By Ivy / Last update October 9, 2021

Should you upgrade to Windows Server 2016?

Compared with previous version, Windows Server 2016 has made a lot of improvements and optimization, and introduced some useful features, such as, Nano Server, PowerShell 5.0, Windows Server Containers, Active Directory Domain Servers (AD DS), Active Directory Federation Servers (AD FS), Hyper-V Containers, etc.

Next, I’ll introduce you some new features in detail.

  • Power Shell 5.0: This command line utility is installed by default in Windows Server 2016. And it has significant upgrades across security, usability, and new feature, such as, Windows PowerShell Desired State configuration.

  • Windows Server Containers: Windows Containers provide application isolation through process and namespace isolation technology by sharing a kernel with the container host and all other containers running on the host.

  • Hyper-V Containers: This type of containers offer further deployment options for administrators that can provide increased isolation. In specific, it encapsulates each container in a lightweight virtual machine and supports containerized applications with a greater degree of security by making use of Microsoft’s hypervisor.

In sum, Windows Server 2016 has better security, virtualisation, automation, efficiency, availability and performance. So, if you want to enjoy these features, you can upgrade to Windows Server 2016. 

server 2016

Which operating systems can be upgraded to which editions of Windows Server 2016?

To show you the upgrade possibilities, here's a table with detailed information. Note if your current edition is not listed in the left column, it's not supported to upgrade to Windows Server 2016.

If you are running this edition: You can upgrade to these editions:
Windows Server 2012 Standard Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter
Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Windows Server 2016 Datacenter
Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter
Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Windows Server 2016 Datacenter
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Windows Server 2016 Essentials
Windows Storage Server 2012 Standard Windows Storage Server 2016 Standard
Windows Storage Server 2012 Workgroup Windows Storage Server 2016 Workgroup
Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Standard Windows Storage Server 2016 Standard
Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Workgroup Windows Storage Server 2016 Workgroup

The following should also be noted:

  • All versions of Windows Server 2016 are 64-bit only, so upgrades from 32-bit to 64-bit architectures are not supported.
  • Upgrades from one language to another are not supported.
  • Upgrading from a pre-release version (preview) of Windows Server 2016 is not supported. Please perform a clean install to Windows Server 2016.
  • Upgrades that switch from a server core installation to a server with a desktop installation (or vice versa) are not supported.

Preparations for Windows Server 2016 upgrade

before the start, you need to do some Windows Server 2016 upgrade preparations. Just see below.

Check the minimal system requirements for server 2016. If your system meet these conditions, you can continue to prepare for Windows Server 2016 upgrade. If not, you can create a system backup in case of system failure or hardware issue.

  • Processor: 1.4Ghz 64-bit processor

  • RAM: 512 MB

  • Disk Space: 32 GB

  • Network: Gigabit (10/100/1000baseT) Ethernet adapter, 1Gbps connection is ideal.

  • Optical Storage: DVD drive (if installing the OS from DVD media)

Make sure the applications are compatible. Since Windows Server 2016 only supports x64 bit operating system, you need to check if the installed programs is x64 bit. If not, it may work improperly after the upgrade.

Ensure all Windows updates are complete and no virtual machines running. If there are any upcoming updates in previous version, such as, Server 2012, the upgrade process may fail.

Verify if your disk has enough space. The minimal space for core installation is 32GB, but you may need more space. Because you may need to install new applications, save files and folders on the system drive in the future. 

To allocate free space, you can use computer management in server or third-party partition manager like AOMEI Partition Assistant Server.

Backup your server for backup or rollback. Speaking of upgrading to Windows Server 2016, you may worry about data loss or system failure. In addition, there is a possibility that you may not be used to the new operating system and want to roll back to previous version. So, it’s necessary to backup system to USB drive for your current server. The detailed steps are in the next part.

Step-by-step guide: backup server 2012 R2 before upgrading

Unlike upgrading to Windows 10, you cannot revert back to your previous Windows Server 2012 (R2). So, it is highly recommended to backup your server in advance.

