Difference between migrate and upgrade

Of course we have upgrade adviser but that will be useful if we have existing SQL Server. But whether we should upgrade or migrate that decision should be taken by us. Each one has their own pros and cons.

Migrate: This process involves installing a new SQL instance & then migrating each database to new server. This process also called in-place upgrade and has following advantages:

  • The instance will be up during the entire setup process of another instance.
  • In case of failure no down time happens.
  • Having old & new instance side by side will give great flexibility for testing and verification.


  • Extra hardware requirement.
  • Change in connection string to point application to new instance.

Upgrade: Upgrade means running the setup.exe on the same instance which will convert the database to new SQL Server version.

  • For small system, upgrading is faster & easier than migrating.
  • No additional hardware is required to upgrade.
  • Application does not need any modification on connection string.


  • Less control over what objects & data are included in SQL.
  • Instance will be offline during part of upgrade.
  • At point of no return need to install the instance from scratch.

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