Upgrading to Windows Server 2016: Paths & Methodology

Instructor: Conor O'Nolan

Conor has a masters in electronic arts. He's been programming since 1981 and created games, apps and websites.

Upgrading to Windows Server 2016 is a complex and time-consuming process that carries risks for the organization as it could impact services dependent on the server. This lesson will outline the issues involved and help students make an informed choice for upgrading to Server 2016.

Upgrading Windows Server 2016

Upgrading to Windows Server 2016 is usually done from Server 2012 or Server 2012 R2. There are a number of different versions of Server 2012 R2 and the version determines which version of 2016 one can upgrade to.

Upgrade Paths

In principle, any version of 2012/R2 can be upgraded to 2016 that is the same type. The Standard version can be upgraded to 'Standard' or 'Datacenter' versions of 2016. It's important to check and confirm that the 'new' 2016 version is compatible with 2012 version currently installed.

Upgrade Strategies

If the correct upgrade path is chosen, upgrading in situ is possible but may disrupt the services running on the 2012 server.

It's worth considering getting a new server before moving to 2016. This is Migration and not strictly an upgrade. It involves a new install of 2016 on a new machine and then migrating data and services from the 2012 server. The advantage of this is that it can be done without significant downtime.

Cluster OS Rolling Upgrade is new in Server 2016. It allows upgrade from 2012 R2 without stopping Hyper-V or Scale-Out File Server operations. This upgrade is beyond the scope of this lesson.

Microsoft specifically recommends clean installations.


Microsoft publishes minimum System Requirements for Windows Server 2016 and these may seem relatively low specification. The main ones are:

  • 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor
  • 512Mb RAM or 2Gb for desktop experience
  • Ethernet with 1Gb throughput

Windows Server Catalog

Windows Server Catalog is a comprehensive website listing software and hardware that are tested for various versions of Windows Server.

The hardware list covers input and output devices, storage, networking and much more. Products are listed by device name and by vendor.

The software list many apps and software solutions and can also be checked by product name and vendor.

Server Roles

Server 2016 has several roles that the server fulfills. Examples are 'Active Directory Domain', 'Hyper-V', 'DHCP Server' and more.

If using any specific roles such as the ones above, check Microsoft documentation to see if the services can be migrated and if migration can be completed without downtime.

Driver Signature

Windows Server 2016 enforces Driver Signatures which protects the system from malicious drivers. This is enforced by default.

Some obscure drivers may not be digitally signed yet may be known by the user to be safe. However they will not be loaded. Using such drivers requires disabling driver signature permanently. There are means of disabling temporarily but this is not useful in a production environment.

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