Running Multiple Versions of Minecraft

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Minecraft players on CraftBukkit servers are always faced with a dilemma during a major release. They stare at the all too familiar New update available. Would you like to upgrade? dialog and are tempted to click Yes to see what new things Notch has in store. However, they also know that they risk incompatibility with their CraftBukkit server(s) until it is updated to the newest release.

Here are two techniques that players can use to keep around older Minecraft client versions allowing them to check out the latest changes in a new release while remaining compatible with their CraftBukkit server. The methods described below are primarily intended for Windows users, but can be tweaked for OSX and Linux users.

Minecraft Client

Your Minecraft client consists of two parts - the Minecraft application and the Minecraft launcher. The Minecraft application is stored in %appdata%/.minecraft. Here is where the meat of the matter lies. It contains the Minecraft.jar application, single player world files, texture packs, configuration files, mods, and whatever else is required to run the client. The second part is the Minecraft.exe launcher, which is the small application that you initially downloaded from Mojang. The purpose of the launcher is to 1) display Minecraft release information, 2) authenticate your IGN with minecraft.net; and, 3) present an upgrade option if newer versions of the client are available.

Upgrade Problems

Unfortunately, upgrading is a one-way trip. There is no built-in way to undo an upgrade. The Minecraft launcher replaces whatever binaries (located in the .minecraft/bin directory) require updating without making a backup. If you have a modded client, you may run into additional problems, since an update may wipe out some, but not all patches, a mod made. If so, your mods wind up in a "half installed" state and will generally result in the dreaded black screen. Your only recourse is to delete the bin directory and run an upgrade one more time to get a virgin copy of all binaries.

Multi-Version Technique #1

The simplest/brute force approach to keeping around older versions of Minecraft is to make backups of the .minecraft directory before upgrading your client. You do this by making a copy of the current .minecraft directory and saving it to another location. The following example describes the technique in more detail.

Example

For example, let's assume you are currently running version 1.1.2 and you see the New update available screen for version 1.2.3.

  1. Click No and quit Minecraft.
  2. Create a directory named Minecraft Archives in your My Documents directory, or wherever else you would like to put it.
  3. Within that directory, create another directory to store your current Minecraft version. In this example, we are working with version 1.1.2, so you would create a directory named something like MC_1.1.2
  4. Open up another Windows Explorer and navigate to the %appdata% directory by typing %appdata% in the file path at the top of the window.
  5. Right-click on the .minecraft directory and select Copy.
  6. Navigate to your archive directory (Minecraft Archives/MC_1.1.2), right-click in the directory listing and select Paste. This will create a copy of your current .minecraft directory.
  7. Now that you have a copy, you can safely upgrade the client.
  8. MODDED CLIENT ONLY. If you have a modded client, go back to the original %appdata%/.minecraft directory.
    1. Delete the bin directory. Doing this ensures that Minecraft launcher will download a pristine copy of Minecraft.
    2. Delete the mods directory, if it exists. This directory is used by several mods to store additional program files. Wiping this directory ensures that they won't interfere with your client as you begin the modding process, since they will most likely have to be updated also.
    3. If you are ultra-paranoid, you can delete everything except the following files/directories - resources, saves, screenshots, stats, texturepacks, lastlogin, options, and servers. If you are curious what these files do, see Minecraft Files
  9. Start up Minecraft and log in.
  10. Select Yes to the New update available prompt.
  11. Open a single player world and verify that everything is working as expected. If not, quit Minecraft; delete the bin directory in %appdata/.minecraft; and restart Minecraft. This will force another update.

At this point you have an updated client and a full backup of your previous version. Before you do anything else, you'll want to make a backup of the update.

  1. Go to your Minecraft Archives and create a new folder for the update. Say you just updated to version 1.2.3, create a directory named MC_1.2.3
  2. Navigate back to the %appdata% directory.
  3. Right-click on the .minecraft directory and select Copy.
  4. Navigate to your new archive directory (Minecraft Archives/MC_1.2.3), right-click in the directory listing and select Paste. This will create a copy of the updated .minecraft directory.

If you mod your client, now is the time to download the latest and greatest mod versions and install them per the developer's instructions. Once you have verify that you're mods are working, you should make another copy of the .minecraft directory and save it in your archive.

Switching Between Versions

As mentioned earlier, this is a simple, but brute force approach to maintaining multiple versions of Minecraft. To switch between versions do the following;

  1. Navigate to the %appdata% directory.
  2. Delete the .minecraft directory. Please make sure that you made backups as described earlier.
  3. Next, copy the .minecraft directory of the version you want to use from your archives into the %appdata% directory.
  4. Start up Minecraft.

Multi-Version Technique #2

This technique builds upon the first and eliminates the need to delete and re-copy the .minecraft folder, making it as easy as selecting a shortcut for the version you want to play. As far as making backups, that process hasn't changed. You should make version backups whenever an update is available. Let's say that you've been doing this for a while and at this point you have the following version archives.

+- Minecraft Archives
|--- MC_Beta_1.8.1
|--- MC_1.1.2
|--- MC_1.2.3

You would like to be able to fire up beta version 1.8.1 with a double-click. Obviously, your most current version (in this case version 1.2.3) is already available by just using the Minecraft launcher. The following steps, will let you set up additional shortcuts to start any previous version you care to play. This technique takes advantage of the fact that you can temporarily change the location of the %appdata% directory, forcing the Minecraft launcher to start Minecraft from a different directory.

Make a copy of the Minecraft.exe launcher and put it into your Minecraft Archives directory. Start up Notepad and enter the following text:

set APPDATA=%CD%\MC_Beta_1.8.1
minecraft.exe


Use Save As... to save this file by navigating to your Minecraft Archives directory. Select All Files from the Save as type: popup menu and type in Minecraft Beta 1.8.1.bat in the File name: field. Click Save. What you have just done is create a Batch file (.bat) that temporarily points the %appdata% directory to your MC_Beta_1.8.1 version. The second line starts up the Minecraft launcher, which will obligingly use the .minecraft directory in your archive to fire up the game. If you create a Shortcut to the Minecraft Beta 1.8.1.bat file, you can put it on your desktop. Whenever you double-click it, it will now launch beta version 1.8.1 rather than the current version installed in the default location.

Using the same technique, you can create batch files for other versions of Minecraft for which you have an archive copy. Please note: Because you are redirecting the Minecraft launcher to start up an older version of Minecraft, you will always be presented with the New update available dialog. At some point, you are going to accidentally click Yes, which will upgrade your archived copy. Make sure to make another copy of each archived .minecraft directory. Better yet, use WinZIP or WinRAR. Now, if you should accidentally upgrade an older version, you can just restore it from the copy.

You can also use this technique for the most current version of Minecraft. However, if you mod your client, it is recommended that you just use the Minecraft launcher rather than a batch file redirecting to your archived copy. Mod installers make the assumption that your Minecraft client is in %appdata%/.minecraft and won't know to update your archived copy unless you use a similar technique to redirect %appdata%. Just be sure to save an archive copy whenever you make major changes to your client.

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