SharePoint 2010 Cookbook: How to Recover Data from an Unattached Content Database

SharePoint 2010 offers some new backup and restore features for content data. Almost anything can be backed up and restored, from the whole farm to site collections, services, and search indexes. In this article, we will take a look at how to perform recovery from an unattached content database.


How can I restore a single item or list from a SharePoint backup?

In SharePoint 2007, employing the SQL database backup is a popular method for backing up SharePoint content. It is easier to manage, and requires less administrative work than the out-of-the-box SharePoint backup/restore feature. However, if we just want to recover a single site, list, or document, the process is quite painful and inefficient in SharePoint 2007. We would need to recover the entire farm before we could get to the individual file.


SharePoint 2010 provides a new feature called Unattached Content Database Recovery. Using this method, we can browse the SQL database backup and select just the content we want to recover. Here are the steps:

Step 1: We will assume that you have performed a backup of your site. For example:

                Open Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio > Right click on the content database and select Tasks > Back Up…

 Enter the Backup Name, select Destination, and click OK to start.

Step 2: Now, let's restore this backup database to the SQL Server with a different name.

 Open Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio > Right click on Databases and select Restore Database…

Enter the new database name. Make sure you don't overwrite the original content database. Select the Source and click OK to start.


Step 3: Go to Central Administration > Backup and Restore > Recover data from an unattached content database.


Step 4: Enter the Database Name and Authentication, and then choose Browse content.


Step 5: In this example, we will recover a Calendar list from the backup set:


Step 6: Enter the File path and click on Start Export.


Step 7: Finish export.


Step 8: The exported .cmp file can then be imported to SharePoint using the SharePoint 2010 Management Shell (which is also a new feature in SharePoint 2010) command:

Import-SPWeb -identity http://destination_sitecollection -path pathexported_file.cmp

For example:



  • Supported databases include read-only content databases that have been restored from a supported backup technology and SQL Server database snapshots of content databases.
  • This feature is available in SharePoint 2010 Server and Foundation.

The limitations of this feature are:

  • You have to know where the items that you want to recover are, and in which backup set.
  • You cannot recover a single item. The granularity is site collection, site, or a list.

See Also:

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