SQL Express to SQL Server Standard: In-Place Upgrade

Did you know you can perform an in-place upgrade from SQL Express to SQL Server?

SQL Server Express to SQL Server Standard

As you can imagine, we’ve seen a lot here at Fpweb.net. Over SharePoint’s 15-plus years, we’ve found solutions that fit for countless SharePoint farms, many different architectures, and many different issues.

One of our popular hosting plans is called the SharePoint Server Pro. It’s a single server environment with Active Directory, SQL Express, and SharePoint installed. The Content Database(s) for the Web Application(s) are placed on a shared SQL Back-end Cluster, while all other databases are placed on the local SQL Express instance. Other than content, the three most popular databases are: Configuration, Admin Content, and Search.

As most of us know already, SQL Express is Microsoft’s free version of SQL, and with that comes quite a few limitations. In SQL Server Express 2008 R2, the maximum database size is 10GB, while the maximum amount of RAM it can utilize is only 1GB.

This plan works great for many small businesses since it gives them the [limited] access to SQL they need to develop solutions for their SharePoint farm without having to spend additional money for SQL Standard licensing.

It’s all well and good, until you need MORE!

So, what happens when you want to upgrade your plan to our SharePoint Server Pro Plus? This plan consists of Active Directory, SQL Server Standard (or Enterprise), and SharePoint all on a single server. (A great entry level plan that is cost effective for many SMB customers.)

It’s time to perform an in-place upgrade from SQL Express to SQL Server:

  1. You will need the installation media for the version you want to upgrade to. In this example, we are upgrading from SQL Server 2008 Express to SQL Server 2008 Standard.
  2. Make sure you have the installation media on the local server itself or an accessible location.
  3. The recommendation method to run the following command is from your Windows Command Prompt. Browse to Start > Run > type “CMD” > OK.Windows Command Prompt
  4. This will display a command line window. Point the Command Prompt to the installation folder determined in step 2. In this example, the installation media was mounted to our DVD drive in a virtual environment. Drive letter Z:.
  5. Run the following command from the Command Prompt. This will kick off the upgrade process:Command to kick off the upgrade process


    *Please note: When SQL Express was installed, we used the default instance name of “sqlexpress”.
    Please update command accordingly. Replace the PID (Product Key) with your product key. 

  6. You will now see the SQL Server 2008 Setup screen. On the Installation Type section, ensure you select the radio button next to Add features to an existing instance of SQL Server 2008 and select the appropriate instance. Again, this is SQLEXPRESS in our example:SQL Server 2008 Setup screen
  7. Select the defaults for all other sections.

That is essentially it!

The upgrade process doesn’t take long at all, and if you’ve ever installed SQL, you know the initial installation can take quite a while. This process took approximately four to five minutes.

The one caveat to this method is the instance name. We are still required to use “ServerName\sqlexpress” when connecting to SQL. It is important to make note that, although the instance name says “sqlexpress”, that it is indeed a full version of SQL.

We hope this helps you in the future. This saved us the headache of having to uninstall SQL Express and install SQL Standard, limiting the downtown of a customer significantly. Please comment below with any questions.

2014-02-06T09:00:24+00:00 February 6th, 2014|


  1. Orkan September 12, 2014 at 4:46 am - Reply

    Hello, Nice article
    I wonder if you could help me or advice how i could upgrade database from sql server 2012 express to sql server 2014 enterprise?
    can i cut and paste database from program files data folder?

    many thanks in advance

  2. Shivaprasad Rao November 17, 2014 at 5:19 am - Reply

    when i run the wizard though “SQL Server Installation Center (64-bit)” I was not getting the instance selection screen, running the command “setup /ACTION=editionupgrade /INSTANCENAME=SQLEXPRESS /PID=XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX” did the trick. Thanks!

  3. Ray November 20, 2014 at 9:36 am - Reply

    @Shivaprasad Rao
    Works for SQL 2014 also. Thanks

  4. Bernhard Pallas December 23, 2014 at 5:56 am - Reply

    If you have a volume license, you must not add the /PID=XXX..

