Restoring Legacy Sharepoint Files without Versioning

Legacy Sharepoint servers are alive and well. If you find yourself staring down a 2003 implementation and the need to restore a file, then this post is for you. This will also work just as well for 2007 or 2010, however the likelyhood of you having to go this route to restore something from Sharepoint of those generations is much less likely.

The original utility that I referenced in this blog was “Sharepoint DB Explorer”, but in typical fashion is no longer available and was pretty rudimentary. However, another utlity “Sharepoint Database Exporter” is available – and I have updated this page to reflect that. To my eye, it looks like this utility is largely based off the original one, and the application title is even “Sharepoint Database Explorer” (as opposed to “Exporter”), but the functionality has been expanded to include the ability to export custom lists and meta-data.


A user has deleted a file from a Sharepoint 2003 implementation. You might laugh, but Sharepoint 2003 servers are still alive and well and in production over 10-years later. From 2011-2012 I had 4 completely separate incidents where this information has been useful.

Basic Information and Assumptions
  • Sharepoint 2003 does not have a recycle bin. This functionality was added in later editions of Sharepoint.
  • Versioning wasn’t enabled on the Sharepoint Site
  • You have a good backup of the Sharepoint database from when the file existed.
  • You know the Sharepoint SA password
Steps to Resolution
  • Extract it to the server you are working on.
  • Grab a copy of the Sharepoint MDF and LDF database files from backup.
  • Install a new instance of SQL (has to be the same exact version) or attach the database in an existing instance.
  • Use Sharepoint Database Exporter and provide the instance name (SERVER Instance) and the SA credentials
  • Presented to you Here is a psuedo-hierarchy of files.
  • Browse to and save the file you need.

It’s not perfect, and multi-level folders aren’t reflected, but all the files are there, just not organized in the way they were in Sharepoint.

UPDATE: The new “Sharepoint DB Exporter” seems to show the file(s) in their original hierarchy.

Screenshot of Application:


All credit for the applications go to their respective author(s), but having another instance of this out on the Internet for history sake is always welcome.

How many times have you searched for a particular file only to find that the authors merely referenced the download link from the original author? If that one link goes down, then there are dead links spread across the Internet. Yuck.

A local copy of “Sharepoint Exporter” is on this page for your reference and convenience. When this page dies, so will the link.

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. The author(s) makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.
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