Restore or delete a previous version of an item or file

Lists and libraries that track version history provide you with the opportunity to restore old versions when it is necessary. You might want to do that if the most recent version is corrupt, if you have made a mistake that is very hard to undo, if team members cannot agree on the most recent version, or if the version history is growing too long. You can even delete previous versions if you have the appropriate permissions.

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What do I need to know before I restore or delete a previous version?

Before you restore or delete a previous version, think about the permissions that you need, the differences between major and minor versions, and other controls that might be in place in your organization.

What permissions do I need?

The permissions listed in the following table are default permissions. They may be different in your organization because an administrator can create custom permissions. Generally, if you can see the document, you can view its version history. If you can edit it, you can restore a previous version or delete a previous version. More advanced operations may require administration permissions on the list or site.

To do this… I need this permission…
View version history Full Control, Contribute, Read
Restore a previous version Full Control, Contribute
Delete a version Full Control, Contribute
Unpublish a version Full Control, Contribute
Recover deleted a deleted version* Full control and/or Contribute

* Documents stay in the Recycle Bin for a period of time set by the administrator, typically 30 days. If you need to recover a deleted version after that period has ended, contact your administrator.

What is the difference between a major version and a minor version?

A major version is usually one that represents a milestone, such as completion of an outline or a chapter. Major versions are numbered with whole numbers, such as 2.0, 3.0, and so on. Minor versions represent interim check-ins while a particular file is under development. Minor versions are numbered with decimals, such as 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and so on.

In many organizations, versioning is set up so that only the owner of the file and people who can approve items can see minor versions. In others, it is set up so that anyone who can edit files in the library, or anyone who has Read permission to the library, can see all versions.

 Important    Major and minor versions are available in libraries, but not in lists.

Is there any limit to the number of available versions?

Some organizations allow unlimited versions of files and others apply limitations. You might discover, after checking in your latest version, that an old version is missing. If your most recent version is 26.0 and you notice that there is no longer a version 1.0, it means that the administrator configured the library to allow only 25 major versions of a file. The addition of the 26th version causes the first version to be deleted. Only versions 2.0 through 26.0 remain. Similarly, if a 27th version is added, only versions 3.0 through 27.0 remain.

The administrator may also decide to limit the number of minor versions to just those for a set number of the most recent versions. For example, if 25 major versions are allowed, the administrator might decide to retain minor drafts for only the most recent five major versions.

Limiting the number of versions is generally a good practice. It means you can conserve space on the server and reduce clutter for users. But, if your organization is required to save all versions for legal or other reasons, do not apply any limits.

What happens when I delete a minor version?

The minor version and its version number are deleted when you delete a version. The other version numbers do not change. For example, if you have a document that has minor versions 3.1 and 3.2, and you decide to delete version 3.1, the resulting version history shows only minor versions 3.0 and 3.2. The following screenshot shows this.

Version history with version 3.1 eliminated

How does versioning work with required content approval?

If versioning is enabled in your library, the person who sets it up determines whether or not to track both major and minor versions and also determines who can see the minor versions. In most cases, when content approval is required, only the owner of the file, and people who have permission to approve items, can see the minor versions. In other libraries, anyone who can edit files in the library, or anyone who has Read permission to the library, can see all versions. After a version is approved, everyone who has Read permission to the list or library can see the version.

Although lists do not have major and minor versions, any item that is in Pending status is considered a draft. In most cases, only the creator of the item and persons who have Full Control or Design permissions can see drafts. A draft shows up in Pending status for those people, but others only see the most recent Approved version in the version history. If the file is rejected, it stays in Pending status until someone who has the necessary permissions deletes it.

 Note    Draft security, in some lists and libraries, is configured to allow all site users to see both Pending and Approved versions.

How does versioning work with file check-out?

When you check out a file in a versioning-enabled library, a new version is created every time you check it back in. And, if major and minor versions are part of the configuration of your library, you can designate, at check-in, which type of version you are checking in. In libraries where check-out is required, versions are only created upon check-in.

In libraries where check-out is not required, a new version is created the first time you save after opening the file. Each subsequent save overwrites the version that you created with the first save. If you close the application and then reopen the document, the first save will, once again, produce a version. This can cause the number of versions to proliferate very rapidly.

 Important    If you are co-authoring a document, do not check it out unless you have good reason to prevent others from working on the document.

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Restore a previous version

If you prefer an older version of an item or file, you can select the older version and “restore” it so that it becomes the current version.

  1. Navigate to the list or library where your item or file is located.
  2. Hover over the item or file for which you want to manage versions until you see a drop-down arrow.
  3. Click the drop-down arrow and select Version History.
  4. Hover over the version that you want to restore until you see a drop-down arrow.
  5. Click the drop-down arrow and select Restore.

Version History drop-down with Restore selected

  1. When you are prompted to confirm the restoration as your current version, click OK.

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Delete a previous version

If you want to make sure that no one can read a version that has inaccurate or otherwise troublesome information, you can delete it.

  1. Navigate to the list or library where your item or file is located.
  2. Hover over the item or file for which you want to manage versions until you see a drop-down arrow.
  3. Click the drop-down arrow and select Version History.
  4. Hover over the version that you want to delete until you see a drop-down arrow.
  5. Click the drop-down arrow and select Delete.

Version History dialog box with Delete selected for a file version

  1. When you are prompted to confirm the deletion, click OK.

When you delete a version, it is sent to the Recycle Bin, where you, or another person who has the necessary permissions, can recover it. If you do not see the Recycle Bin on your site, your server administrator might have disabled it.

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Delete all previous versions

When you delete all previous versions of list items or files, all versions except the current version are sent to the Recycle Bin. If you delete versions in a library that tracks both major and minor versions, and your current version is a minor version, the last published major version is also kept.

  1. Navigate to the list or library where your item or file is located.
  2. Hover over the item or file for which you want to manage versions until you see a drop-down arrow.
  3. Click the drop-down arrow and select Version History.
  4. At the top of the dialog box, click Delete All Versions.

Version History dialog box, with Delete All Versions highlighted

  1. When you are prompted to confirm the deletion, click OK.

Delete all minor versions

This procedure is available for libraries that track major and minor versions of files. If your current version is a minor version, or if there are no major versions, the current minor version is kept when you delete all minor versions.

  1. Navigate to the list or library where your item or file is located.
  2. Hover over the item or file for which you want to manage versions until you see a drop-down arrow.
  3. Click the drop-down arrow and select Version History.
  4. At the top of the dialog box, click Delete Draft Versions.

Version History dialog box with Delete Draft Versions selected

  1. When you are prompted to confirm the deletion, click OK.

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Applies to:
SharePoint Foundation 2010 , SharePoint Online for enterprises, SharePoint Online for professionals and small businesses , SharePoint Server 2010