To backup your server, you can use the reliable and easy-to-use software AOMEI Backupper Server. It has an intuitive interface allowing you to understand the operation in a very short time. And it supports all Windows servers, such as 2003, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2019, 2022 and its R2 version. So even if you want to upgrade Windows Server 2016 to 2022, you can use it as a precaution measure.

As a comprehensive software, it includes all basic backup and restore feature, for example, system backup, file backup, and so on.

In addition, it still has many useful features you may need in the future. Now, let's have a close look.

  • Daily/weekly/monthly backup: These features are recommended when you want to backup system continuouly. Also, it can avoid data loss owing to forgetting to backup.

  • Event triggers: To backup system without any interference, you can use "system shutdown" feature in event triggers.

  • USB plug in: To backup system flexibly, "USB plug in" is very useful, because this software will automatically backup system to USB when connected.

  • Wake the computer to run scheduled tasks: To backup system during off-peak hours, you can set the backup time to midnight or other time, then tick this feature to wake your computer and perform schedule backup. 

  • Backup Scheme: To manage backup disk professional, you need to delete old backup regularly via scheme to ensure that the backup disk always have enough space.

Step 1. Download and run AOMEI Backupper Server on your server.

Download Free Trial Server 2003/2008/2012/2016/2019/2022
Secure Download

Step 2. Click on the “Backup” tab, and then select “System Backup”. If you want to backup the entire server, you can use “Disk Backup”, which allows you to include more than one disk in the backup.

System Backup

Step 3. In the next screen, the items needed for a system restore is automatically included, and all you need to do is click the folder shaped button to select the target location.

Select Backup Destination

Step 4. Confirm the backup information and click “Start Backup” to run this backup.

Start Backup

Now, the preparations for Windows Server 2016 upgrade is almost done, you can safely upgrade your Server 2003, 2008, 2012, etc. For detailed steps, please continue to see below.

In-depth guide: upgrade Windows Server 2012 (R2) to 2016

Here, I’ll take Windows Server 2012 R2 as an example and tell you how to upgrade to Windows Server 2016. If you are using 2012 or other server operating system, you can also use the following steps as a reference. Because all the steps are very similar.

Step 1. Log in to Windows Server 2012 R2 and download the media file from Microsoft, then double-click it to update and install 2016.

Step 2. In the first Setup window, tick “Download and install updates”, and “I want to help make the installation of Windows better”, then click “Next”.

Download Install Updates

Step 3. Input the product key of the current server and click “Next”. You can go the properties of the server, then scroll down to the product ID and remember it.

Step 4. Select the image you want to install and click “Next.”

Step 5. Read the license terms and click “Accept” to move on.

Step 6. Tick “Keep personal files and apps” and click “Next”. If you don’t choose the right version, the first option will be unavailable.

Keep Personal Files And Apps

Step 7. Then, you may see some warning messages and click “Confirm” at the right side.


Note: If there is a message, saying, “Active Directory on this domain controller does not contain Windows Server ADPREP /FORESTPREP updates.”, you need to open cmd and change drive letter of the media file with the following commands.
E: (This is the drive letter of media file.)
cd /support/adprep
adprep.exe /forestprep
adprep.exe /domainprep

Step 8. Click “Refresh” and then “Install” to start the installation of Windows Server 2016. Wait until the process ends and set up your preferences.



When it comes to preparing for Windows Server 2016 upgrade, you need to know this operating system first, then make preparations and install 2016.

It’s highly recommended to keep AOMEI Backupper Server installed on the new server. With it, you can schedule backup system, disk, partition or files for disaster recovery. Only this case, your image is the latest version and you don’t need to reinstall the programs.

But this version only support backing up several computers, you need to use AOMEI Backkupper Techplus if you want to protect unlimited computers. Also, this version provide billable technical support as a service to unlimited clients.