How to Migrate Server 2012 to Server 2022 / 2019 / 2016, including applications, profiles, shares and data - Zinstall
Knowledge Base
How To?
Buy Now

How to Migrate Server 2012 to Server 2022 / 2019, including applications, profiles, shares and data

Need to migrate Windows Server 2012 to Server 2019 / 2022? This tutorial will show you how.

Server 2012 R2 End Of Support is October 23, 2023 – so, naturally, you are not alone: 2012’s should be migrated ASAP. Of course, you want to minimize the time and effort spent on that, and to automate as much of that migration as possible.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to natively migrate server applications, databases, user profiles, shares, data from Server 2012 / 2012 R2, to a new Server 2022 / 2019. We will also cover role migration best practices and tutorials. (Note: this works for non-2012 servers as well, we are just focusing on 2012 due to its 2023 EOL)

Migration covered here is native migration – not app virtualization. You can use these methods to migrate from physical to physical, physical to virtual / Cloud, Cloud to Cloud etc. For example, you can migrate from an on-prem physical 2012 to an on-prem 2022 VM, from an on-premise Server 2012 to an Azure Server 2022, or from a Private Cloud 2012 R2 server to an EC2 Server 2019. You can even use this to implement an in-place upgrade of a Server 2012 running on Azure / AWS.

The goal of this how to is to allow to complete a server migration in less than 4 hours for application and file servers, and less than 24 hours for role-focused servers (although complicated cases may require more time).

Just want to find out how to automate the migration, and don’t need a general tutorial?
Click here to skip to the part with the actual migration process.
Or, if you need to migrate workstations, click here for migration to Windows 11.

Evaluation licenses and pricing are available here

Video demo – automatic Server 2012 Migration tool

Before you begin: Audit your 2012 servers and plan your migration.

Audit your servers: In a typical environment, you’ll have quite a few different server types. There will be role-oriented servers, which focus on Windows Server roles such as Domain Controller, Active Directory, IIS, Exchange, DNS, DHCP. The more common group, however, are application and file servers, which run the actual Line of Business applications (LOB) and store the company data. They typically outnumber the role-based group.

Migration is done differently for these two. Roles are migrated manually, or with utility tools that are typically focused on one specific role (see below).

Application and file servers, however, can be migrated automatically and on massive scale, using server migration software such as Zinstall WinServ.

In the planning stage, you need to prepare a list of servers in the environment, and figure out what each of them is responsible for.

Even just knowing how many role servers and how many application servers is already a big step. Since application server migration can be automated, you will be able to develop a fairly accurate estimate of time and effort that will be required for the migration.

Schedule your migration time slot: Migrations take time, and during that time, your users may be affected to some extent. If possible, try and schedule the actual migration to be performed after hours or during a weekend. Note that you don’t actually have to stay there yourself at that time: application migration can be performed remotely or launched in advance in unattended mode.

Verify your backups are up to date, and are actually restorable: Any major upgrade may go wrong, and without a valid up-to-date backup, you risk losing everything you’ve had on the server. Make sure to verify that the backup you have is not damaged and ready to be restored if needed!

Decide on replacement type: Once you have decided to replace a server, you have several options regarding what the replacement will be. It may be an on-premise physical Windows 2022 / 2016 server, a on-prem VM server (ESX / Hyper-V, for example), or a Cloud-based server running off premise (such as migration to Azure or migration to Amazon AWS). If you are using WinServ, it supports any of those transfers, so migration difficulty does not vary significantly with your choice.

How to migrate Server 2012 to Windows Server 2022 / 2019

The process below outlines the migration steps for moving from Server 2012 / 2012 R2, to a new Windows Server 2016 / 2019 / 2022.

Option 1: Direct migration from 2012 to 2022 / 2019 over network

  1. Before you begin, consider disabling the firewall on the old 2012 server, or at least adding Zinstall to its whitelist, so that the firewall does not interfere with the migration.
  2. Run Zinstall WinServ on both servers.
    Note: You can get Zinstall WinServ here, and its user guide here.
  3. Select the first option, “Moving between two machines”, on both servers.
  4. If you do NOT want to transfer server applications, and are only interested in a profile, data and shares transfer, switch the radio button on the main screen to “profile and settings only” mode.
  5. On the source server, choose the “Source system” option, and leave it running. It will be waiting for connection from the new one.
  6. On the new Server 2022 / 2019, choose the “Target system” option.
  7. WinServ will automatically detect the source server. Alternatively, if the servers are on different networks, you can manually specify the source server’s IP address.
  8. If you’d like to select exactly what you want to transfer, press the Advanced menu. If you just want to transfer everything, you don’t need to go to the Advanced menu.
  9. Click Next and then Go to start the migration.
  10. The transfer will take a while (depending on how much data you have to transfer), and report to you when done.
  11. That’s it!

