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Granular Restore in SharePoint 2010

One of the highly-touted features of SharePoint 2010 is granular restore, which gives you the ability to restore a list, library, or site. In SharePoint 2007, out-of-box backup and restore was only as granular as the site collection. You had to turn to third party utilities to recover an individual site, list, library, document, or item. SharePoint 2010 takes an important step in the right direction. Let’s explore how you can restore a list or library, and then in a future column we’ll determine whether it is enough.

Let’s set up a scenario in which an owner of the Human Resources site has deleted a library called Performance Reviews from the site. Of course, before you begin a restore operation you should check both the recycle bin and the site collection recycle bin to see if you can recover the content from there. Only if the content is really gone do you need to even bother with a granular restore.

Process a Bit Convoluted

The first thing you discover when you dig into granular restore is that the process of performing a granular restore is a bit convoluted. You don’t actually restore the deleted item directly from a backup. Instead, you mount the backup, export the desired object, then import it into the production database.

First, you mount a copy of the content database that contains the object you’re trying to recover. So, for example, you must restore a backup of the Human Resources content database to SQL Server. This can be as straightforward as opening SQL Server Management Studio and performing a restore operation.

After the database is alive and mounted, open Central Administration and navigate to the Backup and Restore page. Your next step is to export the site, list or library from the mounted database. You would think that you would use the “Export” command, but no! Instead, you use the Recover data from an unattached content database command. That might have been your first choice if you didn’t actually know that this step was to export content!

'Browse Content' Lets You See Content Containers

Specify the database name that you have mounted—the “restored” database—and choose to Browse Content. Interestingly, browse content isn’t really letting you browse content (files, items), but rather is letting you see content containers: sites, lists, and libraries. Select the site collection, site, and list or library you want to restore (the document library in the HR site). Specify that you want to export the selected content, and specify a location for the file.

SharePoint then exports the selected object to a file with the default extension of *.cmp.

The next step actually requires PowerShell. Open up the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell and use the Import-SPWeb cmdlet. For example:

Import-SPWeb -identity
  /Sites/HR -path c:\ Backup\HRExport.cmp

You can find details for this process on TechNet. Now that we have the basics out of the way, we’ll return later to talk about whether it’s really enough, or whether you’ll still want those third-party backup and restore utilities.

For more about data backup and recovery, check out "Create a SharePoint 2010 Backup and Recovery Plan."

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