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Dependency may not be the right word here - but basically my question is regarding what happens to the data inside a sharepoint content database if that data was created, for example, by using a custom content type - but I then remove that content type. Thanks.

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You cannot remove Content Type as long as Data Still relies on it. SharePoint wont' allow you. E.g. Even after deleting the Item (or the whole list for that matter), unless you empty the Recycle-Bin you won't be able to Delete the content type.

Basically SharePoint uses a Dependencychecker to ensure you are not doing it. If you delete it by hand from Database you risk big.

Drop a comment if you need deeper explanation C:\Marius

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Thanks a lot Marius, really appreciate your answer. When you say "if you delete it by hand from the database" - I'm assuming you mean the content type and not the content - is this right? By content type I'm referring to a custom page layout for example. And the content being the page that a user created using that template. thanks again mate. –  DeeMac Apr 23 '12 at 9:12
1  
Indeed, the Content Type. Be aware that Page Layouts are tricky -because actually each Page layout has an Associated Content Type, and basically you can delete it by hand via SPD (if not applied to any page). Again if you plan to upgrade it, make sure you switch your pages to other layout before applying the new, as it won't update the physical file (.aspx) of the layout. –  C. Marius - MVP Apr 23 '12 at 9:19
    
Thanks again Marius, very helpful responses, cleared up a lot. –  DeeMac Apr 23 '12 at 9:23
    
Glad I could help, –  C. Marius - MVP Apr 23 '12 at 9:23

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