Option 2: Indirect migration, via intermediate storage

  1. Run Zinstall WinServ on both servers.
    Note: You can get Zinstall WinServ here, and its user guide here.
  2. On the source server, select the 3rd option, “Moving from Machine to Container”
  3. Choose the container location (such as a network share, a NAS, a USB hard drive – any type of storage), and press Go to perform a full capture of the source server to that location.
  4. On the new 2022 / 2019 server, select the 4th option, “Moving from Container to Machine”
  5. If you do NOT want to transfer programs, and are only interested in a profile, data and shares transfer, switch the radio button on the main screen to “profile and settings only” mode.
  6. Specify the location of the container created in step 3.
  7. If you’d like to select exactly what you want to transfer, press the Advanced menu. If you just want to transfer everything, you don’t need to go to the Advanced menu.
  8. Click Next and then Go to start the migration.
  9. The transfer will take a while (depending on how much data you have to transfer), and report to you when done.
  10. That’s it!

Server Roles migration

This part of the migration is done manually, and multiple tutorials exist that may help. We recommend John Savill’s excellent guide: Winding Down Windows Server 2003 in Your Organization. Information below is based on the article above.

  1. IIS migration: If all you have running on IIS 8 are basic HTML pages or Active Server Pages (ASP), you can copy the content to the IIS version running on your new server, then update the DNS records to point to the new IIS server. Of course, usually if you have IIS, you use it for more than static sites (such as Sharepoint), so simple copy won’t cut it. The good news is that you can use a migration toolkit named Web Deploy 3.6. If you need to migrate websites to Microsoft Azure Web Apps, there’s a separate tool available named Azure Web App Migration Assistant.
  2. DC and AD migration: Providing you have followed best practices, your domain controllers (DCs) don’t run any other software, which means the existing domain and forest will be prepared for Server 2022 / 2019. In this case, you need to create new DCs running the new OS, migrate the Flexible Single-Master Operation (FSMO) roles, migrate any certificates or other items, then decommission the Server 2012 DCs. For detailed guidance on migrating DCs, see Upgrade Domain Controllers to a newer version of Windows Server .
  3. DHCP migration: DHCP scopes provide the IP addresses given to clients, along with their IP configuration (e.g., gateway, DNS server). To migrate DHCP scopes, the best option is to export the scopes from the Server 2012 instance, then import them to the Server 2022 / 2019 instance.
  4. DNS migration: If you’re hosting DNS on Windows, you’re likely integrating it with AD and your DNS servers are DCs. Therefore, when you migrate AD, the DNS configuration will move as well. It’s important to remember to migrate any DNS server configurations, such as forwarding. If the DNS servers will be hosted on new IP addresses, you need to make sure that you update any static IP configurations and all DHCP configurations. To avoid this time-consuming task, most organizations will change the IP addresses of the new servers to that of the old servers once the old servers are retired.
  5. Print services: Like file services, printer configurations and shares must be migrated from the source server to the target server. In addition, you’ll need new printer drivers that are 64-bit and compatible with Server 2022 or 2019 as well as with modern clients.


Dealing with incompatible applications:

Some legacy 3rd party applications running on Windows Server 2012 may be incompatible with Windows Server 2022 / 2019. This is not as common as it once was with Server 2003 / 2008, but it may still happen – usually for legacy software, which has not been updated for newer OS versions.

Note that “old” does not necessarily mean “won’t work”. Quite a few applications ah

If these applications cannot be eliminated immediately, and are mission-critical for continued operation of the organization, the recommended option to preserve them operation is to perform a virtualized migration of those applications, into a virtual Server 2003 instance running on newer replacement server. Then, continue to take the steps required to phase those applications out and stop running the virtualized 2003 instances.

WinServ is application-generic, and can migrate even custom and in-house applications that have not been seen by the outside world – as long as they are capable of running on the new server. Here is a partial list of common applications that our customers have migrated in the past:

  • SQL Server
  • MS SQL
  • MySQL
  • SAP (including SAP Business One)
  • Oracle
  • Sybase
  • DB2
  • Java Application Server
  • Crystal Reports
  • Avaya
  • PeopleSoft
  • JD Edwards Enterprise One (JDE E1)
  • Citrix
  • Apache (Windows only)
  • WebSphere
  • Microsoft Dynamics

After the migration:

Once the migration process is complete, it is time to verify the results.

  1. You may need to adjust your domain’s DNS to point to the new server where needed. For example, changing your old CRM Server DNS entry to the new server’s address.
  2. Same goes for login scripts and GPO policy.
  3. Launch every application and console you use, and verify they load correctly.
  4. Using a client workstation, verify that clients can access the migrated server correctly and their applications run without issues.

Congratulations! Your server migration is now complete.

Ready to migrate to Windows Server 2022 / 2019 / 2016?

Get Zinstall WinServ here

You can also contact us for assistance, volume licensing, and help in setting up a POC.