I have a production Sharepoint web app that contains several content databases serving a group of site collections. There are some critical files in a group of document libraries and lists, so permissions were set in a very granular way.

Recently a user modified those libraries permissions, causing them to inherit the generic permissions from the root site, which brings up some security concerns within the organization. I have daily content databases backups.

Could I restore an old content database in order to see which files permissions where at that time so that I can reproduce them on the production server? if so, how?

1 Answer 1


You can restore a backup of your content database in SQL Server and

  • attach it to another farm and examine content there
  • use the unattached content database restore function in central administration to export your site collection and then import it again to another one

More info on the unattached content database restore: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh269602(v=office.14).aspx

When doing the restore, you can even restore it to another SQL Server instance if you want to.

If you're using SharePoint 2007, you'll have to use the first method (restore to another farm). Because SharePoint won't allow a database with the same unique identifier within the same farm and the same list of site collections, even restoring it with another name won't do the trick.

  • Thanks. Could I restore a previous version of the content database over a single sharepoint site or site collection, even if it belongs to the same server farm where the permissions misconfiguration was carried out. The instructions you gave only apply to Sharepoint 2010. We have a MOSS 2007 farm. Dec 5, 2012 at 15:05
  • My mistake. The unattached content database restore function is 2010 only. Because you cannot restore a content database to the same farm (even with another name) you'll have to use another farm to do so (adapted the answer). Dec 5, 2012 at 19:10
  • We did the restore successfully from a SQL server backup. However, when we try to access the permissions page for a certain library or the site configuration it says in a plain message: File Not Found. Given that what we need is to recreate permissions on the files in our production server and not the files themselves, I'll be glad if you could tell me how to restore those from our backups (we even have the config database backup). Thank you. Dec 5, 2012 at 19:44
  • My idea is to see what the permissions on our backed up content database were back then, and recreate those manually on our production server. It would be a manual task, but it is the only thing that comes to my mind now. Dec 5, 2012 at 19:47
  • Without 3rd party tools, I don't know of a way to restore the permissions only. After you regain access to the restored sites, it'll be a manual task indeed. Maybe possible in PowerShell, but in 2007 that's not built-in. For the file not found error, do the logfiles reveal what file it is? Dec 6, 2012 at 6:54

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