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Install CiviCRM on Backdrop

About this document

This guide covers standard installation of CiviCRM on an existing Backdrop site. It assumes that you previously completed these tasks:

  1. Install Backdrop, and...
  2. Review the CiviCRM requirements
Alternative: Civibuild for developers

If you plan to develop patches for CiviCRM on Backdrop, then please read the Developer Guide for information about Buildkit and civibuild.

Get the code

The CiviCRM download page provides a pre-built archive for use with Backdrop. A typical archive file is ~20mb and looks like civicrm-X.Y.Z-backdrop.tar.gz. It contains a folder named civicrm/.

In Backdrop, there is a folder for storing add-on modules: BACKDROP_ROOT/modules.

Our goal is to download the archive and extract into this folder. Here are a few example ways to download and extract:

Download via web-browser

This method does not require shell access on the server. You may adapt based your server's arrangement.

  • On the CiviCRM download page, click the link for CiviCRM / Backdrop. Save the file locally.
  • Extract the archive locally. For example, in a Linux workstation, one might say:
    cd ~/Downloads
    tar xvzf civicrm-X.Y.Z-backdrop.tar.gz
  • Observe the new folder civicrm/.
  • Using your favor file-transfer system (SSH/SFTP, rsync, git, mv, etc), transfer the civicrm/ folder to BACKDROP_ROOT/modules.
Download via curl + tar

This method require shell access to the Backdrop server.

  • On the CiviCRM download page, note the current version.
  • In the shell, navigate to the Backdrop module folder (adjust as appropriate):
    cd BACKDROP_ROOT/modules
  • In the shell, run the curl and tar commands. Adjust the version X.Y.Z to the appropriate value.
    curl -L "" | tar xvz
Download via Backdrop web UI

This is the easiest way for a new administrator. However, it may not work in all deployments. For example, if the Backdrop server has a locked-down configuration, then it may encounter permission errors or timeouts. The only way to find out is to try.

  • On the CiviCRM download page, right-click the link for CiviCRM / Backdrop. Copy the URL.
  • Login to your Backdrop site with administrator permissions.
  • Navigate to Functionality >> Install new modules.
  • In the right hand bar, choose Manual installation >> Install from a URL.
  • Paste the URL
  • Click "Install"
This may not work with CiviCRM 5.13-5.30

In CiviCRM versions 5.13 - 5.30, the prebuilt tarball included a symlink which is not accepted by the Backdrop installer. This should work again in 5.31.

The "Upload"/"Browse" option is unlikely to work.

The Install new module page provides another option for uploading the archive from your local computer. In a default PHP configuration, the upload limits are too conservative to accept the CiviCRM archive.

In all cases, the final outcome should be the creation of a new folder


Get the translations

The basic CiviCRM release includes support for US English (en_US). To use another language or dialect, please download and extract the translation files.

Run the installer

The installer verifies requirements, prepares the database, and initializes the configuration file. You may run the installer through the web interface (which is simpler) or the command-line interface (which has more options).

Run installer via Backdrop web UI
  1. Enable the "CiviCRM" module
    • Login to your Backdrop site with administrator permissions.
    • Navigate to the "Functionality" page (admin/modules).
    • Find "CiviCRM" and enable it. At the bottom, click "Save Configuration".
  2. After enabling, the status message will display a link to "configure CiviCRM". Click it.

    What if I didn't notice the link?

    Use the URL bar. Navigate to the civicrm page (e.g.

  3. The CiviCRM installer will open.

    • If there are unmet requirements, the installer will list them. Consult the Requirements documentation for additional advice.
    • If all the requirements are met, proceed through the brief questionnaire.
    • If you have a separate MySQL database for CiviCRM, then locate "Environment: CiviCRM Database". Click the edit icon and enter the database URL.
    • Finally, click "Install CiviCRM".
Run installer via command-line

CiviCRM has a command-line administration tool, cv, which can perform installation. For details, see command-line installer.

The installer will verify that you've downloaded the correct version of CiviCRM, and will check your server environment to make sure it meets CiviCRM requirements. It will then create and populate a database for CiviCRM as well as create your CiviCRM settings file (civicrm.settings.php).

Review the permissions

Note that Backdrop tries to create the /files/ directory (and make it writeable), but only when saving admin/settings. Same holds for /temp directory, and a /uploads/ directory in the CiviCRM module root. On a brand-new Backdrop install, this directory may be missing. Even on an existing installation, if file permissions are not set properly, the directory may be missing. If enabling the CiviCRM module generates errors regarding the files directory, you must create it (writeable) manually.

