How to Move Documents in SharePoint

Managing documents is one of the most important things in SharePoint. In business, documents are often evolving things. They may start on OneDrive for Business and end up at the organization’s Team Site. Documents often change locations so knowing the ins and outs of moving documents in SharePoint is critical.

How to Move Documents in SharePoint

Multiple Ways to Do It

Everyone who has worked in SharePoint knows that there are many ways to get a particular task done. Moving documents is no exception. Whether you end up using File Explorer or Migration Tool depends on a number of factors, such as the number of documents moved, the importance of version history retention, metadata, and more.

1. File Explorer

To move a document using File Explorer, open both the target and source document libraries (doesn’t matter if it’s the same site). Select File Explorer in the drop-down menu. This opens an explorer view for each of the libraries. Use drag-&-drop to move items between the two explorer views.

You can move both folders and files and retain content types if both the source and target locations have defined content types. This method also retains custom metadata if both the source and target locations are defined using the same metadata.

However, the process is manual and it’s more of a copy than a move, which means that you have to delete the source items after moving. It doesn’t retain version history or the created, created by, modified, and modified by properties.

2. Move to/Copy to

Although useful and simple, the Move to and Copy to commands are available only on SharePoint Online. This option allows you to move documents from OneDrive for Business or SharePoint to a destination in SharePoint or OneDrive. Select the file and click either of the two commands. The Move to option will move your document with metadata and version history protection to a different folder within the same library, to another library, or to a different site.

This method is perfect for end-users, as it is simple and straightforward. It allows you to copy and move both files and folders. The best thing is that it retains content types, custom metadata version history, and the created, created by, modified, and modified by properties. The Copy to command, however, only retains the most recent version – the main downside is obviously the fact that this method is exclusive to SharePoint Online.

3. Manage Content and Structure

If you enable SharePoint Server’s publishing infrastructure feature, you’ll be able to see a Manage Content and Structure link when you navigate to Site Administration. Using this feature, you can move/copy documents. This is one of the best hacks that will help you move multiple documents simultaneously while retaining version history, created, created by, modified, and modified by properties. Content-type and metadata are also retained using this method.

However, you’ll have to turn the publishing feature on. Even then, you won’t be able to move multiple folders. Perhaps the biggest downside of this method is that you have to be a site owner to use it. Oh, and it only works within a single site.

4. Content Organizer

Simply activate the Content Organizer feature and then select the routing rules that you want to use and put the document that you want to move into the drop-off library. This method also allows you to move documents to any other site. It does take a while to configure, but you only have to do it once. It also retains content types and custom metadata.

While it doesn’t retain version history and requires an admin, it has a useful feature that allows you to route your document into a folder.

Content Organizer

5. SharePoint Migration Tool

Microsoft knows that moving documents in SharePoint can be a bit tricky. This is why the company came up with the free SharePoint Migration Tool. This tool handles everything from small to large-scale migrations that can include files, folders, and even lists from your SharePoint site. The items are moved to OneDrive or SharePoint.

The most apparent benefit of this method is the tool’s ability to handle large migrations. It is also very customizable and retains version history. However, it isn’t compatible with SharePoint versions before 2013. In contrast, some third-party migration products are significantly more customizable.

6. Third-Party Products

Most quality third-party document migration products aren’t free, but they tend to perform fantastically, especially for large-scale migrations. They tend to be scalable and highly customizable. Most of these products are capable of retaining everything, including content types, metadata, all properties, and version history.

On the other hand, this method does cost money. When you consider the fact that you’re paying for a tool that will help you move documents, you’ll start to wonder why SharePoint doesn’t already come with a user-friendly option. Another downside here is that third-party products require an admin to configure and run them.

7. Custom Solution

Finally, you can code your own custom solution via a variety of techniques such as REST API. The end-user doesn’t have to route anything, you can customize as much as you like, and you can make sure that everything is retained within the documents. On another hand, you have to be able to code and spend some time writing and maintaining the code, which can be especially tricky around the time of product updates.

Custom Solution

Pick Your Method

There are even more methods for moving documents in SharePoint, but these should cover most of your needs. Consider what you need first, and soon you’ll know exactly which method to use for each.

Which one of these methods do you prefer? Have you used more than one? Discuss.

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