Question : Make Heads or Tails of Upgrade Terminology

In working with and researching the upgrade process from non-Exchange messaging systems as well as Exchange 5.5, 2000, and 2003, the terminology seems to be confusing and inconsistent. What is the proper view of the process?

Answer : Make Heads or Tails of Upgrade Terminology

The key to the problem is understanding the way Microsoft words things. To start with, there is no in-place upgrade to Exchange 2007 from a previous version. You cannot take an Exchange 2003 system and upgrade it to 2007. The reason for this is that Exchange 2007 didn’t run on the 64-bit platform for Server 2003, so you are required to set up a new server with the proper 64-bit operating system. After you have the new server, you can transition; that is, you can move your mailboxes and configuration.

You can upgrade from Exchange 2007 RTM to SP1, as we discuss shortly. This is the only true in-place upgrade that can be performed, but only under specific circumstances.

However, transitions are not for all circumstances. The only transitions you can perform with Microsoft tools are transitions from Exchange 2000 or 2003 over to 2007. Some of the articles or books you read might use the word upgrade when they are actually referring to a transition.

Anything other than what we’ve just described is considered a migration. This implies a change in the messaging infrastructure. In this case, the data, (the mailbox data), is migrated over. However, the configuration data is not carried over as it would be in a transition.


It might surprise you to learn that Exchange 5.5 doesn’t allow for a transition model of upgrade. Even more shocking should be the fact that you cannot install your first Exchange 2007 server unless all Exchange 5.5 servers are removed and the Exchange mode is raised to a native level (which indicates all Exchange 5.5 servers are out of the mix).

Note in discussions of transitions that coexistence is unavoidable. This refers to the time period in which your Exchange 2000/2003 servers reside in the same organization as your Exchange 2007 server.

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