We help IT Professionals succeed at work.

Update 2008 R2 Hyper-V Server to newer 2012? 2016?

Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2019-09-30
Running Windows Server 2008 R2 as a Hyper-V host for a couple of VM Servers.  For a new Backup scenario I need a program that will not work on 2008 R2.  Can an 'in-place,' upgrade to Server 2016 be done?  Will I need updated licenses to keep the two VM Servers I am currently using?
Watch Question

Distinguished Expert 2019

IMHO, an in-place upgrade of a hyper-v host is a risky proposition.
Based on the likely age of the system,

Much depends on how your existing licenses are, if you have software assurance that in vlcs reflect that you are entitled to use server 2016, then you have your answer.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

You have several options but first some advice.

Never upgrade a system.  Inplace upgrades, in my opinion, can never be as stable as clean installs.  

Backup the existing VMs.  If you're not 100% confident in your backup software (even if you are), shut down the VMs and export them to an external hard drive.

If you already have a license for Server 2016, great.  Install it with GUI for easier management.  
Then import the exported VMs and you should be able to upgrade them.  (Test this on a test system first - it's very easy to build a temporary test system with the trial of 2016 and test this - there's no excuse not to.

Once everything works, do it on the production system.

You could also use the free Hyper-V server.  There is no GUI to manage it built in to Windows, but you can get third party tools like VT Utilities or 5Nine Manager to get GUI management on the core version of Hyper-V server.  You can also (with some potentially annoying trial and error) allow remote systems to connect and manage allowing you to use Hyper-V manager on Windows 10 or other servers.
Technical Architect - HA/Compute/Storage
If you have two partitions set up on the host with one for the host OS and one for the guests then it's a no-brainer to walk through the process.

Install Server 2012 R2 and import the VMs.
Install Server 2016 GA and import the VMs.
Install Server 2019 GA and import the VMs if you want to go that far.

Licensing is always based on the host so yes, the host would need to be licensed and CAL'd for the OS installed on it.

Depending on the workloads, we'd start with a fresh install of the destination OS and migrate all previous guests OS setups to the same as the host OS.

FYI: If you can, go to Server 2019. Server 2016 is a real pain to patch. A real pain. :(

I have two very thorough EE articles on all things Hyper-V:

Some Hyper-V Hardware and Software Best Practices
Practical Hyper-V Performance Expectations

Some PowerShell Guides:
PowerShell Guide - Standalone Hyper-V Server
PowerShell Guide - New VM PowerShell
PowerShell Guide - New-VM Template: Single VHDX File
PowerShell Guide - New-VM Template: Dual VHDX Files


Thanks for your obviously sage advise and guidance.  I was really hoping for permission to do it the easy way (upgrade in place), more for being able to blame someone else for my failure when I tried to do it the quick way!  ("The Experts SAID it would work.") Thanks for keeping me on the, 'straight and narrow.'



What I was hoping for was, 'Yeah!  Go ahead, update in place, no problem!'  That's not what I expected, but hope springs eternal...

Thank you, (and the other two respondents for the most appropriate advise and suggestions.  Hopefully, I can go straight to 2019.

Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/Storage

You can do the in-place process but it requires a few steps to get to the final OS version.

To import the existing virtual machines will require at least a two-step process. IIRC, it's 2008 R2 --> 2012 R2 --> 2019 GA.