By Ivy / Last update October 24, 2022

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Can you migrate Windows Server to a new hardware machine

In fact, there are different situations you want to migrate Windows Server to new hardware in the following:

  • When your Windows Server machine has aged badly and is in dire need of an upgrade.
  • Your computer runs into some severe problems caused by hardware failures, system crashes, natural disasters, or human error.
  • You don't want to reinstall the Windows Server system from scratch.  

Thus, many users want to migrate old server to a new server, but during the migration process, you need to take many things (such as driver issues) into consideration because of the difference in hardware. 

Fortunately, the Windows Server Backup utility provided by Microsoft includes bare metal recovery capability, allowing you to restore Windows Server backup images to dissimilar hardware more efficiently.

Is the Windows Server license transferable?

This is another issue of concern. After all, if the license does not work after migration, there will be a lot of follow-up problems. The answer is actually the same as in the Windows Client system: it depends on the license type. 

To check your license type, you can open Command Prompt or PowerShell, type "slmgr.vbs –dli" and press Enter. Then there will be a pop-up window showing your license type.

Verificare licenza di Windows

  • If it's a Retail license, there should be no problem with migration, whether to the same or dissimilar hardware. Click here to learn more about moving Windows license to new computer.
  • If it's an OEM license, however, it is tied to the motherboard and cannot be migrated to dissimilar hardware. 

Way 1: Migrate Windows Server 2016 to New Hardware via Windows Server Backup 

You are able to move  server 2016 to a new server, here is the first method to help you, you can create a bare metal backup with Windows Server Backup, and then restore backup image to new hardware machine step by step.

Preparations for Server 2016 Migration

Please note that WSB is not pre-installed in Windows Server 2016 as well as later system, so you need to install it first from Server Manager if Windows Server Backup not showing up.

After the installation, navigate to Start Administrator Tools Window Server Backup and then select Backup Once and follow the wizard to create a full backup or bare metal backup. When choosing what to include in the backup, you need to check the item Bare metal recovery as shown below.

Bare Metal Backup Server 2016

Notice: If you find Windows Server Backup Service missing in the process of installing, please follow the given link guide to get it back.

Perform Windows Server 2016 Migration to New Hardware Step by Step

Step 1. After the backup completes, boot your new server machine with a Windows Server 2016 installation disk. Instead of Install now, select Repair your computer at the lower-left corner.

Repair Your Computer

Step 2. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System Image Recovery.

Advanced Options

Step 3. In the Re-image your computer screen, select the available system image to perform the dissimilar hardware restore in server 2016.

Migrate Windows Server 2016 to New Hardware

Normally, the restoring process will take a few hours. After that, you can boot the new Windows Server 2016 machine with the system, settings, and installed programs the same as the old machine.

Error: Windows Server 2016 Bare Metal Recovery Failed to Complete

However, there are some known cases listed below have shown that the Windows Server 2016 migration will fail using this method:

  • System restore fails because of EFI/BIOS. Windows Server cannot restore a system image to a computer that has different firmware. The system image was created on a computer using BIOS and this computer using UEFI, or vice versa.
  • Windows Server will fail to boot if you restore to the hard drive with a different partition style.

Therefore, it's necessary to be sure the old server and new server use the same firmware (BIOS/UEFI)and both disks have the same partition style(MBR/GPT). And usually, the MBR disk supports BIOS mode while the GPT disk uses UEFI mode.

Most of the recent server machines, if not all, support UEFI and are compatible with BIOS Legacy boot mode. So you can boot into BIOS to change it to the corresponding boot mode if the firmware is different. At the same time, you can choose to convert MBR to GPT or vice versa if the hard drive on the new hardware machine is blank or a new one. Otherwise, you will lose data on the new hardware. 

UEFI Boot Mode

Way 2: Migrate Windows Server 2016 to New Hardware Safely with Third-Party Migration Tool 

If you want to migrate Windows Server 2016 to new hardware without losing data, try reliable backup and recovery software - AOMEI Backupper Server.  With its Universal Restore feature, you can restore system image to different hardware successfully regardless of firmware and partition style, since it will automatically install proper drivers for essential server hardware abstraction Layer (HAL) and mass storage devices. Besides, you are beneficial to its easy-to-use user interface.

In the advanced edition, such as AOMEI Backupper Technician or TechPlus, you are able to restore system image to multiple computers over the network, whether it's with the same hardware or different hardware. And you are capable of creating a portable version of this software and running this operation on any computer without installing again.

Why don't you download its free trial and have a try? 

