Database Migration

During the course of developing and maintaining a database-driven application, the structure of the database being used evolves just like the source code does. For example, during the development of an application, a new table may be found necessary; after the application is deployed to production, it may be discovered that an index should be created to improve the query performance; and so on. Because a database structure change often requires some source code changes, Yii supports the so-called database migration feature that allows you to keep track of database changes in terms of database migrations which are version-controlled together with the source code.

The following steps show how database migration can be used by a team during development:

  1. Tim creates a new migration (e.g. creates a new table, changes a column definition, etc.).
  2. Tim commits the new migration into the source control system (e.g. Git, Mercurial).
  3. Doug updates his repository from the source control system and receives the new migration.
  4. Doug applies the migration to his local development database, thereby synchronizing his database to reflect the changes that Tim has made.

And the following steps show how to deploy a new release with database migrations to production:

  1. Scott creates a release tag for the project repository that contains some new database migrations.
  2. Scott updates the source code on the production server to the release tag.
  3. Scott applies any accumulated database migrations to the production database.

Yii provides a set of migration command line tools that allow you to:

  • create new migrations;
  • apply migrations;
  • revert migrations;
  • re-apply migrations;
  • show migration history and status.

All these tools are accessible through the command yii migrate. In this section we will describe in detail how to accomplish various tasks using these tools. You may also get the usage of each tool via the help command yii help migrate.

Note: migrations could affect not only database schema but adjust existing data to fit new schema, create RBAC hierarcy or clean up cache.

Creating Migrations

To create a new migration, run the following command:

yii migrate/create <name>

The required name argument gives a brief description about the new migration. For example, if the migration is about creating a new table named news, you may use the name create_news_table and run the following command:

yii migrate/create create_news_table

Note: Because the name argument will be used as part of the generated migration class name, it should only contain letters, digits, and/or underscore characters.

The above command will create a new PHP class file named m150101_185401_create_news_table.php in the @app/migrations directory. The file contains the following code which mainly declares a migration class m150101_185401_create_news_table with the skeleton code:


use yii\db\Schema;
use yii\db\Migration;

class m150101_185401_create_news_table extends Migration
    public function up()

    public function down()
        echo "m101129_185401_create_news_table cannot be reverted.\n";
        return false;

Each database migration is defined as a PHP class extending from [[yii\db\Migration]]. The migration class name is automatically generated in the format of m<YYMMDD_HHMMSS>_<Name>, where

  • <YYMMDD_HHMMSS> refers to the UTC datetime at which the migration creation command is executed.
  • <Name> is the same as the value of the name argument that you provide to the command.

In the migration class, you are expected to write code in the up() method that makes changes to the database structure. You may also want to write code in the down() method to revert the changes made by up(). The up() method is invoked when you upgrade the database with this migration, while the down() method is invoked when you downgrade the database. The following code shows how you may implement the migration class to create a news table:

use yii\db\Schema;
use yii\db\Migration;

class m150101_185401_create_news_table extends \yii\db\Migration
    public function up()
        $this->createTable('news', [
            'id' => Schema::TYPE_PK,
            'title' => Schema::TYPE_STRING . ' NOT NULL',
            'content' => Schema::TYPE_TEXT,

    public function down()


Info: Not all migrations are reversible. For example, if the up() method deletes a row of a table, you may not be able to recover this row in the down() method. Sometimes, you may be just too lazy to implement the down(), because it is not very common to revert database migrations. In this case, you should return false in the down() method to indicate that the migration is not reversible.

The base migration class [[yii\db\Migration]] exposes a database connection via the [[yii\db\Migration::db|db]] property. You can use it to manipulate the database schema using the methods as described in Working with Database Schema.

Rather than using physical types, when creating a table or column you should use abstract types so that your migrations are independent of specific DBMS. The [[yii\db\Schema]] class defines a set of constants to represent the supported abstract types. These constants are named in the format of TYPE_<Name>. For example, TYPE_PK refers to auto-incremental primary key type; TYPE_STRING refers to a string type. When a migration is applied to a particular database, the abstract types will be translated into the corresponding physical types. In the case of MySQL, TYPE_PK will be turned into int(11) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY, while TYPE_STRING becomes varchar(255).

You can append additional constraints when using abstract types. In the above example, NOT NULL is appended to Schema::TYPE_STRING to specify that the column cannot be null.

Info: The mapping between abstract types and physical types is specified by the [[yii\db\QueryBuilder::$typeMap|$typeMap]] property in each concrete QueryBuilder class.

Transactional Migrations

While performing complex DB migrations, it is important to ensure each migration to either succeed or fail as a whole so that the database can maintain integrity and consistency. To achieve this goal, it is recommended that you enclose the DB operations of each migration in a transaction.

An even easier way of implementing transactional migrations is to put migration code in the safeUp() and safeDown() methods. These two methods differ from up() and down() in that they are enclosed implicitly in a transaction. As a result, if any operation in these methods fails, all prior operations will be rolled back automatically.

