10 ways to move a SharePoint document

Blog post: 3 minute read
Date last verified: January 2018

Document management is an integral part of SharePoint. An important activity to understand about managing a document is how to move it if the need arises. For example, a document may start in a person’s OneDrive for Business but eventually may need to move to an organizational Team Site or a document living in a Team Site may need to move to a Document Centre to be made available to a wider audience. You may also have the need to move a document to a different library or folder within the same site.

Like most things in SharePoint there are several ways to get the job done. I’ve come up with 10 of them – the option you choose usually depends on several factors:

  • how many documents are you moving?
  • do you want the process to be “self-serve” from an end-user perspective?
  • are you moving content comprised of content types with metadata?
  • do you need to retain the original created/modified metadata? (I.e. the created, created by, modified, modified by columns)
  • do you want to retain version history?

I’ll identify the techniques I’m aware of to move documents and some of the pros/cons of each.

[Update January 2018] Included Microsoft Flow.

APPLIES TO: SharePoint 2010/2013 and Online unless otherwise noted.

TLDR? Here’s the list:

  1. File Explorer
  2. Drag-and-drop into SharePoint
  3. Document Library ‘Move to’ ribbon option
  4. Moving within Grouped Library View
  5. Manage Content and Structure
  6. Content Organizer
  7. Information Management Policy
  8. Workflow ** including Microsoft Flow!
  9. Custom Solution
  10. 3rd Party Product

General Comment about moving OneNotesreminder

If you need to move a OneNote notebook you will need to follow a different set of steps than you do for other Office documents.  Microsoft has provided detailed instructions how to do it. You will likely want to share these with others in your organization as its not intuitive how to do this.


 1. File Explorer

Open both source and target document libraries (on the same or different sites) and select ‘File Explorer’ on the drop-down menu.  This will open up an explorer view for each library. You can drag and drop items between the two.

Pros:

  • Easy for end-users
  • Both folders and files can be moved
  • Retains content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations

Cons:

  • Manual
  • This is a copy, not a move. You will have to delete the source items once moved
  • Can be slow to open up File Explorer windows.
  • Does not retain version history
  • Does not retain the created, created by, modified, modified by properties

2. Drag-and-drop into SharePoint

Applies to: SharePoint 2013, Online only

This is a variation of the File Explorer method above. Open up the source document library (on the same or different site) and select ‘File Explorer’ on the drop-down menu.  This will open up an explorer view for the library. You can drag and drop items from there directly into the library view in SharePoint.

Pros:

  • Easy for end-users
  • Both folders and files can be moved
  • Retains content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations

Cons:

  • Manual
  • This is a copy, not a move. You will have to delete the source items once moved
  • Will drop the files/folders into the root of the library (may or may not be what you want)
  • Does not retain version history
  • Does not retain the created, created by, modified, modified by properties

3. Document Library ‘Move to’ ribbon option

Applies to: SharePoint Online only

A new capability is the ability to copy/move files and folders from OneDrive for Business/SharePoint to a destination in either SharePoint or OneDrive. Once you select a file, you can select the ‘Copy to’ or ‘Move to’ menu option shown below. Currently ‘Move to’ can only move within folders of the same library. Copy, on the other hand, will allow you to copy a file to another site.

[Update January 20, 2018] Announced yesterday for SharePoint Online and OneDrive, the ‘Move to’ feature will begin rolling out to Targeted Release on or about January 29, 2018. This will allow you to move a file with full fidelity protections for metadata and version history. Up until this time, you could only move within the same document library. This will allow you to move to any other site collection in the tenant. Here is a link to the Tech Community announcement: Move Files anywhere in Office 365, SharePoint and OneDrive


Reference: Copy files and folders from OneDrive for Business to SharePoint Site

onedrivecopytosharepoint

Pros:

  • Easy for end-users
  • Can move/copy files and folders
  • Retains content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations

Cons:

  • Need ability to move outside of the site you’re in (**coming soon and will retain metadata and version history)
  • does not retain created, created by, modified, modified by

4. Moving within Grouped Library View

Applies to: SharePoint Online only

It’s a bit of a cheat including this option in this list as it is not moving a document outside of a library, however this feature in the modern document library allows a document to be moved from one group to another in a view within the same library.  When moved, it will automatically change the group column value on the document to the group value it was moved to.

Pros:

  • Easy for end-users
  • handy for moving content around within a library and retagging it for up to 2 column values (the ‘Group by’ columns).
  • If there is versioning enabled, it will update the version history with the change when you drag and drop from one group to another since it is updating the metadata.

