Upgrade table and field definitions

Each extension in TYPO3 can provide the ext_tables.sql file that defines which tables and fields the extension needs. Gathering all ext_tables.sql files thus defines the complete set of tables, fields and indexes of a TYPO3 instance to unfold its full functionality. The Analyze Database Structure section in the Admin Tools > Maintenance backend module can compare the defined set with the current active database schema and shows options to align these two by adding fields, removing fields and so on.

When you upgrade to newer versions of TYPO3 or upgrade an extension, the data definition of tables and fields may have changed. The database structure analyzer detects such changes.

When you install a new extension, any change to the database is performed automatically. When upgrading to a new major version of TYPO3, you should normally go through the upgrade wizard, whose first step is to perform all necessary database changes:

The Upgrade Wizard indicating that the database needs updates

If you want to perform minor updates, update extensions or generally check the functionality of your system, you can go to Admin Tools > Maintenance > Analyze Database Structure:

The Database analyzer is part of the maintenance area

This tool collects the information from all ext_tables.sql files of all active extensions and compares them with the current database structure. Then it proposes to perform the necessary changes, grouped by type:

  • creating new tables
  • adding new fields to existing tables
  • altering existing fields
  • dropping unused tables and fields

You can choose which updates you want to perform. You can even decide not to create new fields and tables, although that will very likely break your installation.

Analyze the database structure

The ext_tables.sql files

As mentioned above, all data definition statements are stored in files named ext_tables.sql, which may exist in any extension.

The peculiarity is that these files may not always contain a complete and valid SQL data definition. For example, the "dashboard" system extension defines a new table for storing dashboards:

CREATE TABLE be_dashboards (
    identifier varchar(120) DEFAULT '' NOT NULL,
    title varchar(120) DEFAULT '' NOT NULL,
    widgets text

This is a complete and valid SQL data definition. However, the community extension "news" extends the tt_content table with additional fields. It also provides these changes in the form of a SQL CREATE TABLE statement:

CREATE TABLE tt_content (
    tx_news_related_news int(11) DEFAULT '0' NOT NULL,
    KEY index_newscontent (tx_news_related_news)

The classes which take care of assembling the complete SQL data definition will compile all the CREATE TABLE statements for a given table and turn them into a single CREATE TABLE statement. If the table already exists, missing fields are isolated and ALTER TABLE statements are proposed instead.

This means that as an extension developer you should always only have CREATE TABLE statements in your ext_tables.sql files, the system will handle them as needed.