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Problems with moving subsites between site collections

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The SharePoint team has had occasion to move a couple of subsites in the recent past.  I would like to report on the problems that we encountered.  Moving subsites can cause problems that may not be immediately obvious depending on how the subsite is configured.  Therefore although it is technically possible to move a subsite (either between site collections or to create a new site collection), we do not recommend it.  If you are considering the move of a subsite to a new site collection, please evaluate potential problems using the information in this blog post.  The first problem, with content types, is the worst one and the most likely to cause problems in the long term.

Note that moving an entire site collection rather than a subsite won’t cause these types of problems.

Problem 1: Content types

Moving a subsite that contains custom content type causes a problem if the custom content types contain columns that are inherited from the parent site. When the subsite is moved, there is no error but the inherited columns are missing from the content types.  It is not possible to recreate a column in the new site and re-add it to the content type because SharePoint thinks that the column already exists in the content type  even though it does not appear in the list of columns.

Similar problems can occur when using a site template to move subsites. Custom content types are contained within the site template.  If the site template is disabled after being used to create a subsite in a new site collection, the custom content types will be removed from subsites that were created with the site template.  Re-enabling the site template will not restore the custom content types.

Problem 2: Nintex Workflows

Nintex workflows are not visible in the moved site, even if they were defined at the subsite level rather than the parent site. If you try to recreate the workflows using the same name as the original, you will get an error saying that a workflow with that name already exists.  The workflow files are visible in SharePoint Designer under All Files -> NintexWorkflows and can be deleted from there.  The workflows must be exported from the old subsite via the Nintex Workflow Designer and then imported into the new subsite or site collection, again using the Nintex Workflow Designer.

There were no SharePoint Designer workflows in our moved subsites, so I don’t know whether SPD workflows suffer from the same problem.

Problem 3: Features

The set of enabled/disabled features in the new site are reset to the default. The list of features must be compared with the original subsite to ensure that the proper features are enabled or disabled.

Problem 4: Permissions

SharePoint groups that were inherited from the parent site will be missing from the new site.  SharePoint groups have to be recreated and populated with the correct people or AD groups  manually.

Sheila ffolliott

Analyst, SharePoint Team

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