Backing up with SharePoint Designer? Be aware of impact on the site size!

March 5, 2008

SharePoint Designer‘s backup is really the only backup option available to site owners who don’t have admin rights on the SharePoint servers. This makes the tool very handy in some cases, but there are few gotchas. It is not a full fidelity backup; backing up for sites larger than 25MB is possible but quite awkward; and finally – it’s too easy to run out of space on your site while making this backup. So, make sure you consider these points before you recommend this to your users:

  • SharePoint Designer cannot create full-fidelity backups. Behind the scenes, it is using the same mechanism as stsadm.exe -o -export, so you can lose some metadata, customizations, etc.
  • You see the awkward “Cannot find… exportsettings.xml” error when you try to back up anything larger than 24-25MB. Now, how many sites out there will realistically fit into this limit? There is a workaround from Michael Herman: it appears, larger export files end up in the Recycle Bin and can be retrieved!
  • However, Recycle Bin actually counts against the site collection quota – so be careful. Trying to back up entire site means you are doubling your site size. And then you get the error for the first time, and try to run backup again… Well, you see what what can happen here, especially if you don’t plan for enough storage for Recycle Bins.

There are several good walkthroughs on the web, for example see this step-by-step on how to use SharePoint Designer backup from

I actually learned about this in the Backing Up SharePoint session on the Microsoft SharePoint Conference here in Seattle. I am a bit too lazy to blog about every day here, like Ron is doing, but I will post here the interesting stuff I see and hear around.

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5 Responses to “Backing up with SharePoint Designer? Be aware of impact on the site size!”

  1. Cuebehead Says:

    I have a site that I backed up with the SharePoint Designer and when I try to restore it I get the famous “Cannot find… exportsettings.xml” error. I do not have access to the recycle bin because the site has been erased, do you know if is there a way I can restore some of the information in my backup file?


  2. Good question! So, the reason for the issue as explained in Mike Herman’s post I referenced, is that SP Designer downloads only the first 24-meg file and nothing else. All the rest of the data is in the recycle bin – and nowhere else. Once you delete the site, this data is gone together with the site.

    Do you have a SQL backup of the content database from before the site was deleted? This would include the Recycle Bin content as well. You could then re-attach the database to a staging SharePoint environment and retrieve the data (e.g., the entire CMP file set).

    Alternatively, you could try to take a look at our tool (I am working on Quest Recovery Manager) – we have just released a version with embedded fully functional 30-days trial – see here: http://sharepointforall.com/blogs/team/archive/2009/02/26/recovery-manager-for-sharepoint-2-7-now-available-with-free-30-days-trial.aspx
    The same requirement though, you need the content database backup available somewhere; but then you can skip the staging location and restore the site back to its original site collection right from SQL db backup.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Cuebehead Says:

    Thanks for your answer, it seems the database backup is nowhere to be found, so it means all my data is lost (it was a test site, but it had some information that i would have like to reuse). I will try your tool now, thanks again.


  4. […] 13, 2009 Remember the “Cannot find… exportsettings.xml” error when trying to restore a site with SharePoint Designer? The reason for the error was the default 25MB file size limitation for the CMP files used to store […]


  5. […] the “Cannot find… exportsettings.xml” error when trying to restore a site with SharePoint Designer? The reason for the error was the default 25MB file size limitation for the CMP files used to store […]


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