Running Laravel Migrations on an Existing Database

December 3, 2021

In this article we will run migrations on an existing database using Laravel with a sample table without installing any package.

Imagine your company needs to change and use Laravel from the raw PHP technology or shift from another framework to Laravel. In addition to this, there is an existing database with thousands, if not millions, of records.

Would you delete the database first and run fresh Laravel migrations? Or would you create fresh migrations and do some fragile data exportations? You could also advise the company on the complexity of the issue, right?

All the options discussed above are not the best suitable option. We need a way to run our migrations on the existing tables carefully. This article will show how to do that without interfering with any preexisting data.

Table of contents

Brief overview

When we want to create a database table in Laravel, we first need to create the table’s model. Next, in the model, we set the table name and its fields. Then, we create the migration for the table using the model’s values.

A migration file contains the fields’ names and data types. Laravel, by default, creates timestamp fields for the table together with the fields you provided. But what if you don’t want the timestamp fields? How would you approach this?

Then, we run all the migrations, we create the tables in the database we specified in our environment variables. Laravel’s official documentation only caters to freshly created tables and databases. It does not show how to handle already existing ones.

We will see how to do this for existing tables and databases. This article is based on Laravel’s Eloquent ORM, which I have given the link pointing to its documentation. Eloquent Object Relational Mapper (ORM) gives us an easier way to manipulate our database without caring much about the SQL query codes. For raw database manipulation, you can find more about them here.


The article is a bit advanced, so a prior experience with Laravel is required. You can check the basics of creating a Laravel application here where you will go through a step by step process of creating a blog. Moreover, you need a knowledge of PHP.

Getting started

We will create some migration on an existing database shown in these screenshots. It does not have many records. It’s only for demonstrating the article.

database screenshot

As we can see, it has five fields:

  1. ID

The table is named class_subjects and the database, terrence_time. You can choose your preferred name. We proceed to create a simple Laravel application. For this article, let’s call it migration-test.

    $laravel new migration-test

Next step is to create the Laravel model and the migration.

$php artisan make:model class_subjects -m

The -m flag creates the corresponding migration. Otherwise, you can do both of them as shown below:


$php artisan make:model class_subjects


$php artisan make:migration class_subjects

When you check your working directory, you will see the migration and model files.

migration screenshot

Migration file (It’s the bottom-most one)

model screenshot

Model file (The topmost one)

Modifying the model file

namespace App\Models;
use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Factories\HasFactory;
use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;
class class_subjects extends Model
    use HasFactory;
    protected $table = ‘class_subjects’;
    public $timestamps = false;
    protected $primaryKey = ‘ID’;
    protected $fillable = [‘ID’,‘SUB_NAME’,‘CLASS_NAME’,‘TEACHER_CODE’,‘STATUS’];

We add the table name and the fields in the table. $fillable in Laravel is used to set fields that are mass-assignable. There is also $guarded, which sets fields that cannot be mass-assigned(protected fields). In this case, we want all our fields to be modifiable. We will use $fillable.

Mass-assigning is modifying the values of multiple fields all at once using a data structure such as an array.

We set the timestamps variable to false since we had not added timestamp fields to our table. Setting this to false instructs Laravel not to create the default timestamp fields.

Modifying the migration file

use Illuminate\Database\Migrations\Migration;
use Illuminate\Database\Schema\Blueprint;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Schema;
class CreateClassSubjectsTable extends Migration
     * Run the migrations.
     * @return void
    public function up()
        if (!Schema::hasTable(‘class_subjects’)) {
            // Code to create table
            Schema::create(‘class_subjects’, function (Blueprint $table) {
                $table->string(‘SUB_NAME’, 30);
                $table->string(‘CLASS_NAME’, 30);
                $table->string(‘STATUS’, 30);
     * Reverse the migrations.
     * @return void
    public function down()

Here, we check first if the table exists, as is the norm, using this if statement:

if (!Schema::hasTable(‘class_subjects’)){

We do that so that Laravel does not replace our existing table. If it does not exist, then it creates the table with the predefined fields. You can leave the code inside the if statement empty since we already have the table. But due to proper coding ethics, we add the code.

Running the migrations

If you’re working in your localhost, you can run the migrations using this terminal command:

$php artisan migrate

If you’re on a live server, you will have to run a script that automatically runs the migration. For simplicity, we will put our code in the routes/web file and call the route by typing it in the browser.

Route::get(‘run-migrations’, function () {
    try {
        //the migrate command
        return Artisan::call(‘migrate’);
    } catch (Exception $e) {
        //get the error message and display the error

On a successful run, we should find the migrations in the phpMyAdmin.

migration two

Opening it, we should see:

migration three

We will also see that our table is untampered with.

final table screenshot

That’s it.


In a nutshell, we created a Laravel application, added the model and the migration, then ran the migrations to suit an already created table.

This was an article for Laravel, but you can use the same logic to the technology that you use. I hope you got some insights.

Have a great coding adventure.

Peer Review Contributions by: Okelo Violet