10 Easy Steps to Upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central

By Rob Jolliffe | December 29, 2020
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My Walkthrough to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central 14

If you plan to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central anytime in the next few months (and for a variety of reasons now is the time to do so) this walk through explains in broad terms what the process is. It is by and large best to let a partner do this for you, but not 100% necessary depending on customizations.

This is NOT meant as a replacement for the Microsoft instructions to upgrade to Business Central on-premise. I also don't discuss in any real detail the upgrade of customizations and code from the old C/AL programming language to the AL programming language.

The steps to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central are well documented by Microsoft on their website.

Upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central: The Business Central Upgrade for On-Prem Systems

Until September 2021 it is possible to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Dynamics Business Central version 14. This is one of our key reasons you can save money right now in your Business Central Upgrade.

In our other blog we explain that the Business Central upgrade from any system in which AL Extensions are used is much less complex and costly. This blog goes over why.

There is also a companion video: Upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central that you can watch with this blog.

Prerequisites: Convert your Customizations to AL Extensions and setup servers

I am not going to cover this in any real detail, but someone who knows how to do programming and has a developer license for Microsoft Dynamics NAV needs to translate your C/AL customizations into AL. Look at this article if you want to find out how to get a developer license for Dynamics NAV.

The steps to convert C/AL to AL are well documented by others, so for now I'll just say - this is by far the most time-consuming part of the process. If you want an estimate of how much this will cost, you can look at my estimating the cost to upgrade Dynamics NAV customs to extensions blog post (coming soon).

Upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central only after you created Extensions for your custom code

The second prerequisite is to get Business Central installed. It is best practice to have a separate server running Dynamics NAV and a server for the Business Central upgrade. If you don't know or can't figure out how to set up a Business Central instance, get the development endpoint working, etc. then this is probably not the project you want to take on.

Step 1: Get the Microsoft Business Central Upgrade Document

Microsoft Docs contains instructions to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central on-premise. I strongly recommend that you upgrade to Business Central 14 before anything else. Let that version settle in with your users before proceeding to higher levels of Business Central upgrade.

We are going to follow along (more or less) with the upgrading the data to Business Central document shown in the screen shot below.

Microsoft docs contains instructions to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central.

Step 2: Backup your databases (several times)

Backup your NAV Database prior to your Business Central Upgrade.

Use Microsoft SQL Server management studio to backup your database. I do this 3 times. Once before I start, once after I have finished step 3 of this list, and once after I've completed the backup.

Step 3: Cleanup your Dynamics NAV database pre-upgrade

This covers tasks 2 through 6 in the "Upgrading the Data to Business Central" document from Microsoft. I'll refer to that document pretty often while we upgrade Dynamics NAV.

These steps are preparing the database for the upgrade process. Some of them are pretty destructive.

Uninstalling all the extensions in the old database will make any custom extensions created previously unusable. if you are not using extensions, this won't matter. The commands in the Business Central upgrade document are run in PowerShell and require your PowerShell to be set up to run commands first.

Step 4: Move the Database and Connect Business Central

If you have 2 servers (like I do) and SQL runs on each server independently, you need to backup and restore the database from Step 3 to the new server and restore it. Remember to assign user rights to this new database that match the user you used to create Business Central instances.

Once this is done, you'll connect the Business Central 14 development environment to your new database. You will be prompted to convert it to the new version, and you want to accept. This is Task 6 in the Microsoft process. This part of the process is to upgrade Dynamics NAV SQL Database structure to a Business Central upgrade structure. It can take a while for the process to complete.

Step 5: Import Business Central Baseline objects and Compile

Now we have a non-working but ready to update Business Central database. We need to import the FOB files from Business Central 14 into this database. I personally restore the copy of the CRONUS database from the supplied DVD, export all the objects to FOB files from there, and re-import.

If you will be keeping some C/AL fields in your tables, or C/AL code in your pages, etc. then my process will not work for you. I simply replace every object in the database with the "out of the box" Business Central upgrade objects. When you upgrade Dynamics NAV to previous versions, this wiped out all customization. Since I am assuming all your customizations are in extensions, this isn't as relevant.

Follow Tasks 7, 8 and 9 at this point to create a baseline Business Central database ready to synchronize and upgrade.

Step 6: Synchronize and Upgrade

We are still following the tasks in "Upgrading the Data to Business Central" and we reach a bit of a fork with Task 10. If you are upgrading from Dynamics NAV 2018, make sure you follow these instructions.

