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How to restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online

Posted on September 1, 2020

“Oops, I did it again”. This song from Britney Spears comes to my mind every time someone messes up a SharePoint document library. Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Someone deletes a bunch of files or moves them somewhere, or the files get encrypted with some sort of virus. Whatever the reason is – you might need to clean up the mess every once in a while. Luckily for us, Microsoft has recently implemented a Library restore feature, which allows restoring the library and its contents to a previous date. With this post, I would like to explain how to restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online.

What is Restore this library feature?

Restore a library is a feature on the SharePoint site that allows the site owners to restore the library to a previous date (called a restore point). It is almost like a rewind (time machine), where it reinstates the document library to an earlier state.

Restore this library vs. Recycle Bin

I covered Recycle Bin quite extensively previously. Recycle Bin is meant for occasional deletions and allows users to restore individual files and folders. Restore a library restores the whole library to a previous state with whatever content and changes the library had at that point of time.

How to restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online?

  1. Click Gear Icon > Restore this library restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online
  2. On the next screen, you can choose one of the default restore points. I prefer Custom date and time, so I can specify precisely the date and time I want to restore. Howtorestoredocumentlibrary2
  3. On the next screen, you will get to see a slider – this is where you choose a restore point. You can only go back 30 days. Bars designate the level of activity on a given date. Howtorestoredocumentlibrary3
  4. Below, you will see the whole activity on the dates preceding today’s’ date (shown in reverse chronological order) restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online
  5. From here, you can choose a specific date or a particular time during the date to restore. In my case, I decided to restore to a specific time of the date. All the highlighted changes after that date/time up until now (today) will be erased. restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online
  6. Once the restore point has been chosen, hit Restore restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online
  7. You will get a warning message, hit Restore again Howtorestoredocumentlibrary7

What happens when the Document Library is restored

  1. You will see this page appearing, advising you that the library is being restored Howtorestoredocumentlibrary8
  2. The library goes into Read-Only mode for everyone (for obvious reasons), until the restoration process is completed
  3. After a while (depending on the volume of your library), you will get a confirmation message saying that the library has been restored Howtorestoredocumentlibrary9
  4. You will notice added activity on the library feed as it restores/deletes/updates documents to return them all to the previous state restore a Document Library in SharePoint Online
  5. A new version will be created for each document that was revised and was restored to capture the restored change. Howtorestoredocumentlibrary11a

Restore this library limitations

  • You can only restore up to 30 days compared to Recycle Bin’s 93 days
  • Restore this library feature is only accessible by Site Owners (not Site Members)
  • Check this post from Microsoft for additional tips and limitations.

About Me

I’m Greg Zelfond, a U.S. based SharePoint consultant, and I provide affordable out-of-the-box SharePoint consulting, training, and configuration assistance to small and medium-sized businesses all over the world.

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