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I have a Sharepoint feature that includes a settings list template, which is read by other features. The list must have a particular name for the whole thing to work, so ideally I would rather have a list created instead of a list template.

However I need the list to be permanent as the list can be updated manually to add more settings. Am I wrong in my understand that if I used this http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms476062.aspx every time it's activated the list is a new one that can't be saved? If so how do I go about just creating the list on installation instead?

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No if you use List Definition with List Instance element, you can set the list instance property Deployment Conflict Resolution=None and your list instance will not be deployed (or not replaced with a new one).

The list instance will only be created if it doesn't already exists. If it exists nothing will happen, nor the items will be touched.

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