Tasks 11 and 12 should run without errors. There are 2 possible issues that might happen:

Task 11 might fail because you are dropping your previously created C/AL custom fields to replace them with Extension fields. If this is the case you'll need to debug which tables fail upgrade and run a FORCE on their compile.

Task 12 might fail because some of the Microsoft "automated" upgrade tools encounter some bad data. We had this happen recently to a customer where old, badly written code messed up a table. We had to go into the upgrade tools and comment out the part that was failing and then manually fix the data with RapidStart. This can only be done with a developer license.

This is the point in the process where you will really be up a creek without a paddle if you need to do some coding and don't have the right license.

Step 7: Prepare for Extensions

This next step I am almost 100% sure requires a developer license to run. The process to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central is basically done at this point, and technically if you log into your new Business Central instance (either with the web client, or preferably the Role Tailored Client

Upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central 14 to keep access to the Role Tailored Client.
The Role Tailored Client in my Upgraded Business Central database

The trouble is, none of your customizations will be present if they are in extensions. We need to follow Tasks 13-15 at this point. Task 14 absolutely requires a full developer license of Business Central to run.

Task 15 requires that someone has spent the time to create customizations in Extensions from previously created C/AL customization(s). This is a critical part needed to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central and have it usable to users.

Step 8: Upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central Cleanup and Smoke Test

The last few Tasks in the Microsoft Data Upgrade process are cleanup tasks. They're a little technical but pretty easily generally.

You need to do a smoke test of your system and make sure the basics are all working.

Step 9: Migrate Extension Data

With the introduction of extensions, there is a step that isn't well documented by Microsoft but is extremely critical. When we upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central and replace C/AL customizations with extensions - we leave ourselves in a situation where all our custom data is deleted. This is (needless to say) a big problem.

There are 3 ways to address this (get the old data into extensions) that I have seen.

  1. Create C/AL bridge code and processes.
  2. Use RapidStart to migrate data.
  3. Use SQL commands to move the data

At Sabre we've decided that choices 2 and 3 are the best, especially if we are doing a one time Business Central upgrade data migration. SQL Scripts are much faster but require a developer who us very good with SQL. It can also take a long time to get them right.

Using C/AL as a bridge to move the data is beyond this article and I'll leave it to other people to get into that.

Step 10: Give users access and Arrange Training

The process we followed to upgrade from Dynamics NAV to Business Central is an entirely technical process. We haven't covered any of the functional activities that probably need to be part of your upgrade process.

This upgrade process you went through may only be a trial or test of the process so that you can start playing with Business Central to see what is different. This may be the chance for your business to evaluate how you can change and improve. There are new features and capabilities in your Business Central upgrade you can take advantage of.

This is the time to improve and help your users become more successful.

Video Walk Through | Upgrade Dynamics NAV 2018

I recently used this process for our system to upgrade Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2018 database to Business Central 14. The video shows the process (with some parts cut to save time or accelerated) of a Business Central upgrade. You would follow a similar process with earlier versions - upgrading Dynamics NAV 2016 or 2017 is virtually identical.

It took about 2 to 3 hours to complete from beginning to end, as I had a lot of prerequisites to setup. Nevertheless this is a good walkthrough of the process in an "ideal" world. It shows the process as it should happen if there were no errors and no setup to complete before starting.

Conclusion

At Sabre, we do a lot of projects that upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central. At this point, our team is very good at the technical tasks of completing the Business Central upgrade.

When we talk to customers about the upgrade and explain that it's very technical and a lot more than installing new software from the DVD - they always as "what makes it so hard." I believe this article outlines it well enough that the layperson might better understand the process, and a technical person might be willing to give it a try.

If you want to know how much it might cost to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central you can request a free quotation from Sabre. We do this all the time, and now offer Business Central upgrades as a standard part of our services.

Need some help?

Have more questions about a project to upgrade Dynamics NAV to Business Central? If you want to know about Business Central and it's capabilities, you can visit Microsoft's Business Central site. If you would like a fixed fee quotation for a Microsoft Dynamics NAV upgrade, please give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Rob Jolliffe

Robert has been an ERP consultant in the Manufacturing space for over 25 years, starting immediately after graduating University of Toronto Engineering. In addition to a deep knowledge of Manufacturing (including teaching MRP at the Supply Chain program at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) Robert holds a Microsoft Systems Engineer designation and is much less of an expert in Networking and IT infrastructure than he thinks, but is still pretty good. He also has applied his engineering skills to learning programming, and is warned frequently by the professional developers who work for him that he is pretty good, but don't write any code for customers without letting them check it.

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