I'm in the process of migrating an old server running Windows 2008 R2 with SQL 2012 Express to a new server running SQL Server 2017 Standard and Windows 2016. I would like to mirror databases between them, but the Express Edition doesn't support it. I tried to upgrade it to SQL 2012 Standard Evaluation, but I received the following error:

Failed The selected SQL Server instance does not meet upgrade matrix requirements.

I discovered this isn't possible: Upgrade SQL Server 2012 Express to Evaluation Edition

I was forced to install SQL Server 2012 Evaluation as a new side-by-side instance and named it ./SQLSERVER2. In order to use this instance, however, it would require moving a ton of data files and changing the instance names in all my configuration files. This will also require server downtime as well. This will be a major PITA without the humous and I want to avoid it if at all possible.

Is there a way of reconfiguring ./SQLSERVER to use the Standard Evaluation Edition with minimal downtime and side-effects?

  • Install them side by side, then backup the database from Express Edition and restore it to Standard Edition. – Randolph West Oct 26 '18 at 21:31

For the sake of providing help to others who encounter this terrifying scenario, you can't use the Evaluation to perform an inplace upgrade. Microsoft buries this deep in their mazing documentation (not a misspelling, mazing as in maze).

I got tangled in Microsoft's web where I couldn't perform an inplace upgrade from SQL 2012 to 2017 because Windows 2008 Server can't run SQL 2017. I also couldn't upgrade to SQL 2012 Developer either, since it was artificially prohibited like the Evaluation version.

Thus, I was forced to update to SQL 2012 Standard Edition, which requires another license. Fortunately, I discovered we already had a license. I originally opted to install the Express Edition because it had a smaller footprint and we didn't need the extra bulk.

Microsoft deliberately designed the SQL upgrade path to try to extort a license from their customers. Either you obtain a license key for SQL 2012 Standard or upgrade your server. Neat trick, huh? I wasn't about to do either, since I was decommissioning the old server.

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