  • Go to Administer » Configuration » User accounts » Permissions

  • Verify that the Roles that you want to have access to CiviCRM have the appropriate permissions checked. CiviCRM is installed with a number of fixed permissions (such as "edit contacts" and "administer CiviCRM").

Permissions for the Anonymous Role

Many sites want anonymous visitors to have access to certain CiviCRM functionality. These permissions are enabled during installation for the Anonymous role. You should review them and modify if needed based on your requirements:

  • access all custom data : If you plan on collecting "custom" data from visitors in standalone forms or as they make a contribution - enable this permission.
  • access CiviMail subscribe/unsubscribe pages : If you are planning on using CiviMail, enable this permission to allow anonymous users to subscribe and unsubscribe from mailing lists via the web.
  • access uploaded files : If you plan on allowing visitors to upload or view photos or other files - enable this permission.
  • make online contributions : If you plan on soliciting online contributions from visitors, enable this permission for the "anonymous" role.
  • profile listings and forms : If you plan on collecting name and address or other information from visitors, enable this permission for the "anonymous" role.
  • view event info and register for events : If you plan to use CiviEvent and want to allow un-authenticated visitors to view event information and register for events online - enable these permissions for the "anonymous" role.
  • view event participants : Enable this permission to allow anonymous users to access participant listing pages for events.

Synchronize the users

Once installed, CiviCRM keeps your Backdrop Users synchronized with corresponding CiviCRM contact records. The 'rule' is that there will be a matched contact record for each Backdrop user record. Conversely, only contacts who are authenticated users of your site will have corresponding Backdrop user records.

When CiviCRM is installed on top of an existing Backdrop site, a special CiviCRM Administrative feature allows you to automatically create CiviCRM contacts for all existing Backdrop users:

  • Login to your Backdrop site with an administrator-level login
  • Click the CiviCRM link in the main navigation block
  • If your Backdrop site makes use of the db_prefix setting (in settings.php), in de top bar click Administer » System Settings » CMS Database Integration , and update the box for the Backdrop Users Table Name so that it includes the prefix.
  • Click Administer in the menu bar
  • Click Users and Permissions from the drop-down menu, then select Synchronize Users to Contacts

Review the checklist

The Configuration Checklist provides a convenient way to work through the settings that need to be reviewed and configured for a new site. You can link to this checklist from the installation success page AND you can visit it at any time from Administer » Administration Console » Configuration Checklist.

Test-drive CiviCRM

There should now be a CiviCRM link in your Backdrop menu. Click that link and the CiviCRM Menu, Shortcuts, Search and New Individual Blocks should appear. You can now explore CiviCRM end-user features and begin configuring CiviCRM for your site/organization needs.



If your MySQL database is hosted on a different machine than your web server, or if your host requires it, you can use TLS to encrypt the connection between the database and the web server.

Full instructions on installing Backdrop are out of scope for this guide, but one method is to install into a test database first without MySQL encryption and then move the database to the live server and update settings.php to enable MySQL encryption.

See TLS for MySQL for introductory concepts and the settings for the CiviCRM database. For the Backdrop database you have several options for updating settings.php:

  1. The simplest, which doesn't require a client certificate, but doesn't verify the server certificate.

    $databases = array (
      'default' =>
      array (
        'default' =>
        array (
          'database' => 'backdrop',
          'username' => 'dbuser',
          'password' => 'dbpassword',
          'host' => '',
          'port' => '',
          'driver' => 'mysql',
          'prefix' => '',
          'pdo' => array(
              PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_CA => TRUE,
  2. Verifies the server certificate, and doesn't require a client certificate.

    Host name must match certificate name

    Note that the DATABASE SERVER certificate would have to have a CN (common name field) that matches exactly the host you are using in $databases['default']['default']['host']. So if the host is, then that must be the name on the SERVER certificate.

    'pdo' => array(
        // A certificate authority bundle.
        // If you are using a self-signed server certificate in a development
        // or testing environment, then this would be the same as the server
        // certificate.
        PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_CA => '/path/to/ca.crt',
  3. Client certificate/key pair (not self-signed), and do not verify the server certificate.

    'pdo' => array(
        PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_KEY => '/path/to/your.key',
        PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_CERT => '/path/to/your.crt',
  4. Client certificate/key pair (could be self-signed), and verify the server certificate.

    'pdo' => array(
        // The SSL_CA can be the same as your.crt if self-signed, but note
        // that it would also have to be a certificate authority for the
        // server certificate. Self-signed would only be for local
        // development testing.
        PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_CA => '/path/to/ca.crt',
        PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_KEY => '/path/to/your.key',
        PDO::MYSQL_ATTR_SSL_CERT => '/path/to/your.crt',


  • Review the Troubleshooting page for help with problems you may encounter during the installation.