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Preparing Your Network for Upgrades

Articles and Tips:

Mickey Applebaum

01 Feb 1999

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Novell recently released NetWare 5, NetWare 4.2, and NetWare 4.2 for Small Business. If you are planning to upgrade an existing server to one of these new versions of NetWare, you obviously want to ensure that the upgrade process goes smoothly and users are not negatively impacted by the upgrade. This article explains what you should do to prepare for a network operating system upgrade, including the research you should do and the steps you should take to avoid potential problems.


When you plan a network operating system upgrade, the first thing you must decide is what upgrade method you will use: You can perform an in-place upgrade using your company's existing server hardware or an across-the-wire migration using new server hardware. If possible, you should perform an across-the-wire migration. This upgrade method is preferable because the existing server is still intact if a problem occurs during the upgrade process. In other words, you will not have any down time due to an upgrade glitch.

In addition, new server hardware usually offers increased disk capacity, more RAM, and the latest LAN/WAN technology. As a result, new server hardware improves the performance and reliability of the network. (If you are planning to use existing hardware, see "Finding the Latest Drivers for Your Company's Server Hardware.")


Unfortunately, you can't always upgrade all of your server hardware each time you upgrade your network operating system. However, you can often add new disk controllers, network interface boards, RAM, or CPUs when you upgrade.

Like most software upgrades, new versions of NetWare typically use more RAM than older versions use. Now is the time to add more memory to the server hardware. Keep in mind that it's virtually impossible to have too much RAM in a NetWare 5 or NetWare 4 server, thus more is better.

If the server hardware supports CPU upgrades (such as upgrading from a 486 processor to a Pentium processor), you should upgrade the CPU now. You may also want to consider adding one or more CPUs if the server hardware supports multiple processors. If you decide to add CPUs, you must ensure that the manufacturer of the server hardware has a properly supported Platform Support Module (PSM) for the version of NetWare to which you are upgrading.

When you purchase any new hardware for your company's network, you should use the following guidelines:

  • Check Novell's Yes, Tested and Approved bulletins to find products that are certified for the NetWare operating system you are installing. (To find out what products Novell has certified, visit By using server hardware that is Novell Yes, Tested and Approved, you can avoid incompatibility problems.

  • Avoid "no-name" adapters and computers from manufacturers that do not provide direct support. You may find that getting support or updated drivers is impossible.

  • Check with the manufacturers of the other products you use to ensure that there are no compatibility issues with the new hardware or the new version of NetWare. For example, you will probably need to upgrade your company's backup software when you upgrade to the new version of NetWare. You must ensure that the backup software is compatible with the new Host Adapter Module (HAM) and Custom Device Module (CDM) drivers for the host adapter you use. If the backup software is not compatible with these drivers, the backup software may not recognize your tape drive.

Another potential conflict may exist with your antivirus software. If the antivirus software is not compatible with the new version of NetWare, this

software may abend the server. You should resolve issues such as these before you begin the upgrade process.

If you purchase new hardware, you should read the documentation for this hardware. You should also find out if the hardware requires any new support files for the new version of NetWare.


You should also resolve any outstanding conflicts or operability issues before you begin the upgrade. For example, your existing server may be reporting memory errors because the server hardware is not reporting the proper RAM size to NetWare. To fix this problem, you may now use the REGISTER MEMORY command before you load drivers and mount volumes in the AUTOEXEC.NCF file. If you do not resolve outstanding conflicts such as this one before you begin the upgrade process, you may not be able to complete the upgrade process successfully. (For more information about memory errors, see "Technically Speaking: Memory Fragmentation and Segmentation," NetWare Connection, Apr. 1998, pp. 41-42. You can download this article from


Finally, remember that no version of any operating system is perfect. Before you begin the upgrade process, you should check the Novell Support Connection World-Wide Web site ( for any updates and patches that are available for the version of NetWare to which you are upgrading. You will want to install the available patches and updates before users log in to the server and experience any problems.


Before you begin the upgrade process, it is critical that you create two complete backups of the server. If the upgrade process fails, you will then be able to recover the server and all of your company's data. (For more information about creating a complete backup of your server, see "Backing Up NDS," NetWare Connection, Aug. 1998, pp. 43-45 and "Backing Up the NetWare File System," NetWare Connection, Sept. 1998, pp. 38-42. You can download these articles from and, respectively.)


Upgrading to a new version of NetWare does not need to be difficult if you take the time to plan the upgrade properly. If you don't rush and don't cut corners, the upgrade process will go smoothly. You must identify all of the driver updates, firmware upgrades, and hardware changes you will need well in advance so that you will have time to implement all of these updates. And you should find out before you begin the upgrade if you need to replace hardware that is no longer supported by the manufacturer. Most importantly, you must make sure you have two verified backups before proceeding with the upgrade.

For more information about upgrading your network operating system, you may find the following documents helpful:

  • "NetWare Peripheral Architecture," Novell AppNotes, Sept. 1998. This article describes NetWare Peripheral Architecture (NWPA), Novell's latest driver technology. You can download this document from

  • YES Program Certification Bulletin Category Index ( This web site includes a search engine that you can use to find products that are Novell Yes, Tested and Approved for the version of NetWare to which you are upgrading.

  • NetWare 5 Release Notes. This document provides configuration information, such as preferred settings and potential memory conflicts, for NetWare 5. You can download this document from

Mickey Applebaum has worked with NetWare for more than 14 years. Mickey provides technical support on the Internet for The Forums (

Finding the Latest Drivers for Your Company's Server Hardware

If you are upgrading your company's network operating system using existing server hardware, you should evaluate that hardware to ensure that you have the latest firmware and drivers for the operating system you are installing. For example, NetWare 5, NetWare 4.2, and NetWare 4.2 for Small Business fully integrate NetWare Peripheral Architecture (NWPA), Novell's latest driver technology. Using NWPA provides high performance and flexibility in adapter configurations.

If you are upgrading to NetWare 5, NetWare 4.2, or NetWare 4.2 for Small Business, you should ensure that you have the new Host Adapter Module (HAM) and Custom Device Module (CDM) drivers. For example, NetWare 5 will probably not support the old .DSK driver you use for your hard disk controller. (For more information, see Technical Information Document [TID] 2942248. You can download this document from

You should also ensure that the drivers support the hardware revisions for the adapters you use. If you are not sure that you have the right drivers and firmware, you should first set up a test platform to make sure you don't put your company's data at risk.

Finding out if you have the latest drivers for your hardware can sometimes be tricky. Of course, most hardware manufacturers have World-Wide Web sites on which you can search for drivers, firmware revisions, compatibility information, and other product update information. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, the computer industry has experienced significant consolidation through acquisitions and mergers. As a result, the manufacturer of the disk controller or network interface board you are using may no longer be in business or may be a part of another manufacturer.

These changes can make finding driver updates difficult at best, impossible at worst. The following guidelines will help you find driver updates and get adapter support:

  • If you can no longer find the manufacturer for your hardware, you can ask a reseller, support organization, or other independent support group for help in locating the manufacturer. (At the risk of promoting my own organization, The Forum provides this service. For more information, visit

  • If the manufacturer is no longer in business, it's time to replace that particular piece of hardware. Keep in mind that no manufacturer will write drivers for another manufacturer's hardware--especially if that hardware is obsolete.

  • If the manufacturer has been acquired, you should check with the new manufacturer to see if it provides driver updates and product support. When a manufacturer acquires a product, the manufacturer will often support that product for a specified period of time. However, the manufacturer may also discontinue the product and not provide support, thereby saving both development costs and support costs.

* Originally published in Novell Connection Magazine


The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.

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