Transferring a configuration file from one model to another


Before proceeding, it should be made clear that
 moving a configuration file from one model to another is
not officially supported by Fortinet.

That being said, there are a few gray areas where circumstances can force the issue. This article is intended to color in those gray areas with some information you may find useful.

If you are replacing a FortiGate of one model with different model it is considered best practices to start with a clean install of the firmware and build the configuration from scratch. However, there are some circumstances where the replacement for a FortiGate with a different model was not part of a well organized plan and the configuration is complex enough that you will want to give moving the existing configuration a try. 99.9 % of the time it is not possible to seamlessly use a configuration file from one model on another but because the configuration file is a text file to be read by the firmware each time the unit boots up it is theoretically possible to use another model’s configuration file as the basis for the configuration of a different model. The file needs to be edited, sometimes extensively, preferably by someone comfortable with the syntax of these configuration files.


For those brave enough to attempt this sort of thing the usual approach is as follows:

  1. Install a fresh copy of the firmware on the new device. The firmware has to be the exact same version as the one that was used to back up the configuration of the source device.
  2. Execute factoryreset in the CLI to verify that there is a clean configuration file.
  3. Set up the Interfaces and modes as close as possible to the source device, using the same names and addresses.
  4. Use the backup copy of the source device to cut and paste sections into the destination device through the Command Line Interface. The CLI will check for syntax errors as the commands are entered.
  5. Run a diagnostic error check to see if there are any errors
    The reality is that unless you are very knowledgeable and comfortable playing in the configuration file, it is easier and faster to build the new configuration from the ground up.

Useful Tools

TFTP server – This will direct you to a free Windows software utility that will perform the function of TFTP Server. If it does not appear to work, make sure that no other service or application is using port 69.
Whenever using the TFTP server it is also important to turn off any software firewalls running on the computer acting as the server.

SSH/Telnet client – This will direct you to a download for Putty.exe, a commonly used client.

Text editor – This will direct you to a free download for Notepad++, a source code editor. The beauty of a source code editor like Notepad++ — rather than Notepad — is that it shows the indents you make in the code, which is more intuitive and makes things much easier.

File comparison software – This will direct you to a free download of WinMerge, a tool for data comparison and merging of text-like files.

If after the warnings and caveats you are still determined to try, follow the steps below…

On the Original Device

Step #1 – Get Started!

Verify that you have a working configuration that performs its functions properly.

Step #2 – Version verification

Verify the Version, the MR level, the Patch Level and the build number of the firmware of the original device.

Using the top line of the Configuration file:

If you can read the top line of the configuration file with a code editor or even a text editor, you will get a line similar to the one in this example:


Right after the model number, “FGT60C-" is the version number, in this case 4.00. We now know the version number. The build number can be used to narrow it down to a MR number and patch number.

Using the Web Based Interface:

  • In version 4.3.x or later:

Go to System > Dashboard > System > Information widget
The line “Firmware Version” should look similar to:

v4.0,build0656,130211 (MR3 Patch 12) [Update] [Details]

Using the Command Line Interface:

Run the command:

get system status

There are more lines of output than are seen here but the relevant ones are:

  • In Version 4 MR 3 and later:
Version: FortiWiFi-80CM v4.0,build0458,110627 (MR3 Patch 1)
Branch point: 458
Release Version Information: MR3 Patch 1
  • In Version 4 MR 2 and earlier:
Version: Fortigate-60C v4.0,build5840,110715 (MR2)
Branch point: 328
Release Version Information: MR2

The difference being that starting in MR3, the patch number is included as well as the MR version and the build number is consistent with the branch point.

If you need to know which Branch point corresponds with which Firmware image you can check the Upgrade Path document here, or log into a Support Chat session and ask an on duty technician.

Step #3 – Backup the working configuration file

There are a number of ways, but the simplest is through the Web Based Manager:

  1. Go to System > Dashboard > System > Information widget
  2. Go to the line: System Configuration
  3. Click on [Backup]
  4. Save the file to your local PC

On the New Device

Step #4 – Install the same firmware on the device as is on the original device

Upgrades can be done afterwards but during the transition, in order to minimize the possibility of syntax errors it is important that the devices match in terms of firmware. If the new device came from the factory with a more recent version of the firmware there are two options:

  1. Upgrade the original device to the same level as the new device, or
  2. Install the same version being used by the original device on the new device using a console cable and a TFTP server.

Process for installing firmware via console cable:

Ideally, you want to do this using a console cable, a SSH/Telnet client, and a TFTP server:

  1. Connect the Console cable
    Using the console cable, connect the computer running the TFTP server to the FortiGate unit.
  2. Connect Ethernet Cable
    Connect an Ethernet cable from the Fortinet Device to either the computer or a network that is on the same subnet as the computer hosting the TFTP server. The port on the Fortinet device that you would connect the Ethernet cable to is usually the Internal port 1.
  3. Log in to the Fortinet device with your SSH/Telnet client:
    Connect to the device using the following settings:
     Speed  9600
     Data Bits  8
     Parity  N
     Stop Bits  1
     Flow Control  No Hardware Flow Control
  4. Reboot / power cycle the Fortinet Device and bring up the menu
    As the console displays text as it boots up, it will eventually display the following line:
Press any key to display configuration menu..."

