Limitations of STSADM -o export/import related to publishing sites

STSADM -o export/import is often used to split site collections into multiple pieces when they reached a certain limit. Or to do the vice versa and consolidate multiple site collections into one larger one. Both of these actions work fine as long as the migrated content does not use the publishing feature.

For site collections that make use of the publishing feature it is not supported to migrate root sites into sub sites or sub sites into root sites.

The reason for this limitation is that the publishing feature stores vital information like page layouts but also various properties like information about variation, reusable content and so on in the root site of a site collection.

When migrating a root site into a subsite the imported content will link to the new location of the previous root site. E.g. the page layout URLs will afterwards point to the page layouts library in the sub site and not of the root site which does not work as the publishing feature requires these items to be in the root site. So additional actions like moving the page layouts to the root site and adjusting all page layout urls would be required. Similar things would be required for variations and reusable content.

On the other hand when migrating a sub site to a root site it gets even worse: in this situation important content which was stored in the root site of the site collection is no longer available as the sub site does not contain the necessary information as they haven't been exported in the first place. So after importing the subsite as new root site items based on the publishing feature will be non functional.

Be aware that this limitation will also affect sites with custom features which store information outside the current site.

Valid migration scenarios when using the publishing feature are the following:

  • export the site collection starting at the root site and import as root site into a new site collection
    (using a custom application you can specify which sub sites to export if you would like to avoid to export all of them)

  • export sub sites of the site collection and import them as sub sites into an existing site collection that has the publishing feature enabled

Comments (14)

  1. Anonymous says:

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  2. sushant says:

    I am a regular follower of your posts. This post is also bang on target as usual 🙂 just want to double check:

    Are you saying that to migrate a very large publishing site what i need to do is to 1st migrate the root site along with some subsites to a root site and then migrate the individual subsites? Please confirm.

  3. Hi Sushant,

    if you just need to migrate the whole site collection you can do this at once.

    But if you need to split the site collection into multiple pieces you need to ensure that each piece that does not start at the root of the site collection in the source site has to be migrated as a subsite of an existing site collection.



  4. Anonymous says:

    Lets consider a scenario where a subsite (web) becomes substantially larger and you wish you could have

  5. paul says:

    Hi Stefan,

    I’m a MOSS 2007 novice and extremely concerned regarding our initial setup/structure of our initial MOSS 2007 implementation.  Our sub sites have been created with the Publishing template and I would like to like to convert them to their own site collections.  We are reasonably early in our MOSS 2007 implementation but I can see in the future one site collection/database etc may/will cause some headaches in the future eg ability to set quotas, database restores in a timely fashion etc.  Is there other tools available to convert sub sites to site collections or are we better off recreating the new site collection and migrating the doc etc manually?



  6. Hi Paul,

    if the amount of data is reasonable I would suggest to recreate the site collections.

    If not you could use the workaround to create a new site collection for using the publishing template and then import as sub site.



  7. Mike Edwards says:

    I’ve been using the Export command to export 70 subsites. These sites were below a Publishing site, but not using any features from this site.

    Export of the sites creates all the relevant .cmp files (one set per site) I then import them into a new site collection and they import without errors but not all of the data is there. Lots of the lsits are only partially populated, and some of the Doc libraries are missing many docs. Why would this be?

    I’ve used the -Versions 4 switch, as most of the Doc libs have versionig on.

  8. Hi Mike,

    if I understand correct you exported team sites from the site collection. Is this correct?

    The description sounds like a potential database inconsistency. I would recommend to open a support case with Microsoft to get this analyzed.



  9. othmana says:

    Hi Stefan,

    I want to check with you please, if the same limitation still exist in SharePoint 2010 – Export-SPWeb !?

    As I have a sub site with publishing feature enabled, and I want to move it to a root of a new site collection.

    If yes, is the same problem applicable for moving a library to another site collection under the root site.

    Many thanks,

  10. Hi Othmana,

    the answer is yes. the same applies to the powershell CmdLets of SP2010.



  11. Vishal says:

    Is there any limitation in terms of size for the site being exported or imported

  12. BlueSky2010 says:

    Thanks Stefan for elaborating this – your article definitely makes more sense than the KB: 🙂

    Did not run into this until now when I was trying to promote a publishing subsite to a site collection root. I did that many times before but now I know those were team sites. :-(.

    What are the workarounds to this? One thing I’m considering is to do an URL redirect from the root to the subsite (which the site owner was trying to make root site). Any other suggestions?

    Many thanks in advanced!

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