exported items is the same.

Import a project and its data

You can import a project and its data. The amount of data you can import depends on the maximum import file size:

caution
Only import projects from sources you trust. If you import a project from an untrusted source, it may be possible for an attacker to steal your sensitive data.

Prerequisites

History
  • Requirement for Maintainer role instead of Developer role introduced in GitLab 16.0 and backported to GitLab 15.11.1 and GitLab 15.10.5.
  • You must have exported the project and its data.
  • Compare GitLab versions and ensure you are importing to a GitLab version that is the same or later than the GitLab version you exported from.
  • Review compatibility for any issues.
  • At least the Maintainer role on the destination group to migrate to.

Import a project

To import a project:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the top, select Create new () and New project/repository.
  2. Select Import project.
  3. In Import project from, select GitLab export.
  4. Enter your project name and URL. Then select the file you exported previously.
  5. Select Import project.

You can query the status of an import by using the API. The query might return an import error or exceptions.

Changes to imported items

Exported items are imported with the following changes:

  • Project members with the Owner role are imported with the Maintainer role.
  • If an imported project contains merge requests originating from forks, new branches associated with these merge requests are created in the project. Therefore, the number of branches in the new project can be more than in the source project.
  • If the Internal visibility level is restricted, all imported projects are given Private visibility.

Deploy keys aren’t imported. To use deploy keys, you must enable them in your imported project and update protected branches.

Import large projects

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If you have a larger project, consider using a Rake task.

Set maximum import file size

Tier: Free, Premium, Ultimate Offering: Self-managed, GitLab Dedicated

Administrators can set the maximum import file size one of two ways:

The default is 0 (unlimited).

Rate limits

To help avoid abuse, by default, users are rate limited to:

Request type Limit
Export 6 projects per minute
Download export 1 download per group per minute
Import 6 projects per minute

Migrate groups by uploading an export file (deprecated)

History
caution
This feature was deprecated in GitLab 14.6 and replaced by migrating groups by direct transfer. However, this feature is still recommended for migrating groups between offline systems. To follow progress on an alternative solution for offline environments, see the relevant epic.

Prerequisites:

  • Owner role on the group to migrate.

Using file exports, you can:

  • Export any group to a file and upload that file to another GitLab instance or to another location on the same instance.
  • Use either the GitLab UI or the API.
  • Migrate groups one by one, then export and import each project for the groups one by one.

GitLab maps user contributions correctly when an admin access token is used to perform the import. GitLab does not map user contributions correctly when you are importing from a self-managed instance to GitLab.com. Correct mapping of user contributions when importing from a self-managed instance to GitLab.com can be preserved with paid involvement of Professional Services team.

Additional information

  • Exports are stored in a temporary directory and are deleted every 24 hours by a specific worker.
  • To preserve group-level relationships from imported projects, export and import groups first so that projects can be imported into the desired group structure.
  • Imported groups are given a private visibility level, unless imported into a parent group.
  • If imported into a parent group, a subgroup inherits the same level of visibility unless otherwise restricted.
  • You can export groups from the Community Edition to the Enterprise Edition and vice versa. The Enterprise Edition retains some group data that isn’t part of the Community Edition. If you’re exporting a group from the Enterprise Edition to the Community Edition, you may lose this data. For more information, see downgrading from EE to CE.

The maximum import file size depends on whether you import to a GitLab self-managed instance or GitLab.com:

  • If importing to a GitLab self-managed instance, you can import a import file of any size. Administrators can change this behavior using either:
  • On GitLab.com, you can import groups using import files of no more than 5 GB in size.

Compatibility

History
  • Support for JSON-formatted project file exports removed in GitLab 15.8.

Group file exports are in NDJSON format.

You can import group file exports that were exported from a version of GitLab up to two minor versions behind.

For example:

Destination version Compatible source versions
13.0 13.0, 12.10, 12.9
13.1 13.1, 13.0, 12.10

Group items that are exported

The import_export.yml file for groups lists items exported and imported when migrating groups using file exports. View this file in the branch for your version of GitLab to check which items can be imported to the destination GitLab instance. For example, import_export.yml on the 16-8-stable-ee branch.

Group items that are exported include:

  • Milestones
  • Group Labels (without associated label priorities)
  • Boards and Board Lists
  • Badges
  • Subgroups (including all the aforementioned data)
  • Epics
    • Epic resource state events. Introduced in GitLab 15.4.
  • Events
  • Wikis
  • Iterations cadences. Introduced in GitLab 15.4.

Group items that are not exported

Items that are not exported include:

  • Projects
  • Runner tokens
  • SAML discovery tokens
  • Uploads

Preparation

  • To preserve the member list and their respective permissions on imported groups, review the users in these groups. Make sure these users exist before importing the desired groups.
  • Users must set a public email in the source GitLab instance that matches their confirmed primary email in the destination GitLab instance. Most users receive an email asking them to confirm their email address.

Export a group

Prerequisites:

  • You must have the Owner role for the group.

To export the contents of a group:

  1. On the left sidebar, select Search or go to and find your group.
  2. Select Settings > General.
  3. In the Advanced section, select Export group.
  4. After the export is generated, you can:
    • Follow a link contained in an email that you should receive.
    • Refresh the group settings page and in the Export project area, select Download export.

Import the group

To import the group:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the top, select Create new () and New group.
  2. Select Import group.
  3. In the Import group from file section, enter a group name and accept or modify the associated group URL.
  4. Select Choose file.
  5. Select the GitLab export file you want to import.
  6. To begin importing, select Import.

Rate limits

To help avoid abuse, by default, users are rate limited to:

Request Type Limit
Export 6 groups per minute
Download export 1 download per group per minute
Import 6 groups per minute