  5. Mohamed El-Sadany December 30, 2014 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Hi, thanks very much for this article, it really save a lot of time 🙂
    But my question is how to include the enterprise setup into my installer?
    It’s too big compared to express edition. Thanks.

  6. Kevin Doel January 29, 2015 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Thanks for the information! I would however like to ask if I can still use my SharePoint 2013 Stand alone install with the larger database?

  7. charlie arehart March 25, 2015 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Nice post. Does anyone know how one might convert the Express edition to the Developer edition, if one has only downloaded express and then bought the Developer edition license and therefore has no media (as proposed for a conversion to Standard in the steps above)?

    And indeed, if one had downloaded the Standard edition (and had no media), would they also be unable to proceed as above? Or might there be some trick? Asking that question as much for future readers also who may be in the same boat with Standard. Thanks in advance.

  8. Vic May 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    It works exactly the way you said, save me a lot of time. Thanks

  9. Raff June 5, 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Nice article, does it matter if im upgrading from sql express 2008 r2 to sql 2008 standard, not r2?

  10. Tedly June 24, 2015 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Came onto this looking to upgrade an SQL2012SP2 express instance into Standard so we didn’t hit DB limits.

    We are on a volume license, so the command line didn’t work. Just running the install and selecting the old instance was sufficient to get it done, though. The rest of the instructions were extremely helpful, though.

    Thanks for the information- hope it comes in handy for more folks as well.

  11. Johan July 22, 2015 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Thanks Joe,
    This surely helped.

    Kind regards,

  12. Chaitanya August 12, 2015 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    @charlie arehart

    Charlie, if you download an ISO image, it can be mounted by Right Click > Mount on most current Windows platforms. If you’re using Windows 7 or prior, you can use Virtual Clonedrive to mount the disk image.

  13. Tobbi October 1, 2015 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Thanks for the guide 🙂

  14. Ed Just Ed December 8, 2015 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    @Bernhard Pallas

    Thanks.. I was just going to ask that.

  15. Maruf February 19, 2016 at 8:39 am - Reply

    In my workplace, has assignment below:
    Upgrade database server from SQL 2008 R2 Enterprise edition to SQL 2014 on standard edition.
    Please need help and suggestion on it. I don’t have enough knowledge on that. Is there any issue can happen on downgrade Edition? Also needs some heads up to make it done. I will highly appreciate for your help. Thanks


  16. Jon February 19, 2016 at 8:54 am - Reply

    @charlie arehart
    I purchased the SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition for $60 from the MicrosoftStore.com (a relatively painful experience but that’s another story), which gave me a product key and a download link.
    What worked for me was after downloading the 2.5GB ISO file to my hard drive, I extracted the contents to a new folder using 7-ZIP and then followed the instructions above beginning with the CMD prompt.
    It worked exactly the same as described above for the Standard edition. Probably I could just have double-clicked the setup.exe file in the new folder and entered the product key that way? Anyways thanks for article.
    NOTE: I tried to upgrade from Express to Developer without downloading the ISO file through the ‘Edition Upgrade’ menu of the SQL Server Installation Center but this gave the error message: “the sql server product key is not valid” so it seems like the media was necessary, in my completely inexperienced experience.

  17. Mithun Sanghavi March 8, 2016 at 5:54 am - Reply


    I have SQL Express 2014 SP2 and want to move my database to SQL Standard 2012 SP2.

    We are doing this due to the limitation of SQL Express.

    Is it possible to migrate and move my database to the SQL Standard 2012 SP2 from SQL Express 2014 SP2?

    Would I require to upgrade the same on the same server OR do I need to install SQL Standard 2012 SP2 on a new server and move my database to SQL Standard 2012 SP2?

  18. Madan December 16, 2016 at 4:04 am - Reply

    currently we are using sql server 2008 standard edition and we are planning to sql 2008R2 enterprise edition. Is it possible?

    if we proceed with this request. what are the challenges in this and how much downtime do we need this to proceed this request.

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