Upgrade Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2016

If you want to keep the same hardware and all the server roles you've already set up without flattening the server, you'll want to do an in-place upgrade. An in-place upgrade allows you to go from an older operating system to a newer one, while keeping your settings, server roles, and data intact. This article helps you to move from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2016.

To upgrade to Windows Server 2019, use this topic first to upgrade to Windows Server 2016, and then upgrade from Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2019.

Before you begin your in-place upgrade

Before you start your Windows Server upgrade, we recommend that you collect some information from your devices, for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes. Because this information is intended for use only if your upgrade fails, you must make sure that you store the information somewhere that you can get to it off of your device.

To collect your info

  1. Open a command prompt, go to c:\Windows\system32, and then type systeminfo.exe.

  2. Copy, paste, and store the resulting system information somewhere off of your device.

  3. Type ipconfig /all into the command prompt, and then copy and paste the resulting configuration information into the same location as above.

  4. Open the Registry Editor, go to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion hive, and then copy and paste the Windows Server BuildLabEx (version) and EditionID (edition) into the same location as above.

After you've collected all of your Windows Server-related information, we highly recommend that you backup your operating system, apps, and virtual machines. You must also Shut down, Quick migrate, or Live migrate any virtual machines currently running on the server. You can't have any virtual machines running during the in-place upgrade.

To perform the upgrade

  1. Make sure the BuildLabEx value says you're running Windows Server 2012.

  2. Locate the Windows Server 2016 Setup media, and then select setup.exe.

    Windows Explorer showing the setup.exe file

  3. Select Yes to start the setup process.

    User Account Control asking for permission to start setup

  4. On the Windows Server 2016 screen, select Install now.

  5. For internet-connected devices, select Download and install updates (recommended).

    Screen to choose to go online to get important Windows updates

  6. Setup checks your device configuration, you must wait for it to finish, and then select Next.

  7. Depending on the distribution channel that you received Windows Server media from (Retail, Volume License, OEM, ODM, etc.) and the license for the server, you may be prompted to enter a licensing key to proceed.

    Screen where you can enter your product key

  8. Select the Windows Server 2016 edition you want to install, and then select Next.

    Screen to choose which Windows Server 2016 edition to install

  9. Select Accept to accept the terms of your licensing agreement, based on your distribution channel (such as, Retail, Volume License, OEM, ODM, and so on).

    Screen to accept your license agreement

  10. Select Keep personal files and apps to choose to do an in-place upgrade, and then select Next.

    Screen to choose your installation type

  11. If you see a page that tells you upgrade isn't recommended, you can ignore it and select Confirm. It was put in place to prompt for clean installations, but it isn't necessary.

    Screen showing the Confirm button to make sure you want to do the upgrade

  12. Setup will tell you to remove Microsoft Endpoint Protection using Add/Remove programs.

    This feature isn't compatible with Windows 10.

  13. After Setup analyzes your device, it will prompt you to proceed with your upgrade by selecting Install.

    Screen showing you're ready to start the upgrade

    The in-place upgrade starts, showing you the Upgrading Windows screen with its progress. After the upgrade finishes, your server will restart.

    Screen showing your upgrade progress

After your upgrade is done

After your upgrade completes, you must make sure the upgrade to Windows Server 2016 was successful.

To make sure your upgrade was successful

  1. Open the Registry Editor, go to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion hive, and view the ProductName. You should see your edition of Windows Server 2016, for example Windows Server 2016 Datacenter.

  2. Make sure all of your applications are running and that your client connections to the applications are successful.

If you think something might have gone wrong during your upgrade, copy and zip the %SystemRoot%\Panther (usually C:\Windows\Panther) directory and contact Microsoft support.

Next steps

You can perform one more upgrade to go from Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2019. For detailed instructions, see Upgrade Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2019.