Versioning for SharePoint 2010 Document Management

[In Part 3 of his series on Document Management and Collaboration in Microsoft SharePoint, Matt Milsark introduces SharePoint Versioning. Missed the last post? Please read about SharePoint Document Check-In and Check-Out]

Understanding SharePoint Versioning

Version control is a critical feature for any enterprise-scale document collaboration platform. In SharePoint, the versioning feature automatically saves every version of a document. This allows multiple people to make changes to a document without the fear of overwriting a previous version. If necessary, you can always revert to a previous document versions.

Sometimes it’s necessary to revert if the most recent copy becomes corrupt or is inadvertently saved in a “messy” state. SharePoint Versioning will also prevent the (disastrous, yet all too familiar) scenario of “accidentally” saving over a live copy of a document. Compared to using a simple file share, the ‘roll-back’ versioning feature makes SharePoint a more reasonable and viable choice for storing critical corporate documents.

SharePoint Versioning also allows you to use the ability to leverage content approval. This is useful if a document needs to be reviewed before it’s published “live.” For example, contracts typically need approval from a separate legal department or 3rd party law firm. Using content approval versioning features, documents must be reviewed and approved- by a user with sufficient privileges- before publishing or moving to the next stage of workflow. We’ll discuss more about the SharePoint 2010 content approval process in the next article in this blog series.

By default, SharePoint 2010 has Versioning turned off. To enable Versioning you must configure Versioning on every library where you want Versioning used.

How to Access Versioning Settings

From your Document Library, click Library and then Library Settings.

Screenshot: SharePoint Library Settings

In the General Settings section, click Versioning settings.

Versioning Settings option under General Settings heading

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to just look at Document Version History section. There are three options available: No versioning, Create major versions, and Create major and minor (draft) versions.

Choose from three available options

No Versioning:

No versioning is the default setting and basically means only one copy of a document exists. If you overwrite that copy with a new copy, you cannot retrieve the older version.

Create major versions:

Create major versions specifies numbered versions of a document using a basic number scheme (such as 1, 2, 3). When an existing document is saved to a document library, a new version is created. You can always revert to a previous iteration of a document by its version number.

Create major and minor (draft) versions:

Create major and minor (draft) versions uses a major and minor versioning scheme (such as 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.1). Versions ended in .0 are major versions, often referred to as published versions. All other versions are minor (or draft) versions. So a document with a version of 2.3 means it’s the third draft from the second published versions. This option allows you to differentiate between published content and content in draft form that is not yet ready for public consumption. Major and minor versioning will be discussed in the next article of this blog series, as it is best used with content approval.

For now, however, we’re going to take a look at how major versioning works. So I’ll go ahead and select Create major versions. Remember, you can use Versioning in conjunction with the SharePoint document Check-In/Check-Out process.

After choosing Create major versions, return to the document library and upload a document. You can see from the screenshot, the version is 1.0.

Screenshot: document version 1.0 in SharePoint 2010

A new version is created whenever the content or the metadata associated with the content is changed. So upon changing the value in the POAmount field, you can see the Version number changes.

Screenshot: version number changes to 2.0

And when I make a change to the document and save it back to the library, the version number changes from 2.0 to 3.0.

If I use the Edit drop-down for the document, I can choose Version History.

click document to reveal Version History link

The Version History screen displays the previous versions that are retained, as well as any metadata changes that were made. For example, in the following screenshot, version 2.0 shows the POAmount column and the value that it was changed to.

Version History Screen in SharePoint 2010

Version 3.0 does not display this information, because the actual document was changed and not the metadata.

Reverting to a Previous Version

Use the Version History screen to revert to a previous version. Use the Edit drop-down for the version you want to restore, and click Restore.

Restore document in SharePoint 2010 Version History window

Reverting to a previous version replaces the current version with the old one. Click OK to proceed when the message box appears.

SharePoint alert window: warning you are about to replace the current version

It does not delete the current version. It just creates a new version. So now my version history screen looks like this:

New Version History Window after Version Change

Version 4.0 is actually the same document and metadata as version 2.0 because I chose to restore that specific version.

Versioning and Storage Space

If you are using Versioning, keep in mind that each version of a document is stored in the SQL Server content database. So in our example, there are actually four copies of this single document being stored in SQL Server. As you can see, this can exponentially increase your storage needs.

In the Versioning settings, you have the ability to limit the number of versions saved. It is recommended to use this option if storage capacity is a concern (and when is it not?).

Limit number of versions saved

As you can see, SharePoint Versioning is a significant feature for document management and document collaboration in SharePoint 2010. It allows users to make edits to content and metadata without fear of destroying an already live or published document.

SharePoint Versioning also keeps track of who makes changes and when, and what metadata changes were made. This improves accountability and makes it easier to follow the changes of a specific document.

Next time we’ll take a look at major and minor versioning and how content approval ensures only approved documents are published and accessible.

SharePoint tips and tricks

2017-11-27T12:47:26+00:00 August 17th, 2015|


  1. Sally June 6, 2012 at 5:55 am - Reply

    Is there a way to make the version comments field required that would not involve special programming from IT? I am a Site Admin for a Site Collection and would like the ability to make version comments required, without the need for IT resources.

