Jan 26, 2024

Why upgrade older versions of ExpressionEngine?

Upgrade your EE site!

Why upgrade older versions of ExpressionEngine?

(be sure to read our companion article: How to upgrade older versions of ExpressionEngine)

ExpressionEngine (EE) is a mature, robust, and secure content management system. Throughout our history, we have relied on the extensive capabilities of this platform.

As of this writing (January 2024), ExpressionEngine version 2 is over 14 years old, and version 3 was retired 6 years ago.

But there are many old EE websites out there in need of an upgrade!

That these sites exist is a testament to EE's reliability and staying power. But for a host of reasons, no website should continue to run on old, unsupported software. 

  • Legacy software is at risk of being incompatible with modern hosting servers, particularly the latest PHP or MySQL versions. Don't wake up to learn your host has retired the PHP version your site is running, rendering your website useless.
  • Much like operating systems like Windows or MacOS, legacy software does not receive software updates. You are leaving your website open to exploits if you don't modernize your software.
  • You need to stay up to date to stay safe.

Detailed below are key benefits to upgrading your EE site:

  1. Ease
  2. Security
  3. Features
  4. Speed
  5. Community
  6. Conclusion

1) Ease (for you, your site, and your client)

When considering options for an older ExpressionEngine site, it's a great idea to stay with the existing platform. As mentioned, EE is mature, robust, and modern, and this has never been more true since Packet Tide took over management of the product. There are features introduced in the last few major versions of EE that are dramatic time-savers for both the developer and client. We'll outline these features below, but before we begin, a few points to consider:

  • Your website is more than a collection pages, text, and images. There are relationships, meta data, categories, links, files, redirects, contact page submissions, blog posts - all of which can retain their intricate associations when you upgrade to a current version. (Migrating out of a platform is always more work than you plan for)
  •  SEO: Your existing pages have meta data, URLs, backlinks, referrals, member permissions, and member accounts, all that will gracefully update to modern EE versions. This data represents an important footprint and history from an SEO perspective, and you don't want to put this in jeopardy
  • Training existing EE users and content editors is very straightforward. If you are familiar with EE2, you will only find the current version easier to use

2) Security

ExpressionEngine has always been a stable and secure platform. But software security requirements change over time. The underlying PHP codebase powering EE is regularly updated when security vulnerabilities are discovered. Similarly, EE releases security updates for current, supported versions of the product. Versions 2, 3, 4 and 5 are end-of-life, meaning they no longer receive updates. Other security features we love:

Multi-Factor Authentication

"Multi-factor authentication adds an extra level of protection to the Control Panel by relying on one-time password generated by Multi-factor authentication applications like Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator or Authy." Read the documentation for MFA.

Password Security Policies

Since version 6, ExpressionEngine has defaulted to strong passwords as the default policy. 

SPAM prevention/CAPTCHA

Google reCAPTCHA v3 is built-in! This will protect contact, comment, and membership registration forms from bots. 

3) Features

EE has come a long way over the years. Find ways to use Layouts, Embeds, Front-End Editing or other new features. Maybe it's time to use Fluid Fields or Bloqs? Here are some of our favorite newer versions:

Fluid Fields

Starting with EE version 4, the Fluid fieldtype is native to EE. "This fieldtype allows content authors to create rich, long-form content using components made from any custom field you configure it to use. The content creator can publish the content they want, in the order that they want, without compromise. And the site builder retains full control over the markup and presentation as you’ve come to expect from ExpressionEngine."

Fluid Field

Entry Cloning

Writing a lot of similar content in sequence? Or do you want to use last year's event details as a starter? Entry cloning has you covered. You'll notice tremendous efficiency with repetitive content tasks.

Entry Cloning  

Bulk (and sequential) Editing

Need to change the status, category, or date of a group of entries? Bulk Edits make this easy! For more complicated edits, the same interface allows you to queue up many entries at once, traversing the list of entries with the same, useful Edit Entry interface.

Bulk Edits

Front-end Editing

EE's Front-end Editing is a fantastic feature, giving you a direct interface to intricate page edits while viewing the front-end of your site. 

Front-end editing in ExpressionEngine

Live Preview

Another gem, Live Preview gives you a split, side-by-side interface of your editing interface and the live, rendered page before you save. Speed up your edits with the confidence from knowing exactly how your content will render. A great feature!

Live Preview

4) Speed

Starting with ExpressionEngine 7, a lot of improvements were made to reduce the page load time and memory usage. In version 7, certain pages load almost twice as fast and require two times less memory. On average there is a 10% improvement on load time and 30% improvements on memory usage throughout control panel, with particular speed gains in the entry manager. Recent EE versions also utilize (and require) the latest PHP versions, which provide their own speed gains in the underlying architecture.

Control Panel:

  • Page load time cut nearly in half.
  • Memory usage decreased 2x.
  • On average, a 10% improvement in load time.
  • A 30% improvement in memory usage throughout the control panel.
  • Significant speed gains in the entry manager.

Front End:

  • 20% improvement for complex pages with multiple, complex fieldtypes
  • 10% improvement for simple pages.

5) Community

The ExpressionEngine community is a valuable source of knowledge exchange and support. Thousands of developers and users interact in Slack channels, online forums, and in-person conferences. In addition, ExpressionEngine's internal support team is a great resource for troubleshooting your site's functionality when you have support needs. Every part of the EE community has improved under the leadership of Packet Tide.


The latest EE versions bring enhanced features, improved security measures, and optimized performance, allowing them to leverage cutting-edge technologies and streamline development processes. On the client side, upgrading ensures a more robust and secure online presence, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities and potential security breaches.

The decision to upgrade ExpressionEngine is a mutually rewarding investment that contributes to the long-term success and sustainability of both the developer and the client.

If you are interested in updating your EE site, we recommend contacting your web developer. We invite you to contact us, or one of the excellent ExpressionEngine Partners.

Posted Friday, January 26, 2024. 

Please review ExpressionEngine.com for the latest product information.

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