Converting a directory from RCS to Mercurial
November 23, 2009
Suppose that you have a directory full of configuration files that have been there for so long that they're still being maintained with RCS. Further suppose that you would like to change to a modern version control system, say Mercurial, but that you would like to preserve all of your old version history.
Mercurial has no direct support for converting RCS files, but there's a magic trick: a CVS repository is nothing more than a bunch of RCS files in a directory hierarchy plus a thin layer of easily created metadata, and a lot of things (Mercurial included) can convert CVS repositories. So we first make a CVS repository version of our directory, and then convert that repository to Mercurial.
Before you start, you need to clean up your current data by making sure that everything you want to have included in the new repository is under RCS, and that you don't have any lingering RCS ,v files for files that you've taken out of service. If you do have old ,v files and want to preserve their history in the new repository, you'll need to remember to tell Mercurial (or your VCS of choice) that they're deleted after you finish the repository conversion.
(It's relatively common for us to remove the checked out version of a file but keep the ,v file both just in case and for historical purposes. You may be different.)
Using the example of a directory (or directory hierarchy) called
(As always, I must note appropriate disclaimers. You should always carefully test both procedures and end results, and while this has worked for us, I can't promise that it will work for you.)
Creating a CVS repository version of your RCS-controlled directory
You should be able to
If you prefer something besides Mercurial, you can now use the CVS-to-whatever tool of your choice. The rest of this entry is specific to the CVS-to-Mercurial conversion process.
Converting a CVS repository into a Mercurial one
Unfortunately, you're also going to want to do the conversion with the latest version of Mercurial (version 1.4 as of writing this), which may mean that you need to build it yourself. Old versions of Mercurial do a worse job of the conversion, and if they are sufficiently old, they actually don't do it correctly. Once you've converted the repository, you can use the normal system version of Mercurial to work on it.
So, the steps:
(If you did the conversion with a sufficiently modern version of
Mercurial, you don't need the '
The end result of this is a new Mercurial repository in /tmp/nsdata-hg
with the full history and the current version of all files in the
repository checked out. You should be able to
My experience is that the history of the Mercurial repository will show at least some multi-file changesets, although it doesn't seem to capture all of them. I choose to view this as an improvement over having all changes be single-file changes, even if it's not perfect.
(Presumably the conversion process (or CVS) uses various heuristics to decide when changes to multiple files more or less at once actually are a single changeset.)
Sidebar: resources and credits
I didn't come up with this on my own; a number of web pages provided very valuable information and pointers.
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