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Upgrading your Zen Cart Store

A Zen Cart upgrade is the process of bringing the Zen Cart software for your store up to the latest version. (If you're not sure what Zen Cart version your store is using, take a look at my article Zen Cart version information.) For example, moving from Zen Cart 1.5.1 to Zen Cart 1.5.5 would be an upgrade. (Note that I don't consider installing Zen Cart security patches to be an upgrade; that is the sort of work I do for my Zen Cart clients who are on support.)

Determining whether you need an upgrade is very simple!

Should I upgrade Zen Cart?

Why are Zen Cart Upgrades Important?

Older installations of Zen Cart contain not just bugs, but security vulnerabilities. Zen Cart is constantly being updated as new vulnerabilities are uncovered, so your best defense is to stay up to date by upgrading your site.

If you haven't upgraded to the latest version of Zen Cart yet, here is a list of Zen Cart Security Patches you should have installed on your site if you are running 1.5.x. (If you are running 1.3.x, the list is much longer, and you really should upgrade.)

As a storeowner, this is your responsibility. But the good news is, it doesn't have to be your job - you can hire me!

How do I know when an update is required?

It's best practice to stay completely up to date, but you can run older versions as long as the PHP version for your Zen Cart is still supported by your hoster. Most hosters will stop offering PHP versions when they go end of life. See the link "PHP Lifecycle" below.

What PHP Versions are supported? Which ones work with my Zen Cart version?

Can't I just click a button to upgrade?

No. Zen Cart is not WordPress. It's much more complicated. And plugins for Zen Cart often involve changing core code, so an upgrade needs to merge those changes into the updated core.

Are you the right person to do my Zen Cart Upgrade?

Don't take my word for it - look at the hundreds of people who say I am a Zen Cart expert. Here's just one:

If you want more information on my background, please review my About Me page.

How much is a Zen Cart Upgrade?

Doing a Zen Cart upgrade isn't a task I can give you a fixed cost on; it will depend on how many changes were made (and whether the work was done correctly in the first place using the overrides system, starting with current versions of the files, etc.). Please let me know the mods you have used in your cart (in particular, I can't upgrade your cart if you used Stock By Attributes.)

Generally I tell people to budget 10-20 hours (@ $100/hr) to upgrade a cart. The minimum charge is $1000, and most upgrades take around 10 hours, assuming the built-in Responsive Classic template is used and the cart has not been heavily modified. You should expect the entire process to take about two to four weeks.

If you have a vendor bought template, I do *not* upgrade the template; you should contact them to get the latest version of your template.

What does an upgrade cover?

The upgrade process works as follows:
  • I start with the current version of Zen Cart.
  • I add in your template changes:
    • I merge your language files with the updated language files so your language changes are preserved
    • I use your template. Depending on its age, I'll apply some fixes (there are a handful of critical template fixes that should be done), and I'll ensure your jQuery is updated.
    • If your template is a desktop only template, we'll have a conversation about either picking a new template or using Responsive Fallback. You do not want to miss out on mobile sales opportunities!
  • I add in your mods:
    • If your mods are well supported on the forum, I'll update them where appropriate. It can be risky to update a working mod though so this decision has to be made on a case by case basis.
    • If your mods still work and are up to date, I'll use them.
    • If you're using a mod which was abandoned or no longer works, we can look for a substitute, or in many cases I can fix it. Note that this will add to the cost.
    • If your mods do not work, I'll do my best to fix them myself; however, this is a case where significant time can be required, so I'll do this in consultation with you based on your budget.
    • If your mods are encrypted or obfuscated (by ionCube or Zend Guard, for example), you'll need to work with the original vendor to get updates. I can install the updates for you, but I (obviously) can't debug them or modify them.
And throughout the process, I'll keep you updated by email.

The number of mods and complexity of changes to core files is what drives the cost of an upgrade. One of the ways I try to save you money is checking to see if you truly need a particular mod.

Once the upgrade is done, in situations where your current cart is still working (i.e. you have not been disabled by a hack or a PHP upgrade), my preference is to deploy a test copy of your cart for you to try out. This can often catch small misses which can occur on a large upgrade. But this is more time consuming and more costly, so it's up to you. On a smaller upgrade (Zen Cart 1.5.5 to 1.5.6, for example), it's not as important.

Zen Cart Upgrade Plus Your best value comes from the Upgrade Plus package, which includes a basic upgrade plus ten hours of support. With Upgrade Plus, you save $100 over my normal prices. (Unsure about support? Take a look at my support checklist to see. Or you can read my support page, which has more details.)

Upgrade Plus is the perfect way to get - and keep - your site secure, performing and making money for you.

Let's get started

To get started, buy a upgrade plus from my store. (If you prefer, you can buy the basic upgrade.) I will need your Zen admin, FTP and cPanel credentials. Instructions for sending credentials are below.

As I noted, you should expect the job to take 2-4 weeks. My preference is to deploy a test copy of your cart in another subdirectory for you to verify once I'm done; once you approve, I stage the update (transfer all files in advance) and take your store down for just a short period of time to update the database. However, if you were hacked, I delete ALL the files from your server before re-installing (so I'm sure no hacks were left behind). I also change your db and admin passwords and your admin URL.

To send credentials, go to PrivNote.com, and enter the following information:
Zen Cart Admin URL:
Zen Cart Admin userid:
Zen Cart Admin password:

FTP Hostname:
FTP Userid:
FTP Password:
(If SFTP is used, please note port number or any other relevant details)

CPanel URL:
CPanel Userid:
CPanel Password:
Then press the "Create Note" button and send me the URL.