What are the recommended steps to upgrade/migrate from 8.0.5/8.1.7 to 9i? Should it be a manual or automatic upgrade?
If you are on 8.0.5, then you will have to upgrade to 8.0.6 or 8.1.7 first before you can go to 9i. If you are on 8.1.7, you can go to 9i directly.
The recommendation on how you achieve this depends on your skill level and your comfort level. I only perform manual upgrades. However, you can use the Database Upgrade Assistant (DBUA) to do this for you. It is a GUI wizard that does a pretty good job of performing your upgrades. The DBUA also removes many of your chances to make a mistake. Whether you do this manually or with the wizard is a matter of personal preference.
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