Drupal 9: What’s New and How to Upgrade from Previous Versions

Posted by Dhiraj Suthar - Aug 21, 2023 10 Min readDrupal


Like WordPress, Drupal is one of the leading content management systems today. It is free and open source, rolling out frequent upgrades that enable users to do more with each newer version.

Drupal 9 is the upgrade released on June 3rd, 2020.

Installing timely upgrades help you leverage modern features and toolsets to better manage your web channels and content. This blog will cover everything new about Drupal 9 development and how to upgrade to it in a few simple steps.

Benefits of Upgrading to Drupal 9

Several key improvements in Drupal 9 over Drupal 8 make it worthwhile for those on the older platform to migrate to the newer version:

Drupal 9 is Backward Compatible

If you have important data, configurations, or modules created on Drupal 8, you can migrate them to Drupal 9 without losing functionality.

Drupal 9 is More Integrable

The newer version of Drupal provides more opportunities for businesses to achieve successful integrations with other apps and services.

Drupal 9 Provides Smoother Editorial Experience

Drupal 9 brings improved CKEditor, Media Library, Quick Edit feature, and much more for a smoother experience in content editing and publishing.

Feature Drupal 9 Drupal 8
Security Twig 2.0 Twig 1.0
Minimum PHP PHP 7.3 PHP 7
UI/UX New dashboards and media management tools make usage easier. Usage is decent but not as responsive as Drupal 9.

Key Improvements and Architectural Changes in Drupal

Drupal 9 is a major upgrade from Drupal 8 regarding the system’s performance and architecture. While building on relevant modules of D8, there are significant differences in caching, database performance, PHP support, and integrations.

A majority of improvements that took place in Drupal 9 were concerned mostly with improving the “under the hood” specifications of the entire package, like moving to the latest versions of Symfony and Twig. The upgrade to Twig 2 in Drupal 9 contributes to a 15% performance boost compared to the Theme Engine in Drupal 8.

Experts conducted several tests to measure the performance of D8 vs. D9 and found that D9 CMS was about 10% faster than D8. This boost can be attributed to the PHP versions that these upgrades support. While D8 is good with PHP 7, for D9, you would need to run at least a PHP 7.3, which is already more performant.

Overall, Drupal 9 significantly improves performance and usability compared to Drupal 8, which is why most users are setting up their migrations.

Highlighting the Differences Between Drupal 8 and Drupal 9

Drupal development presents a collection of diverse differences from its older counterpart:

Feature Drupal 9 Drupal 8
Backward compatibility D8 is not backward compatible with D7. D9 is backward compatible with D8.
Infrastructure D8 runs on Symfony 3 and Twig 1 D9 runs on Symfony 4/5 and Twig 2 – the latest versions.
Contributed module D8 is not compatible with every contributed module D9 has compatibility with every contributed module of D8
Third-party dependencies Dependency on Symfony 3 and Twig 1 Upgraded dependency on Symfony 4/5 and Twig 2
Code D8 removes deprecated code only through version updates D9 has removed all deprecated codes over D8

All these enhancements prove that Drupal 9 is an update rather than an overhaul:

  • The upgrade process is significantly easy.
  • Conversational UI and improved UX make Drupal 9 easier and smoother to use.
  • Drupal 9 now features support for responsive media.
  • All the obsolete code and vulnerabilities in Drupal 8 have been removed in Drupal 9.

Improved Performance and Scalability

The improved performance of Drupal 9 over Drupal 8 can be attributed to its support for Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). Access to these networks means that Drupal 9 can distribute content across multiple servers, exponentially improving the website’s performance.

Additionally, the fact that deprecated code has been eliminated leaves Drupal 9 a cleaner version of the CMS, improving its performance and response.

How to Upgrade from Previous Versions

Upgrading from Drupal 8 to 9 is a simple process. Just follow the steps detailed below:

  • Step 1:Backing up all your data and resources is essential before upgrading. You can leverage migration readiness assessment tools like AWS for a better picture.
  • Step 2: Upgrade the outdated modules and code while you are still using Drupal 8. Also, ensure you update all the dependencies in Drupal 8 before you migrate to Drupal 9.
  • Step 3: Check for deprecated code and modules and upgrade them if required later in Drupal 9.
  • Step 4: Create a hosting environment that matches the requirements for Drupal 9.
  • Step 5: You first need to upgrade to Drupal 8.8.x or Drupal 8.9.x before upgrading to Drupal 9. All your contributed projects and custom code should be checked for Drupal 9 compatibility.
  • Step 6: Begin the update for the core codebase to Drupal 9.
  • Step 7: You can now run update.php!

For a smooth transition from the older to the newer version, ensure that you are not running deprecated code and that your hosting environment is compatible.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Common challenges encountered when migrating from Drupal 8 to 9 are:

  • Migrating the SEO: With the new site, the search engines will take time to index the site. This can impact site traffic.
  • Content migration: Duplication of content is a common issue.
  • Custom modules: : You would need to rebuild the custom modules in Drupal 9.
  • Themes: You would need to rewrite and customize the theme in Drupal 9 after the upgrade because of a change in the theme engine.


Drupal 9 provides a thoroughly improved performance mark, improved content organization, enhanced security and performance, and much more. Drupal 9 offers the creation of web experiences that are smooth and fast.

The migration process is extremely simple and requires only a backup and code update. If you wish to leverage the high-powered and performant offerings of Drupal 9, Centous can help with the migration in an efficient, strategic, and secure way.

Our Drupal development services include theme development, commerce integrations, headless CMS, and more. Our budget-friendly and bespoke Drupal 9 development gets your migration up and working with minimal downtime. Get in touch with us today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the major difference between Drupal 8 and Drupal 9?

While Drupal 8 runs on Symfony 3 and Twig 11, Drupal 9 runs on Symfony 4/5 and Twig 2. Another difference is the elimination of deprecated code in Drupal 9.

What is the lifecycle of Drupal 9?

The support for Drupal 9 is scheduled to end in November 2023. This is because Drupal 9 runs on Symfony 4, and the support for this PHP framework ends in November.

What are the three types of modules in Drupal?

The three major modules in Drupal are:

  • Core modules
  • Contributed modules
  • Custom modules

What is the major advantage of Drupal 9?

D9 offers better editing tools to the user, like a visual layout builder, customizable content moderation workflows, intuitive themes, better media handling, etc.

Posted by  Dhiraj Suthar - Aug 21, 202310 Min readDrupal

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