Upgrade rails from 5.0 to 5.1

Upgrading application rails version from 5.0 to 5.1 is easier than doing from 4.2 to 5.0, since it’s only a minor version update. However, there might still be quite a few things to address either from framework changes or due to outdated gems dependency.

Config defaults

Since rails 5.1, it is needed to specify default configuration of which version should be loaded by default:

config.load_defaults 5.1

This means the app will load default configuration of rails 5.1 and it’s earlier versions (i.e. <= 5.0) that are listed in below files:

  • config/initializers/new_framework_defaults.rb (generated when upgrading from 4.2 to 5.0)
  • config/initializers/new_framework_defaults_5_1.rb (generated when upgrading from 5.0 to 5.1)

Tips: if there are custom configuration (means the opposite value of default), they can be moved to config/application.rb or the specific config/environment/*.rb files. After that, such new_framework_defaults_* files can be removed completely.

See Upgrading Rails: What am I to do with new_framework_defaults file?.

Manifest.js file

Sprockets will be upgraded to version 4.x in rails 5.1 and it requires a manifest.js file to live under app/assets/config otherwise it raises error to complain. See solution here.


The with_indifferent_access method of params is removed in rails5.1, so if there is code that still relies on this method such as user registration related features based on devise, the params must be first permitted and then converted into a hash:

User.invite! params[:user].permit(:fullname, :email).to_h, current_user
DEPRECATION WARNING: The behavior of `changed_attributes` inside of after callbacks will be
changing in the next version of Rails. The new return value will reflect the behavior of
calling the method after `save` returned (e.g. the opposite of what it returns now). To
maintain the current behavior, use `saved_changes.transform_values(&:first)` instead.
(called from block (6 levels) in <top (required)> at...

Here is the rails PR and a good post.

Tips: Don’t fully trust the deprecation warnings message about it impacts only inside of after callbacks, make and apply the changes to all before_, after_ callbacks including validate.

If the app still uses an old version of paper_trail (e.g. v4.x), it’s likely to add handreds of thousands of more such deprecation warnings. Here is the issue and solution.

Bigint as primary key for db tables

Rails 5.1 uses bigint for primary key in db tables and the db:load:schema (e.g in test environment) command will fail if the schema.rb file was generated with an earlier version. See PR.

Tips: If the app is not another twitter, you can save the risk of changing db columns in production and keep using integer as primary key for exsiting tables. Just dump a version of schema.rb from existing production with db:schema:dump and then commit into the rails 5.1 branch and the schema.rb will have a id: :integer attribute for create_table command for existing tables. See this post: Rails 5.1 new default BIGINT primary key sort of ruins existing apps (with fix!).


The above lists only the main hassles. Others like deprecation warnings about using string for :if and :unless conditions or config like ActiveSupport.halt_callback_chains_on_return_false and so on are generally easy to address: just follow the instruction.

rails ruby