Migrating projects using file exports (FREE ALL)
Existing projects on any self-managed GitLab instance or GitLab.com can be exported to a file and then imported into another GitLab instance. You can also copy GitLab projects to another location with more automation by migrating groups by direct transfer.
Preserving user contributions
Preserving user contribution depends on meeting the following requirements:
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:
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 with an administrator access token.
- 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
- Trim CI pipelines by removing lines from the
To edit a project export file:
- Extract the exported
- Edit the appropriate file . For example,
- Compress the files back to a
You can also make sure that all members were exported by checking the
Support for JSON-formatted project file exports removed in GitLab 15.11.
Project file exports are in NDJSON format.
|Compatible source versions
|13.0, 12.10, 12.9
|13.1, 13.0, 12.10
Configure file exports as an import source (FREE SELF)
Before you can migrate projects on a self-managed GitLab instance using file exports, GitLab administrators must:
- Enable file exports on the source instance.
- 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:
- On the left sidebar, select Search or go to.
- Select Admin Area.
- Select Settings > General.
- Expand Visibility and access controls.
- Scroll to Import sources.
- Select the GitLab export checkbox.
Between CE and EE
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.
- 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:
- On the left sidebar, select Search or go to and find your project.
- Select Settings > General.
- Expand Advanced.
- Select Export project.
- After the export is generated, you should receive an email with a link to download the file.
- Alternatively, you can come back to the project settings and download the file from there or generate a new export. After the file is available, the page should show the Download export button.
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.
Items that are exported
Exported project items depend on the version of GitLab you use. To determine if a specific project item is exported:
- Check the
- Check the
project/import_export.ymlfile for projects for your GitLab version (for example,
<https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/blob/15-9-stable-ee/lib/gitlab/import_export/project/import_export.yml>for GitLab 15.9).
For a quick overview, items that are exported include:
- Project and wiki repositories
- Project uploads
- Project configuration, excluding integrations
- Merge requests
- Commit comments (introduced in GitLab 15.10)
- 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
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
- 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.
WARNING: 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.
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 to.
- Review compatibility for any issues.
- At least the Maintainer role on the destination group to migrate to.
Import a project
To import a project:
- When creating a new project, select Import project.
- In Import project from, select GitLab export.
- Enter your project name and URL. Then select the file you exported previously.
- Select Import project to begin importing. Your newly imported project page appears shortly.
To get the status of an import, you can query it through the API. As described in the API documentation, the query may 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
Internalvisibility level is restricted, all imported projects are given
Deploy keys aren't imported. To use deploy keys, you must enable them in your imported project and update protected branches.
Import large projects (FREE SELF)
If you have a larger project, consider using a Rake task.
Set maximum import file size (FREE SELF)
Administrators can set the maximum import file size one of two ways:
The default is
To help avoid abuse, by default, users are rate limited to:
|6 projects per minute
|1 download per group per minute
|6 projects per minute