  2. Xrhstos Koutounides July 20, 2012 at 4:42 am - Reply

    Hi there,
    If I have exactly the same setting as your last picture implies:
    Keep major versions , but leaving the field of the versions blank i.e. if you do not enter a value in number of versions.

    How many versions will be saved by default?

  3. Joe Beyer July 26, 2012 at 8:37 am - Reply

    @Xrhstos Koutounides

    Hi Xrhstos,

    The number of versions is only limited to amount of space you have on your site/database. Not specifying a limit value essentially means it is unlimited.

    Please let us know if you have any further questions, and thanks for comment!

  4. MAC August 14, 2012 at 3:22 am - Reply

    Hello Techies,

    We have a new Issue from my client side, hope we can resolve it .
    When an user trying to add a document with updated version , the older version document is automatically got deleted.
    This Happens only for the user’s of WIN7 and XP user’s are not facing any issue.
    Please kinldy update me on this([email protected]) .
    Thanks in Advance.

    Avinash Chowdary-M.

  5. Vipul Patel October 15, 2012 at 5:24 am - Reply

    I have a requirement where in I need to restrict versioning on any metadata update. So if the metadata is changed, no new version. If the document is changed, new version. Any suggesstions ??

  6. jimh October 16, 2012 at 7:11 am - Reply

    We are using major and minor versioning and owners/contributors/readers with readers only reading published versions but we are having difficulty with search as the default option for documents is 0.1 and other members of IT are not keen on using SuperReader search account – This means that 0.1 documents do not come back in search even if you are the Author/contributor so unless you save a 0.2 or 1.0 version then most of the documents are not searched or searchable by you/contributors/readers – similarly using a e-mail drag and drop tool these e-mails are 0.1 and not searchable without Super reader rights – Any suggestions how to improve search – I am in an organisation that is terrified of accidentally making confidential documents searchable

  7. stephanie December 13, 2012 at 6:35 am - Reply

    I have an issue…I have a List where users enter their request for IT to handle. On occasion, there seems to be something that goes “wrong.”

    We have a “Comments” field that my team enters their comments in. This field should also show past history. The challenge is, every so often, if a person changes something on an attachment, only the persons name and date shows up uniquely…but it also “dupilicates” the old “comment” over and over again….while keeping the stamping date and time.


    John Smith 12/12/2012 (user modified an attached document)
    Jane was a great PM, and this project finished on time.

    Tommy Twotone 12/11/2012 (user modified an attachment, nothing else)
    Jane was a great PM, and this project finished on time.

    Jane Doe 12/11/2012 (user modified another field), nothing else)
    Jane was a great PM, and this project finished on time.

    Mark Walberg 12/11/2012 (original comment)
    Jane was a great PM, and this project finished on time.

    I’ve tried editing the form, and removing the “comment” field and adding it back in, thinking it was duplicating something on the screen, but that didn’t help….

    I have versioning turned on for the list, and “Append to list” turned for the field. If I don’t turn this on, I won’t see the comments which i need to do.

    Anyone have any thoughts on how I can fix this?

  8. Fox February 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    When I clicked the old version, it would show me “the file name or path does not exist, the file is being used by another program,….” , only the current version file can be open. Any suggestions ? Thanks in advance.

  9. yash April 24, 2013 at 2:54 am - Reply

    hi, is it possible to enable the versioning at site level for document libraries?
    so every time a new library is created the versioning is enabled automatically.
    We look for out of the box way of doing (may be using policies)

  10. SharePoint Major/Minor Version Control & Content Approval May 21, 2014 at 10:34 am - Reply

    […] [In Part 4 of his series on Document Management and Collaboration in Microsoft SharePoint, Matt Milsark focuses on Major/Minor SharePoint Versioning and Content approval. Missed a post? Check out the previous article on SharePoint 2010 Version Control.] […]

  11. Samuel February 16, 2015 at 6:17 pm - Reply


    We have a SharePoint 2010 foundation edition site where we have just changed the versioning settings from only major versions to major and minor versions and it appears that all of the version history has been deleted. It tells you what the latest version is but does not give you any of the previous information. We have tried reverting it back but that has not solved it.

    Please help

  12. Samuel February 16, 2015 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Samuel :
    We have a SharePoint 2010 foundation edition site where we have just changed the versioning settings from only major versions to major and minor versions and it appears that all of the version history has been deleted. It tells you what the latest version is but does not give you any of the previous information. We have tried reverting it back but that has not solved it.
    Please help

    Fixed now, there was an issue with the settings that we sorted

  13. jyde June 9, 2015 at 7:08 am - Reply

    Document and content very helpful

  14. Marvin September 16, 2015 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Hi. Just wondering is there a way to have versioning but keep version “0” or the original document intact? we deal with a lot of drawings where we need to go back to the original at times. we can get up and over 25 revisions of a document and data space is a valuable commodity that we cannot always easily increase. that would be great if there was a way.


  15. Nancy Scholl October 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    We have found that in access when checking out the database file you have to save to your file system. Then when you check back in there is not any version control and it writes over the origial access database. Is there a work around?

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