Press the space bar or any other key.

 5.  Format the boot device:
       If the menu includes:

Format boot device [F] 

Press F and wait for the device formatting to complete.

 6.  Download the firmware:

Press G to start firmware download.

The console displays:

Enter TFTP server address []: 

Type the IP address of the computer running the TFTP server and press Enter. The console displays:

Enter Local Address []: 

Type an unused IP address that is on the same subnet as the TFTP server and press Enter.

The console displays:

Enter File Name [image.out]: 

Type the firmware image file name and press Enter.

The console periodically displays a “#” (pound or hash symbol) to show the download progress. When the download completes, the console displays a message similar to:

Save as Default firmware/Run image without saving: [D/R] Press D. 

The FortiGate unit installs the new firmware image and restarts. The installation may take a few minutes to complete.

Step #5 – Set to Factory Default

This will clear away all previous settings and configurations.
Using the command line interface, enter the command:

execute factoryreset

Once entered, you should have a clean, default configuration file installed on your new device

Step #6 – The Interfaces

Set up the interfaces of the new device as closely as possible to match the original devices.

  • To log into the clean system you will likely use the default IP address of on the internal ports.
  • Make sure the mode of the internal ports matches, i.e. interface mode, switch mode, or hub mode.
  • Make sure the names of the interfaces match.
  • Make sure that the IP addresses used on the interfaces.
  • Make sure that any DHCP servers or DNS servers match.

Step #7 – Add configuration components to the baseline configuration

This section should be prefaced with the warning that you should not copy over anything that relates directly to the configuration of the interfaces, as you could “break” the device if the configuration does not match the hardware. In terms of best practice, you should only copy and paste sections of the configuration where you understand the purpose of the lines of code that you are moving over — at least in a general sense.

You will need a text editor or a source code editor that can read the configuration file in a user-friendly fashion. Notepad++ is a good choice, but it is always best to use what you are comfortable with.

You will probably also want a SSH client to connect to the Fortigate rather than use the widget in the Dashboard window. It is possible to use the widget but using a separate client will allow you to expand the window so you aren’t feeling cramped on the screen. Putty is a commonly used client.

Rather than using the GUI to go through all the steps or typing in all of the commands through the CLI, you should copy from the configuration file as displayed in the source code editor and paste it into the CLI.

The CLI will catch any syntax errors and most logical errors.

You should be able to copy and paste in sections; this will save a lot of time. The thing to remember is to do it in the correct sections. The code editor should show the lines of the configuration with indents from the left, depending on how nested the CLI command is. You want to copy entire nested sections that can be entered from the “root” command prompt. In other words, from a line that has no indent to the next line that has no indent. For instance, in the example below, you would copy and paste the entire group from the line starting with “config” to the line containing “end”. The command structure of the CLI is context sensitive. If you tried to copy from the line starting with “edit” we would have to first manually enter the command “config system accprofile”, otherwise errors will occur.

config system accprofile
  edit "prof_admin"
    set admingrp read-write
    set authgrp read-write
    set endpoint-control-grp read-write
    set fwgrp read-write
    set loggrp read-write
    set mntgrp read-write
    set netgrp read-write
    set routegrp read-write
    set sysgrp read-write
    set updategrp read-write
    set utmgrp read-write
    set vpngrp read-write

The copying from the source code editor is straight forward enough: select the text you want to copy and right click | select copy or use the hot keys CTRL+C. To paste into the CLI with Putty, just make sure that you are already logged in through Putty and that you are at the “root” prompt. Use the left mouse button to select the Putty window and then right click anywhere within the window. This will paste the commands in the right order into the CLI. If you get any errors the CLI will immediately give you error messages and you can deal with them right there where you know the error is occurring. This is why you want to do the copying in discrete, controllable batches.

For those who are more familiar with the configuration, you may want to skip sections that are likely to be common to all configurations such as the replacement messages.
Continue copying and pasting until you reach the end of the configuration file.

Step #8 – Backup

Make a copy (backup) of the current configuration file. Same as in Step 3

Step #9 – Test

Test to make sure the unit is operating as desired.

Step #10 – Compare files

Compare the original configuration file to the current one for differences.
(Optional) Use a product like WinMerge to make the comparison of files easier. The files will never be completely the same, but by running the comparison you can check for obvious discrepancies.


After you have completed entering the configuration settings, you can do a final check of the configuration by running from the CLI:

diagnose debug config-error-log read

If there are any configuration issues in the new file, this command will give as an output the line where the configuration stops working, according to its diagnostic rules.

Bruce Davis

Bruce Davis

Technical Writer at Fortinet
Bruce has been working with computers, and related technology, since before the World Wide Web was a thing. He has worked in system and network administration. He has even dabbled in technical support. He has made the switch to technical writing as part of his deep, dark and dastardly plan to make the arcane machinations of IT technology more easily understood by the poor folks who use it.
Bruce Davis

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