I have a list sitting on a production server. I would like to copy the list, both structure and content from the production server to a dev machine.
I am not too worried about preserving permissions.
Can this be done?
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This answer is for WSS3.0 but all the same applies to SharePoint 2010
As you are talking about from production to dev I am assuming that you're talking about a rolldown type procedure so you may want to check out Gary Lapointes STSADM gl-exportlist and gm-importlist extensions because as well as working very very well they will allow you to automate easily.
Theres several ways to do this. One is to export the list using "save as template" and check "include content". Theres limitations on that approach depending on list size. AFAIR the limit here is 2 gb.
Another way is to simply restore the database into your dev machine and get to the list from there.
EDIT: Just saw you were using SP2010. In Central Administration in SP2010 you have new features for granular backup. CA > Backup and Restore > Granular Backup > Select Export a Site or List. Select the Site collection > Site > List and export to .cmp file. Here you also do have the possibility you mention to include security. You can also select what versions to export. There are no GUI for recovering data: "To recover the data use the PowerShell import command Import-SPWeb. For more details, type Import-SPWeb -? at the PowerShell command prompt."
Import-SPWeb http://site -Path export.cmp -UpdateVersions -Overwrite
One way to do this is to use the SharePoint List service. This usually can be done without having to deploy any code to the server.
Not a great idea if you don't speak CAML