Sooner or later every new Ruby developer needs to understand differences between this two common rake tasks. Basically, these simple definition tells us everything we need to know:

  • rake db:migrate runs migrations that have not run yet
  • rake db:schema:load loads the schema.db file into database.

but the real question is when to use one or the other.

Advice: when you are adding a new migration to an existing app then you need to run rake db:migrate, but when you join to existing application (especially some old application), or when you drop your applications database and you need to create it again, always run rake db:schema:load to load schema.


I am working on application which use globalize gem for ActiveRecord model/data translations. Globalize work this way:

  • first specify attributes which need to be translatable
class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  translates :title, :text

  • then create translation tables
class CreatePosts < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def up
    create_table :posts do |t|
    Post.create_translation_table! title: :string, text: :text
  def down
    drop_table :posts

Note that the ActiveRecord model Post must already exist and have listed attributes for translations.

  • and run rake db:migrate .

Problem comes when you change your mind and decide to leave title to be untranslatable.

  • remove title from post translations table
class RemoveTitleFromPostTranslations < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def up
    remove_column :post_translations, :title, :string

  def down
    Entry.add_translation_fields! title: :string
  • add title to posts table
class AddTitleToPosts < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def change
    add_column :posts, :title, :string
  • remove title attribute from model translations
class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  translates :text
  • and run rake db:migrate.

Everything looking good, so where is the problem?

Here it is! If you decide to delete your database and create it again you need to use:

  • rake db:drop
  • rake db:create
  • rake db:schema:load

Because, if you try to use rake db:migrate instead of rake db:schema:load you will get BIG ERROR!, because for your first migration “create_posts” it is necessary that you have defined translatable attributes :title and :text in Post model, but you removed :title from Post model translations.

So just follow advice above, and good luck.

Tags: ruby, rails, rake task, globalize


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