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[GUIDES] SMF -> phpbb -> Vanilla, a conversion guide

edited February 2011 in Vanilla 2.0 - 2.8
I just wanted to report in that I've successfully ported an SMF (Simple Machines) forum to Vanilla via phpbb.

Vanilla's importer doesn't handle SMF (yet), though with this, it probably won't need to. It handles phpbb very well. This was done with SMF 1.1.X to phpbb3. I did not research SMF 2.x

Step 1: Convert from SMF to phpbb.
The SMF -> phpbb convertor can be found here:

Detailed instructions for converting into phpbb can be found here:

If you run into trouble, the support thread for an SMF to phpbb conversion is here: It is a long thread (100+ pages), but when I had hiccups, I was able to find the answers I needed by searching. I didn't need to register an account and ask for help. That thread (and other threads) are pretty comprehensive.

After converting to phpbb.
You should only need to check and make sure you can login into the phpbb forum with your admin account. Don't worry if you can't see your boards, forums, posting etc. Don't worry about permissions (phpbb's permissions setup is a disaster...) or anything else. Just login with the Admin account to ensure it is identified as admin. Everything else you can clean up once you get it all into Vanilla (which is a million times simpler and more precise!).

The important thing is that your posts, categories, users and discussions are in the database. If you want, you can go into your database and poke around. You'll find everything is there, even you can't see it in the phpbb forum itself (it has to do with permissions and groups settings. If you've never used phpbb, don't bother trying to figure it out for this, it is far too complicated). These conversions are all about database mapping so you don't need to worry about what you can and cannot see in the forum software itself. Messing with it is a waste of time. Moving on....

Step 2: Convert from phpbb to Vanilla
This is an easy process and I was able to accomplish it in short time from a wonky mobile computer in a car (at my day job). It took me about 30 minutes, start to finish.

You'll need the Vanilla Export Tool, download here:

Follow the directions posted on the Vanilla blog:

After converting to Vanilla
Depending on how you managed your original SMF boards, you might have a lot of cleaning to do at this point.

~Clean up your user list. Do this first. Vanilla doesn't allow for mass user yet, so if you want to clean your user list, you should probably do it by deleting the tables inside your database admin. Because of SMF's way of doing things, I had about 75 Bots that were registered as members (fortunately SMF tagged them as bots so they were easy to locate among the proper members).

~Clean up your Roles. Cleaning the user list makes this easier. During the conversions, you'll be porting over extra user groups from SMF, and all those that were automatically added my phpbb. I had about 8 roles/groups that needed deleting to get things down to the four I use as default. As you delete extra roles, you'll have to assign members in them to your preferred roles, make sure you add those that you need them. Vanilla doesn't offer a way yet to list members by roles, so if you get some orphans, they might be hard to find.

Once I cleaned up the roles, I did go through my user list, one at a time, to ensure everybody was assigned to the appropriate role. I have a small user list so I could do this in the Vanilla dashboard. If you ported a large forum, it'll likely be easier to check/manage this in the database admin where you can do mass work.

~Set permissions. Your permissions are going to be totally out of whack at this point. You'll need to set the default permissions for each role, but if you have some private board categories, be sure go edit the categories themselves and set the custom permissions for each category. This is especially important if you have categories that are visible only to particular groups/roles.

All in, the process was far easier than I anticipated. I had no experience with phpbb (but I was pretty handy with SMF back in the day...). Digging around the phpbb site for documentation and support threads was the toughest part of it. phpbb has been around a long time and the site it pretty heavy with stuff (not to mention those forums seem massively huge and complex compared to svelte Vanilla!).

Anyone who is looking to convert from SMF to Vanilla can see that it is easily done. I had no major problems (a few hiccups that a little bit of research sorted).


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    LincLinc Detroit Admin
    Thanks @leafboxtea!
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    Thankyou for this. I converted my SMF forum to Vbulletin then to Vanilla but if you do that none of your users will be able to login because they will use vbulletins hash method, fortunately I changed my password via phpmyadmin on my account on vbulletin and it was only when a friend tried to login that I'd realised I may had to have changed everyones password before converting to Vanilla. Unless someone has a solution to this I would recommend following this guide instead as I did.

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    Nice work @leafboxtea! I converted from phpbb to vanilla and the tips about users & roles where greatly appreciated.
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