Upgrade SharePoint 2016 to SharePoint 2019 through Workflow Manager

APPLIES TO: no-img-132013 yes-img-162016 yes-img-192019 no-img-seSubscription Edition no-img-sopSharePoint in Microsoft 365


When you upgrade Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016 to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2019, you don't have to create a new Workflow Manager installation. You can use the same installation that was used by the SharePoint 2016 farm in the new SharePoint Server 2016 farm. However, you may have to create a new installation of Workflow Manager in certain circumstances. For example, if you want to move Workflow Manager to a different Windows operating system, or if the back-end database server is decommissioned. In these situations, follow the steps in Workflow Manager Disaster Recovery to create the new Workflow Manager installation by using the old databases. Make sure that you use the most recent copy of the Workflow Manager databases.


When you use SharePoint Server together with Workflow Manager, Workflow Manager keeps a record of the SharePoint sites that have published workflows. Each site is represented in Workflow Manager as a scope. Workflow Manager also stores the workflow definitions, all workflow instances, and their statuses.

SharePoint stores the workflow history and workflow task information for SharePoint workflows. When the workflow status page is loaded, SharePoint first makes a call to Workflow Manager to see whether the workflow exists. To do this, it uses the workflow instance ID. Then, SharePoint loads the rest of the workflow information. If the workflow instance ID is missing in Workflow Manager, or if an error occurs during communication with Workflow Manager, you receive an error message.

How to upgrade SharePoint Server 2016 to SharePoint Server 2019 by using Workflow Manager


The following prequisites must be done installed this upgrade:

  • Install the latest cumulative update for Workflow Manager by using Web Platform Installer (Web PI).

  • Install the latest version of Workflow Manager Client on the SharePoint 2016 servers, and make sure that all workflows are functional.

  • Install the SharePoint Server 2019 farm, and upgrade all service applications and content databases.

  • On all SharePoint Server 2019 farm servers, install the latest version of Workflow Manager Client by using Web PI.

Register Workflow Manager with SharePoint Server 2019

Use the following steps to register Workflow Manager with SharePoint Server 2019:

  1. In the SharePoint 2016 farm, on the Central Administration website click Application Management and click Manage Service Applications, and then delete Workflow Service Applidcation Proxy.

  2. In the SharePoint Server 2019 farm, run the following Microsoft PowerShell cmdlet to pair SharePoint 2016 together with the same Workflow Manager installation:

   Register-SPWorkflowService -SPSite <SharePoint site URL> -
   WorkflowHostUri <Workflow service endpoint URL> -force

Common issues you may experience after the upgrade

Issue 1: Site URL is changed

If your site URL is changed in SharePoint 2016 but the site ID remains the same, you must republish a workflow from the affected site by using SharePoint Designer.

Issue 2: Workflows don't start on some sites

If workflows don't start on some sites, republish the workflows from the affected site. Or, run the Refresh Trusted Security Token Services Metadata feed timer job.

Issue 3: Workflows fail and return the "Cannot get app principal permission information" error

Consider the following scenario:

  • You have SharePoint 2016 workflows and Workflow Manager configured in your farm.

  • You have recently connected sites in the farm to a previously existing instance of Workflow Manager.

In this scenario, workflows that are created after you connect to the Workflow Manager installation finish successfully. However, workflows that are created before you connect to Workflow Manager don't finish. Instead, they get stuck when they try to finish or they remain in a suspended state. For workflows that remain suspended, you receive an HTTP 500 error. Additionally, the following entry is logged in the ULS log: Cannot get app principal permission information.


Workflow Manager already has a scope for the site on which the workflows are running. Because the scope has an incorrect SPAuthenticationRealm value in the ApplicationID field of the scope, no SPAppPrincipal class exists on the SPWeb object that matches the ApplicationID value of the scope. Therefore, the workflows fail and return an error message.


To resolve this issue, use the following PowerShell commands to register the new SPAppPrincipal object. You do this on the SPWeb object whose ID matches the ApplicationID value that's stored in the scope for the SPWeb object in Workflow Manager.

   $webUrl = "http://sp.contoso.com/sites/teamsite/teamweb"
   $oldAuthRealm = "58a2b173-0f88-4bff-935b-bf3778cd0524" #authentication realm expected by Workflow Manager
   $newAuthRealm = "48834d17-d729-471e-b0d0-a0ec83b49de0" #authentication realm of current farm
   #Get the SPWeb and SPSite objects, and the id of the web
   $web = Get-SPWeb $webUrl
   $site = $web.site
   $clientId = $web.Id
   #Create the old and new app principal ids
   $oldAppId = "$clientId@$oldAuthRealm"
   $newAppId = "$clientId@$newAuthRealm"
   #Register the app principal with the old authentication realm
   Register-SPAppPrincipal -DisplayName "Old Workflow" -Site $web -NameIdentifier $oldAppId
   #Set permissions for the app principal
   #If app-only permissions are used in old environment, you must use the -EnableAppOnlyPolicy parameter to pass to the cmdlet for app steps to succeed
   $oldAppPrincipal = Get-SPAppPrincipal -Site $web -NameIdentifier $oldAppId
   Set-SPAppPrincipalPermission -Site $web -AppPrincipal $oldAppPrincipal -Scope SiteCollection -Right FullControl
   Set-SPAppPrincipalPermission -Site $web -AppPrincipal $oldAppPrincipal -Scope Site -Right FullControl
   #List the app principals with the old and new authentication realms in the ids
   Get-SPAppPrincipal -Site $web -NameIdentifier $oldAppId | fl
   Get-SPAppPrincipal -Site $web -NameIdentifier $newAppId | fl

More information

To get the SPAuthenticationRealm value of ApplicationID that's stored in the scope, follow these steps:

  1. Run the following SQL query:

    SELECT *
    FROM [WFResourceManagementDB].[dbo].[Scopes] WITH (NOLOCK)
    WHERE Description like '%<WebID>%'

    Where <WebID> is the placeholder for the ID of the SPWeb object.

  2. In the query result, click the value in the SecuritySettings column to open the XML on a separate tab in SQL Server Management Studio.

  3. In the XML file, located the ApplicationID element that contains the value. For example, locate the following element:



    The GUID that appears before the at sign (@) is the ID of the SPWeb object, and the GUID that appears after the at sign is the SPAuthenticationRealm value.

Alternatively, you can find the SPAuthenticationRealm value in ULS log, such as in the following example log entry:

11/03/2017 12:13:16.72 w3wp.exe (SPWFE01:0x51FC) 0x1298 SharePoint Foundation Authentication Authorization an3eg Medium Cannot get app principal permission information. AppId=i:0i.t|ms.sp.ext|<SPWeb object ID>@<SPAuthenticationRealm>

11/03/2017 12:13:16.72 w3wp.exe (SPWFE01:0x51FC) 0x1298 SharePoint Foundation General 8nca Medium Application error when access /site/teamsite/teamweb/_vti_bin/client.svc, Error=Object reference not set to an instance of an object. at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPAppRequestContext.EnsureTenantPermissions(SPServiceContext serviceContext, Boolean throwIfAppNotExits, Boolean allowFullReset) at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPAppRequestContext.InitCurrent(HttpContext context) at Microsoft.SharePoint.ApplicationRuntime.SPRequestModule.InitCurrentAppPrincipalToken(HttpContext context) at Microsoft.SharePoint.ApplicationRuntime.SPRequestModule.PostAuthenticateRequestHandler(Object oSender, EventArgs ea) at System.Web.HttpApplication.SyncEventExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute() at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)