Windows Server 2012 Server Core – Part 4: Upgrade

In this part of my Server Core series, I will show you how to in-place upgrade these Server Core installations to Windows Server 2012.

Sander BerkouwerMVP By Sander Berkouwer - Wed, January 23, 2013 - 0 comments

Sander Berkouwer is a Microsoft Certified Professional and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with over a decade of experience in IT.

Articles in this series

Windows Server 2012 Server Core

Most Server Core installations of Windows Server 2012 will be fresh installs, like the one I’ve shown you in Part 3 of this series. However, if you’ve been a fan of Server Core a little longer, you might already have Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 R2 or even Windows Server 2008 running.

Upgrade from Windows Server 2008 Server Core

When you want to in-place upgrade a Windows Server 2008-based Server Core installation to Windows Server 2012, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be running the x86-64bit version of Windows Server 2008.
  • You need at least 15GB of free disk space.

When you’re running Windows Web Server 2008, you can only in-place upgrade to the Standard Edition of Windows Server 2012. When you’re running the Standard Edition of Windows Server 2008, you can upgrade to either the Standard Edition or the Datacenter Edition of Windows Server 2012. When you’re running the Enterprise or Datacenter Editions of Windows Server 2008, you can only in-place upgrade to the Datacenter Edition of Windows Server 2012. Also, cross-language in-place upgrades are not supported.

Your current Windows Server 2008 installation needs to run at least Service Pack 2.

Upgrade from Windows Server 2008 R2 Server Core

When you want to in-place upgrade a Windows Server 2008 R2-based Server Core installation to Windows Server 2012, you will need 15GB of free space and at least Service Pack 1 installed. These are the only requirements besides the above cross-SKU and cross-language upgrade limitations.

However, an issue exists at the time of this writing that prevents you from upgrading Server Core installations with either the Active Directory Domain Services Role or the DNS Server Role installed. The upgrade will hang on a solid black screen late in the upgrade process.

Until a solution is available, it is recommended that you install a new domain controller running a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2012 instead of in-place upgrading an existing domain controller that runs a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 R2. Another option is to demote the Server Core installation and remove the DNS Server role. Then, you can successfully in-place upgrade the server, re-apply the DNS Server Role, and promote the server again.

In-place upgrade Server Core to Windows Server 2012

To upgrade Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2-based Server Core installations, you will need the Windows Server 2012 installation media. This can be a DVD, a USB flash device, an ISO, or the installation files copied to a second or removable hard drive or shared network location from one of the three earlier mentioned formats.

Of course, you won’t have AutoPlay functionality in a Server Core installation, so change to the location of your installation media first. If you’re upgrading from a network location, use net.exe to map the location to a drive letter. From the installation media, run setup.exe to start the in-place upgrade.

Server Core Upgrade - Start setup

Server Core Upgrade – Start setup

The Windows Server 2012 installation splash screen shows. On it, click Install Now.

Sever Core Upgrade - Install now

Sever Core Upgrade – Install now

The screen will turn blue while displaying the text Setup is copying temporary files and next Setup is starting. After a short moment, you will be presented with the Graphical Windows Setup program, which looks awfully similar to the Windows Setup for clean installations of Windows Server 2012:

Graphical Windows Setup program

Graphical Windows Setup program

On the Get important updates for Windows Setup screen, choose to Go online to install updates now (recommended). When your Server Core installation has Internet access, this option will make sure the Windows upgrade process will be as smooth as possible.

Optionally, you can check the I want to help make the Windows installation better option. When you do, Windows Setup will gather non-identifiable information from the program and send it to Microsoft.

Select the operating system you want to install

Select the operating system you want to install

In the Select the operating system you want to install, you can choose to upgrade either to a Server Core installation or a Server with a GUI of Windows Server 2012. Depending on the Windows Server SKU you’re upgrading and the installation media you’re using, you may also be presented with a second choice: the Edition of Windows. In the above screenshot, I’m in-place upgrading a Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition-based Server Core installation.

Choose the operating system to upgrade to and click Next.

I accept the license terms

I accept the license terms

Just as with a fresh installation of Windows Server 2012, the next step is to accept the Windows Server 2012 license terms. Check the I accept the license terms box and click Next.

Which type of installation do you want

Which type of installation do you want

On the Which type of installation do you want? screen, select Upgrade: Install Windows and keep files, settings and applications.

Compatibility Report

Compatibility Report

You will be presented with the Compatibility Report. This report will list the applications and drivers that are incompatible with Windows Server 2012. If you suspect serious problems with the unavailability of the applications and devices listed, do not proceed. Click the X in the left top corner of Windows Setup and correct the problems first. When you’re good to go, click Next to begin the actual upgrade.

Upgrading Windows

Upgrading Windows

Windows Setup will display its progress as it upgrades your Server Core installation. As the text suggests, your upgrade may take a while to complete. Depending on the Roles and Features installed on the Server Core installation, processor power, available RAM, and disk speeds, it might take between ten minutes and two hours.

After the upgrade, you will be presented with the Windows Server 2012 Lock Screen:

Windows Server 2012 Lock Screen

Windows Server 2012 Lock Screen

Press the infamous Ctrl+Alt+Del keyboard combination to sign in.

Sign in to Server Core

Sign in to Server Core

Type your password and either press Enter or click the blue arrow to the right of the password input field. You will now be greeted by the command prompt on your upgraded Server Core installation:

Server Core Command Prompt

Server Core Command Prompt

The black square behind the command prompt at your first login is not a display glitch. The desktop background color is already set to black, but it will not show until you log on a second time.

Now, review the contents of the Error log kept by Windows Setup, by typing

notepad.exe C:\Windows\SetupErr.log

When done, close Notepad. Next, check the availability of your Server Roles and Features, as well as any additional functionality the Server Core installation offered before the upgrade.

Concluding

When you seek to preserve the files, settings, and programs on existing Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2-based Server Core installations, performing in-place upgrades to Windows Server 2012 is easy, fast, and robust.

In my next post I will discuss Server Core’s built-in management tools.

Series NavigationWindows Server 2012 Server Core – Part 3: Installation - Windows Server 2012 Server Core – Part 5: Tools

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