In the last part of this three part series, we performed a completely fresh install of SharePoint 2013 on a new server and made sure it was up and running. In this part, we’re going to grab our content databases, bring them over to the SQL server our SharePoint 2013 installation is using, and mount them to be used in our installation.
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Update: Also read SharePoint 2010 to 2013 migration overview

Step 1 – Finding and moving the content databases

The easiest way to locate the content databases that are currently being utilized by our 2010 SharePoint installation is to open up the SharePoint Central Administration site. This is the administrative site used for the SharePoint backend and can be found in the Start menu.

Once you have opened the SharePoint Central Administration, click on the Manage content databases link.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Manage content databases

When the new page loads, we are presented with all the content databases. In the case of our test server, we only have one content database named WSS_Content. We also see the current number of site collections we currently have.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Content database

There are many ways of backing up the content databases. Microsoft has several articles and tutorials dedicated to this subject. You can of course use any method you prefer and are comfortable with. For this article, I chose to use the Copy Database Wizard.

We’ll start out by opening the SQL Server Management Studio and connecting to the instance where the content databases are located. I’m directly on the SQL server so in this case it will be localhost.

Once connected, expand the Databases folder. Here we will find the WSS_Content database where our site collections are stored.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Database folder

Right click on the database and hover over the Tasks option. A new fly out menu will pop up. We want to select the Copy Database… to start the wizard.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Copy database

The first dialogue box of the Copy Database Wizard asks what source server the database we want to copy is located on. Note that you can use either Windows authentication or SQL server authentication. Select the appropriate one in accordance with your environment. Again, I am on the SQL server where our content database is, so I will just enter localhost and click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Copy database wizard

The next box asks where we want a copy of the database to be moved to. Here we have the same authentication options also. Enter the new SharePoint 2013 database server name and instance if any. The specific format is <server>\<instance>. Click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Destination Server

The transfer method depends on whether you can have downtime on your SharePoint 2010 site. There are two options: the detach and attach method and the SQL Management Object method. The former is much quicker and protects against changes during the copy. The downside is that it requires the database to go offline during the process. The latter method will leave the database online but will take significantly more time to move. When you’ve decided on the best method for your individual scenario, click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Select Transfer Method

The next screen will ask what databases you want to move. The WSS_Content database should already be selected. If not, select it here. For this article, we will only be covering the content database. Click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Select Database

The destination database name doesn’t necessarily matter. However, for the sake of simplicity, I leave the database the same name. You can append 2013, new, etc. if you wish. Leave the rest of the options as default and click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Configure Destination Database

Click Next > again on the next dialogue box. We only need to move the logins and the rest are out of the scope of this article.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Special Server Objects

Leave the next box at the defaults also unless you have a specific reason to save the logs. Click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Schedule the Package

We want to run this copy immediately for the purpose of this article. Depending on when downtime is allowed or what copy method you chose, you may wish to schedule the copy at a later date and time. Click Next >.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Schedule the Package

The final window in the wizard gives us a rundown of what process will occur. After verifying the steps, click Finish.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Compete the Wizard

When the wizard has completed copying the database, open the SQL Server Management Studio and connect to the server and instance you copied the database to. Verify that the database exists.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Verify Databases

Step 2 – Creating the default application

In order to attach our newly copied database to the SharePoint 2013 installation, we need to create a default application. In order to do so, open Central Administration from the Start menu.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Central Administration

When the administrative page opens, select Application Management on the left.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Application Management

Then click on Manage web applications in the right side of the page under the Web Applications heading.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Manage Web Applications

From here we can add, delete, and manage the web applications on the SharePoint server. You’ll notice there is currently only one web application listed; the Central Administration site we are currently using. In the top left on the ribbon, click the New button.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - New Web Application

A Create New Web Application modal box pops up. We don’t necessarily care about the options in this box for this particular tutorial. If you wish, give the options a look over to ensure compliance with your company. Don’t worry about the database. We will be deleting it shortly.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Create New Web Application

Another popup lets us know that the web application creation is currently in progress. Depending on the robustness of the server, this process can take quite a while.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - This shouldn't tale long

When it has finally completed, the Application Created box is shown. We don’t wish to create any site collections at this point, so click Close.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Application Created

Step 3 – Testing and mounting the content database

Although there are other ways to test and mount the content databases, by far the easiest and most efficient way is to use the management shell. Open it from the Windows Start menu now.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Launch SharePoint 2013 Management Shell

Testing the content database is extremely important and will tell us if we’re missing any installations on the new server. This can help us immensely by giving us troubleshooting information and letting us know whether these issues will not allow the upgrade process to complete. The command to test the database is as follows:

Test-SPContentDatabase -Name <database_name> -WebApplication http://<sharepoint_server_application>

In our case it will look as follows:

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - SharePoint 2013 Management Shell

Next, after all issues have been resolved, we will mount the new content database. This process will also upgrade the database in order to allow SharePoint 2013 to use it. The command is very similar to the test command:

