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I prepared dev from scratch (1 app, 1wfe, 1 db server). I would like to import all of the site collection from production to dev. Some of the site collection databases are large (like 30gb). Certainly we dont need the data but we do need everything else.

What are my options? (we dont have any site admin tools).

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When you say 'dev instance', do you mean development integration or do you mean the environment where you plan to do your development? If it's the later, then you are going to have issues as the deployment and debugging features of Visual Studio only work in a single server farm. –  Rob Windsor Feb 18 '12 at 23:47

3 Answers 3

You essentially attach the content databases from prod on your dev's SQL instance and then create a web app on your dev box, and associate the new web apps with the content databases you attached.

http://www.keirgordon.com/post/Move-a-SharePoint-Content-Database.aspx

EDIT: If your domains are completely different then not much will work in terms of security. You'll have to re-add yourself as a site collection administrator on all the sites you re-attached.

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Thanks for the speedy respond. Now after attaching the database how do I get rid of all the documents in the content databases. Like I said my dev sql is bare minimum with 40gb total. So i wont be able to attach 32gb database. Is there a way to thin it out before attaching the db to dev sql? –  Andy Smith Feb 18 '12 at 17:48
    
If you don't need every single site collection on the content database you can export individual content databases with Powershell: Backup-SPSite - technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee748617.aspx –  James Love Feb 18 '12 at 18:17

You can use site Backup and restore as deployment method in SharePoint2010,I have a power-shell script and details explanation on my blog here.

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Site Collection Backup and Restore is a good option. I made a couple notes on the comments section of your blog about repeat restores and farm dependencies. –  Tom Resing Feb 21 '12 at 19:33

Here are some options from where you can start with,

  1. You can always take a backup of the production site, restore into a new site collection in production, delete the data from lists and libraries and then take a backup from there.

  2. You can also think about using the 'save site as template' option. This gives you an option to include content or not and hence you can just move the site without data. This option would be tedious if you have more than 10 sites, where in you will have to save each sites as template.

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