Download Free Trial For Windows Server & PCs
Secure Download

This software works with all Windows PCs (11, 10, 8, 7, etc.) and Servers (2022, 2019, 2016, 2012, 2008, etc.). The following uses Windows Server 2016 as an example.

Preparations before Windows Server 2016 Migration

Similar to Windows Server Backup, you need to create a full system or disk backup at first and then you are able to restore image to new hardware. If your new server is a bare metal machine, you still need to create a bootable meta (USB, CD/DVD or ISO) to boot from it. 

>> For backup, system backup or disk backup is workable. Just open this software after installing, select the corresponding backup feature under the Backup tab and follow the wizard to complete the backup task. It is suggested to save the backup image to external drive, cloud drive, network path, or NAS. 

System Backup

>> For bootable media, it helps you boot the new server and restore system image to it. Just switch to Tools > Create Bootable Media, select Windows PE disc type and storage device - USB, CD/DVD or ISO file, and click Next.  

Create Bootable USB

To boot from multiple Windows Servers, try AOMEI PXE Boot Tool or AOMEI Image Deploy. 

Step-by-Step Guide: Restore Windows Server 2016 to New Hardware

The following guide will take restore image from the network path to a single new hardware machine for example. 

Step 1. Insert the created bootable media in AOMEI Backuper. Restart your computer, press a specific key to access BIOS, it's ususally F2, ESC, F11, etc, and set the bootable media as first boot option, save changes and boot from it.

Step 2. When the AOMEI Backupper interface is loaded, click Restore and then Select Image File.

Select Image File

Step 3. Click Share or NAS to add the network path of your backup.

Select Share NAS

Step 4. Click Add Share or NAS Devices, type display name, network path, username, password in the pop-up window, click OK to connect the network path and select image in it.

Select Image

Step 5. Select to restore entire backup or a part and click Next.

Restore Entire Backup

Step 6. Select the destination disk on the new hardware to restore system image in Windows Server 2016 and then click Next.

Select Destination

Step 7. Make sure the Universal Restore feature is checked. If not, please check it manually. Then click Start Restore to start to migrate Windows Server 2016 to new hardware. If you migrate Windows Server 2016 to SSD, you can check SSD Alignment to improve SSD disk performance.

Universal Restore

Finally, restart your Server 2016 to experience the familiar operating system on the new Server. If you want to restore Windows Server 2016 backup image to multiple new Servers, you could complete with AOMEI Image Deploy feature. 

Notes:

  • This software is also applicable to migrate Windows Server 2012(R2) to new hardware and other server system, such as, Server 2003, 2008 (R2), 2011, 2016 and 2019.

  • The Universal Restore feature only installs drivers for system startup if it's on dissimilar hardware machine. For other drivers, such as the video/sound card drivers, display driver, NIC drivers, etc, you need to install them manually following the restoration.

How to Migrate Windows Server 2016 to 2019 Step by Step

Besides, some users still want to migrate from Windows Server 2016 to 2019 or the latest Windows Server 2022, and the easiest way is to restore system image from Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2019 or 2022  if you have a computer running on these systems. 

Except for the backup image and installation disc, it needs to be the corresponding operating system, all the steps are exactly the same as migrating Windows Server 2016 to new hardware.  If not, you can then choose to perform a Windows Server in-place upgrade or clean install.

To perform a Windows Server in-place upgrade:

Download the Windows Server 2019 or 2022 ISO from Microsoft and launch the Setup.exe file to start the upgrade process. Select Download updates, drivers and optional features (recommended) the operating system > keep personal files and applications or nothing, finally, click Install to start the in-place upgrade process.

Windows Server 2019 Setup

To clean install Windows Server 2019 or 2022:

Restart your computer and boot from the installation disc, then select language, and other preferences, click Next. In the next window, click Install Now and then select the operating system you want to install, installation type - Custom, and destination path to save the OS. Finally, click Next.

Windows Setup

   Important Note: The clean install process will uninstall non-preinstalled programs, delete all the data on the old server , previously installed drivers, etc. So it's necessary to create a system image for Windows Server 2016 before upgrading.

Final Words

With the above methods, you can migrate Windows Server 2016 to new hardware and boot your new server with everything on the old server. And it is also suggested to keep AOMEI Backupper on the new Server for it provides the best backup solution for the installed system, applications, personal data, etc. 

For administrators of the company, the AOMEI Backupper Technician Plus edition is the most suitable one since it can be to be installed on unlimited Servers and PCs. In addition, it offers unlimited billable technical services to clients, allows you to copy installation directory for portable version creation and restore backup image to multiple computers easily.