In the following example, besides creating the news table we also insert an initial row into this table.

use yii\db\Schema;
use yii\db\Migration;

class m150101_185401_create_news_table extends Migration
    public function safeUp()
        $this->createTable('news', [
            'id' => 'pk',
            'title' => Schema::TYPE_STRING . ' NOT NULL',
            'content' => Schema::TYPE_TEXT,

        $this->insert('news', [
            'title' => 'test 1',
            'content' => 'content 1',

    public function safeDown()
        $this->delete('news', ['id' => 1]);

Note that usually when you perform multiple DB operations in safeUp(), you should reverse their execution order in safeDown(). In the above example we first create the table and then insert a row in safeUp(); while in safeDown() we first delete the row and then drop the table.

Note: Not all DBMS support transactions. And some DB queries cannot be put into a transaction. For some examples, please refer to implicit commit. If this is the case, you should still implement up() and down(), instead.

Database Accessing Methods

The base migration class [[yii\db\Migration]] provides a set of methods to let you access and manipulate databases. You may find these methods are named similarly as the DAO methods provided by the [[yii\db\Command]] class. For example, the [[yii\db\Migration::createTable()]] method allows you to create a new table, just like [[yii\db\Command::createTable()]] does.

The benefit of using the methods provided by [[yii\db\Migration]] is that you do not need to explicitly create [[yii\db\Command]] instances and the execution of each method will automatically display useful messages telling you what database operations are done and how long they take.

Below is the list of all these database accessing methods:

  • [[yii\db\Migration::execute()|execute()]]: executing a SQL statement
  • [[yii\db\Migration::insert()|insert()]]: inserting a single row
  • [[yii\db\Migration::batchInsert()|batchInsert()]]: inserting multiple rows
  • [[yii\db\Migration::update()|update()]]: updating rows
  • [[yii\db\Migration::delete()|delete()]]: deleting rows
  • [[yii\db\Migration::createTable()|createTable()]]: creating a table
  • [[yii\db\Migration::renameTable()|renameTable()]]: renaming a table
  • [[yii\db\Migration::dropTable()|dropTable()]]: removing a table
  • [[yii\db\Migration::truncateTable()|truncateTable()]]: removing all rows in a table
  • [[yii\db\Migration::addColumn()|addColumn()]]: adding a column
  • [[yii\db\Migration::renameColumn()|renameColumn()]]: renaming a column
  • [[yii\db\Migration::dropColumn()|dropColumn()]]: removing a column
  • [[yii\db\Migration::alterColumn()|alterColumn()]]: altering a column
  • [[yii\db\Migration::addPrimaryKey()|addPrimaryKey()]]: adding a primary key
  • [[yii\db\Migration::dropPrimaryKey()|dropPrimaryKey()]]: removing a primary key
  • [[yii\db\Migration::addForeignKey()|addForeignKey()]]: adding a foreign key
  • [[yii\db\Migration::dropForeignKey()|dropForeignKey()]]: removing a foreign key
  • [[yii\db\Migration::createIndex()|createIndex()]]: creating an index
  • [[yii\db\Migration::dropIndex()|dropIndex()]]: removing an index

Info: [[yii\db\Migration]] does not provide a database query method. This is because you normally do not need to display extra message about retrieving data from a database. It is also because you can use the powerful Query Builder to build and run complex queries.

Applying Migrations

To upgrade a database to its latest structure, you should apply all available new migrations using the following command:

yii migrate

This command will list all migrations that have not been applied so far. If you confirm that you want to apply these migrations, it will run the up() or safeUp() method in every new migration class, one after another, in the order of their timestamp values. If any of the migrations fails, the command will quit without applying the rest of the migrations.

For each migration that has been successfully applied, the command will insert a row into a database table named migration to record the successful application of the migration. This will allow the migration tool to identify which migrations have been applied and which have not.

Info: The migration tool will automatically create the migration table in the database specified by the [[yii\console\controllers\MigrateController::db|db]] option of the command. By default, the database is specified by the db application component.

Sometimes, you may only want to apply one or a few new migrations, instead of all available migrations. You can do so by specifying the number of migrations that you want to apply when running the command. For example, the following command will try to apply the next three available migrations:

yii migrate 3

You can also explicitly specify a particular migration to which the database should be migrated by using the migrate/to command in one of the following formats:

yii migrate/to 150101_185401                      # using timestamp to specify the migration
yii migrate/to "2015-01-01 18:54:01"              # using a string that can be parsed by strtotime()
yii migrate/to m150101_185401_create_news_table   # using full name
yii migrate/to 1392853618                         # using UNIX timestamp

If there are any unapplied migrations earlier than the specified one, they will all be applied before the specified migration is applied.

If the specified migration has already been applied before, any later applied migrations will be reverted.