Mount-SPContentDatabse -Name <database_name> -WebApplication http://<sharepoint_server_application>

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Mount-SPContentDatabse

Depending on the size of the content database, you may have to wait several minutes for the upgrade to complete.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Mount-SPContentDatabse 2

Upon completion, we are given some information about the process. If there were any issues or errors, they will be shown here.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Mount-SPContentDatabse 3

Step 4 – Clean up and initialize

After the test and mount has gone smoothly, we will need to remove the content database SharePoint automatically created earlier. Open the Central Administration site from the Start menu.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Open the Central Administration

Click on Application Management in the left when the site has loaded.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Application Management 2

On the right under the Databases header, select Manage content databases.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Manage content databases 2

This should be familiar as we did the same thing to find what content databases 2010 was using. Here you’ll see the database WSS_Content that we just tested and mounted. You’ll also see the automatically created content database WSS_Content_<string>. Click on the automatically created database.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Content database 2

About halfway down on the modal box that pops up, there is a tick box to remove the content database. Check the box and click OK.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Remove content database

We have successfully removed the unused content database. Now we must initialize the site to use the content database we copied over and upgraded. Go back to the Web Application Management page by clicking Application Management in the left.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Application Management 3

Under the Web Applications header on the right, click Manage web applications.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Web Applications

Select SharePoint – 80 under the table header Name.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - SharePoint - 80

In the ribbon at the top of the site, click the Managed Paths button.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Manage Paths

We’re going to add the “/” base path to the web application. This basically just reinitializes the web application so that it will use the content database we want to use. If you do not complete this step, your new SharePoint installation will just error out when you go to the site. Type “/” in the Path: textbox and click OK.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Path

Our web application is now up and running! You’ll notice that it looks exactly the same as the 2010 installation. This is one of the great features in 2013 that has built upon the Visual Upgrade of 2010. The individual site collections can now be “visually upgraded” by their site collection administrators. This is extremely helpful if there are a lot of customizations to the site that will be broken during the visual upgrade process.

Sharepoint 2013 upgrade - Web Application running


The content database is now upgraded and on our new SharePoint 2013 installation. We copied our content databases from the old SQL server to the new one and created a new web application to attach it to. We then tested and upgraded the content database and forced our new installation to use it.

This completes the three part series for upgrading from SharePoint 2010 to 2013. I hope you all have found it very informative and as always, if you have any questions or comments, I would be more than happy to respond in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

SharePoint 2010 to 2013 migration overview

  1. Levente Rög 10 years ago

    Nice post!
    The only thing I miss is info on how to upgrade the service applications & MySites.

  2. Dave 10 years ago

    It’d be useful to see a similar article on how to migrate legacy MOSS bits such as MySites etc. There doesn’t seem to me much about it.

  3. Swathi 10 years ago

    Very useful.

  4. madhu 10 years ago

    i completed all the steps successfully. i entered “/” in the path and clicked ok button. after i opened the website URl.but i am getting 403 error(able to connect to site but permission problem).i did not use copy database option.i used backup and recovery option.regarding logins only might be some me reg. this

  5. Author
    Andrew Jacops (Rank 1) 10 years ago


    Unfortunately the database option is not supported. I’m not saying that’s the problem, but that seems to be the likely culprit. Have you tried getting to any of your subsites to see if they work? Also, you may want to post this issue in the forum with some more detailed information here:

  6. Roger 9 years ago

    I’m migrating from 2010 to 2013, I never did a migration before, (I’m a developer) and I’m not sure how to proceed I have db server, 2 web services servers and 1 application server, the migration should be exactly the same way. could you help me???

  7. Author
    Andrew Jacops 9 years ago

    Hi Roger!

    That sounds like a pretty big undertaking. It should be just as straightforward as this article though. If you have any specific questions, I would suggest posting them in the forum here: Thanks for reading!

  8. Mohammad Hawasli 9 years ago

    great. it is worked
    thank you

  9. bhashwar bhattarai 8 years ago

    Hi can i copy or move content using database attach detach from 2008 SQL R2 RTM to 2012 SQL server 2012 SP1, both are on standard version.
    Thank You

  10. Dematri . (Rank 1) 8 years ago

    Hi Andrew,

    I have few questions around:

    a) Test Environment, shall we build SharePoint 2010 same as the production SharePoint 2010 from Server perspective.
    b) Copy the SQL data to SharePoint 2010 Test server and transfer the data to Sharepoint 2013 in Test Environment.
    c) Will the SharePoint Intranet site name will be the same in Test Environment, if yes wont that create any conflict on DNS level?
    d) Config & Search Crawl Database is not supported, thus how to take care?
    e) Database that can be migrated are:
    • All Content Databases
    • Project Server Databases
    • Search Admin Database (Search Topology needs to be recreated and content to be re-indexed)
    • User Profile and Social Database
    • Managed Metadata Database
    • Secure Store Database

    Please respond to my queries.

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