SharePoint Migration and History

I have a client who asked me “Will I lose historical content approval information if it is disabled, migrate in some files and then enabled it?”

Specifically, can I…

  • Migrate in new files to a library with the SharePoint Content Approval and publishing workflow configured.
  • Don’t trigger the publishing workflow. There would be so many new approvals
  • Default new files to the status of Approved
  • Don’t lose historical versions and approval status.

A simple test example was needed to try this out.

Create a Document Library:

I created a new Document Library with the following:

  1. SharePoint Version: SharePoint Online 
  2. App: Document library  
  3. Experience: Classic  
  4. Library Settings > Version Control > Content Approval: (Yes) 
  5. Library Settings > Version Control > Version Settings > Major and Minor Drafts:  (Yes) 
  6. Library Settings > Workflows > Approval – SharePoint 2010  > Triggered on:  Start this workflow to approve publishing a major version of an item. (Yes) 

Create Historical Data:

  1. Uploaded three test files 
  2. They all start as: 
    1. Version: 0.1 
    2. Approval Status: Draft 
    3. Workflow: Not Started 
  3. I make a simple edit in Word Online and published a document and completed the workflow for approval. 
  4. I made another change to the Second file and published it and approved it. Note the version number is at 2.0.  

Disable the Controls:

  1. Library settings > Version Settings > Require Content Approval for submitted items. (No)
  2. I got a dialog box saying that pending items will now show in public views. So glad it didn’t say you would lose your approval history!
  3. Note: The Approval Status column is now missing from your views.

Migrate New Files:


  1. I upload another test file and it comes in as version 0.1
  2. I publish the files. Note: This has to be done one file at a time. 
    1. Select the file
    2. Click the ribbon tab: Files
    3. Click the ribbon button: Publish
  3. Note: This has to be done one at a time. Files can’t be published in bulk.
  4. Once the file is published the version number changes from 0.1 to 1.0! In the image below check out test files 4-7.
  5. Re-enable the SharePoint Content Approval feature.
  6. Library settings > Version settings > Require content approval for submitted items (Yes).
  7. And look at those applies? All the newly migrated files are now safely stored in an approved status without losing any historical data, the existing approval process is now back in action.

In the image below look at test files 4 Test Doc, 5 Test Doc, 6 Test Dock, and 7  Test Doc, note they are approved without the SOP approval workflow history, and the existing file 2 Test doc and 1 Test Doc’s history (Rejected and Approved).


If new changes are made to the migrated files the configured workflow SOP Approval is triggered.



The content approval feature can be disabled without losing historical approval or version history. This is good for bulk migrations of new files. Once the files are migrated into the library. Publish them as a major version, then re-enable the content approval feature and the newly migrated files will set up for success in life, or at least as approved documents.

You can check out the Five Minute Friday session for a live demonstration of this here.

For more information about gaining a competitive advantage with digital transformation, contact Red Level today.

Related Posts

Stay Up-To-Date.
Subscribe to The Red Letter

– Red Level's quarterly email featuring the people, ideas and events IT pros need to know.

Modern Workplace Webinar Series

How does Carhartt use technology to foster better communication and collaboration? Join us as we learn from Michigan business leaders – what works, what to avoid, and what's next.
[ read more ]