Reverting Migrations

To revert (undo) one or multiple migrations that have been applied before, you can run the following command:

yii migrate/down     # revert the most recently applied migration
yii migrate/down 3   # revert the most 3 recently applied migrations

Note: Not all migrations are reversible. Trying to revert such migrations will cause an error and stop the entire reverting process.

Redoing Migrations

Redoing migrations means first reverting the specified migrations and then applying again. This can be done as follows:

yii migrate/redo        # redo the last applied migration 
yii migrate/redo 3      # redo the last 3 applied migrations

Note: If a migration is not reversible, you will not be able to redo it.

Listing Migrations

To list which migrations have been applied and which are not, you may use the following commands:

yii migrate/history     # showing the last 10 applied migrations
yii migrate/history 5   # showing the last 5 applied migrations
yii migrate/history all # showing all applied migrations

yii migrate/new         # showing the first 10 new migrations
yii migrate/new 5       # showing the first 5 new migrations
yii migrate/new all     # showing all new migrations

Modifying Migration History

Instead of actually applying or reverting migrations, sometimes you may simply want to mark that your database has been upgraded to a particular migration. This often happens when you manually change the database to a particular state and you do not want the migration(s) for that change to be re-applied later. You can achieve this goal with the following command:

yii migrate/mark 150101_185401                      # using timestamp to specify the migration
yii migrate/mark "2015-01-01 18:54:01"              # using a string that can be parsed by strtotime()
yii migrate/mark m150101_185401_create_news_table   # using full name
yii migrate/mark 1392853618                         # using UNIX timestamp

The command will modify the migration table by adding or deleting certain rows to indicate that the database has been applied migrations to the specified one. No migrations will be applied or reverted by this command.

Customizing Migrations

There are several ways to customize the migration command.

Using Command Line Options

The migration command comes with a few command-line options that can be used to customize its behaviors:

  • interactive: boolean (defaults to true), specifies whether to perform migrations in an interactive mode. When this is true, the user will be prompted before the command performs certain actions. You may want to set this to false if the command is being used in a background process.

  • migrationPath: string (defaults to @app/migrations), specifies the directory storing all migration class files. This can be specified as either a directory path or a path alias. Note that the directory must exist, or the command may trigger an error.

  • migrationTable: string (defaults to migration), specifies the name of the database table for storing migration history information. The table will be automatically created by the command if it does not exist. You may also manually create it using the structure version varchar(255) primary key, apply_time integer.

  • db: string (defaults to db), specifies the ID of the database application component. It represents the database that will be migrated using this command.

  • templateFile: string (defaults to @yii/views/migration.php), specifies the path of the template file that is used for generating skeleton migration class files. This can be specified as either a file path or a path alias. The template file is a PHP script in which you can use a predefined variable named $className to get the migration class name.

The following example shows how you can use these options.

For example, if we want to migrate a forum module whose migration files are located within the module's migrations directory, we can use the following command:

# migrate the migrations in a forum module non-interactively
yii migrate --migrationPath=@app/modules/forum/migrations --interactive=0

Configuring Command Globally

Instead of entering the same option values every time you run the migration command, you may configure it once for all in the application configuration like shown below:

return [
    'controllerMap' => [
        'migrate' => [
            'class' => 'yii\console\controllers\MigrateController',
            'migrationTable' => 'backend_migration',

With the above configuration, each time you run the migration command, the backend_migration table will be used to record the migration history. You no longer need to specify it via the migrationTable command-line option.

Migrating Multiple Databases

By default, migrations are applied to the same database specified by the db application component. If you want them to be applied to a different database, you may specify the db command-line option like shown below,

yii migrate --db=db2

The above command will apply migrations to the db2 database.

Sometimes it may happen that you want to apply some of the migrations to one database, while some others to another database. To achieve this goal, when implementing a migration class you should explicitly specify the DB component ID that the migration would use, like the following:

use yii\db\Schema;
use yii\db\Migration;

class m150101_185401_create_news_table extends Migration
    public function init()
        $this->db = 'db2';

The above migration will be applied to db2, even if you specify a different database through the db command-line option. Note that the migration history will still be recorded in the database specified by the db command-line option.

If you have multiple migrations that use the same database, it is recommended that you create a base migration class with the above init() code. Then each migration class can extend from this base class.

Tip: Besides setting the [[yii\db\Migration::db|db]] property, you can also operate on different databases by creating new database connections to them in your migration classes. You then use the DAO methods with these connections to manipulate different databases.

Another strategy that you can take to migrate multiple databases is to keep migrations for different databases in different migration paths. Then you can migrate these databases in separate commands like the following:

yii migrate --migrationPath=@app/migrations/db1 --db=db1
yii migrate --migrationPath=@app/migrations/db2 --db=db2

The first command will apply migrations in @app/migrations/db1 to the db1 database, the second command will apply migrations in @app/migrations/db2 to db2, and so on.