Cons:

  • if you are using column default values on your folders, changing the column value will not change the folder.
  • If check-out is required, the document will not move – you must check out the file first. It will give you a message stating “The file is not checked out. You must first check out this document before making changes.”
  • Will update the created, created by, modified, modified by as it is updating the document’s metadata.

5. Manage Content and Structure

If publishing is turned on in a site, you will see a Manage Content and Structure link under Site Administration. You can move (and copy) documents using this feature.

managecontentandstructure

Pros:

  • can move multiple files at the same time
  • retains version history
  • retains created, created by, modified, modified by
  • retains Content type and metadata if the same content type is defined on the source and destination libraries

Cons:

  • must have publishing feature turned on
  • cannot move folders using this technique
  • must be a site owner

6. Content Organizer

Activate the content organizer feature on the site, configure routing rules and drop the document into the drop-off library on that site.  Optionally you can set up a rule to route (move) the document to any other site in the farm (as long as a “send to” connection has been configured)

Pros:

  • Once configured, does not rely on end-user to route content correctly
  • Retains content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations
  • Allows you to also route it into a folder (only 1 level deep) if the rules are configured for this

Cons:

  • Doesn’t retain version history
  • Requires configuration by an administrator

7. Information Management Policy

You can set up a retention policy to move a document to another location. To do this, you set up a ‘Send To’ location in Central Administration (or SharePoint Admin Centre in O365) for the destination location and then add a retention policy with the ‘Transfer to another location’ action selected. Screenshot below shows this configuration:

impmovedocument

There are 2 timer jobs that run in the background (once per week by default) to do the actual document move:

  1. First job determines which documents are eligible to be moved
  2. Second job will execute the action on each of the above documents – in this case moves the document to the destination location.

Pros:

  • Does not rely on end-user to route content correctly
  • Document routing can be based on content type.  This means you can have different routing paths dependent on the type of content. Very useful!
  • Document routing based on metadata – no human intervention to move the document other than updating the metadata
  • Retains content type and metadata if you have the same defined on both source and destination locations

Cons:

  • Doesn’t route the document immediately – timer job needs to run. This may or may not be a con.
  • Requires a SharePoint Administrator to configure the Send To connection.

8. Workflow

You can build a workflow to move a document based on some condition. (Eg. a status has changed to some value indicating it should be moved) Depending on the complexity of your requirements this workflow may be either in SharePoint Designer, Visual Studio or a third-party workflow product.

[Update January 2018] You can also use Microsoft Flow to move (or copy) a document from one location to another. If you are building a new workflow today, I would recommend Microsoft Flow over a SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio workflow. Please read my blog post, A Modern “Transfer to another location” in Office 365, where I walk thru an example to do this.

Pros:

  • does not rely on end-user to route content correctly
  • fully customizable
  • workflow can retain content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations

Cons:

  • requires a workflow to be written and maintained for the document move scenario.


9. Custom Solution

You can code a custom solution using numerous techniques (e.g. REST API  calls) to move a document to any location in your farm/tenant based on your unique business requirements.

Pros:

  • does not rely on end-user to route content correctly
  • fully customizable
  • custom code can retain content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations
  • code can be written to retain version history

Cons:

  • requires custom code to be written and maintained for the document move scenario.
  • you will need to ensure the custom code will continue to work with product updates .

10. 3rd Party Product

If you want to move documents at large scale, investment in a 3rd party product to assist can be money well spent.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable and scalable
  • Can usually be configured to retain content types and metadata if the same content types are defined on both the source and target locations
  • Can usually be configured to retain created, created by, modified, modified by properties.
  • Can usually be configured to retain version history

Cons:

  • $$$
  • Requires an administrator to configure and run the tool

WRAPPING IT UP

The option you choose will ultimately depend on:

  • how many documents you need to move
  • is it a one-time or recurring event?
  • are there any unique requirements to consider?

Microsoft continues to add new functionality into both SharePoint Online and On-premises for document management so more options may become available in the future.

Thanks for reading.

-JCK

6 comments

  1. This is a fantastic article! Very helpful for users and administrators. However, I have a question for you. I defined a custom content type with some meta-data and the content type has been added to two different libraries. When I copy a document or folder from one library to the other, the meta-data is not preserved. Also, I cannot tell what content type each particular document or folder is. Do you have any tips for trying to troubleshoot this issue where custom content types are defined on both source and destination libraries but meta-data is not preserved during a copy?

    Like

    1. Hi Christopher, great question! First, you will need to determine what the content type is to ensure that you have the same content type on both the source and destination library/list. One way to do this is to add it to a library view. If the content types are the same on the source and destination sides (i.e. the site columns are named exactly the same then the values should copy over successfully) In fact, as long as the columns are the same, the content types can in fact be different and the column values should successfully come across. Let me know if that helps.
      JCK

      Like

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