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I have tried importing the database from a production server running civicrm 4.4 into a development server running 4.7 - but it appears that only contact names are present - email, address, activities, memberships and contributions are all missing. Does this mean that I need to start again, downgrade civicrm to 4.4 on the dev server and only upgrade it after porting the database?

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If you want to migrate the complete database you should indeed do the following:

  1. Set your old environment in read-only maintenance mode
  2. Set up the new environment (CiviCRM & CMS) using exactly the same versions
  3. Migrate the databases
  4. Update CiviCRM and CMS to the latest versions
  5. Properly test (quite some changes between 4.4. and 4.7)
  6. Go-Live or rollback

As an alternative (if your data isn't too complex) you could export everything you need as csv-files and either use the UI import function of CiviCRM to import into the new environment or give Eileen's import extension a shot.

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