Download Previous Versions of Documents in SharePoint 2013

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Have you ever wanted to view an older version of a file? Most of us have for one reason or another. Maybe there is a need to view content that was removed from the current version or you’re just bored. Whatever the reason, there is an easy way to do this for files that reside in document libraries that have versions enabled.

Steps

Step 1: Browse to document library
Step 2: Click the drop down arrow (or the ellipses) next to the file you want and click on the Version History link
Step 3: Find the the version number you want and click on the Date hyperlink in the “Modified” column to download the file.

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Step 4: The document will download or prompt to be saved.

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However

This method works for most documents including files and pages. However, it does not work for hidden files such as those in the Master Page Gallery (/_catalogs/masterpage/). Instead of opening or downloading the old version of the file, the page links to a display form window (/_catalogs/masterpage/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=X). The option to download the file is not available like it was when I downloaded a Word document from before.

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There are some posts on the web that say if the file has a “Title” field the file can be downloaded or opened by clicking on the Title field value. I have found that this method does not work for most custom and system files in the master page gallery.

Solution

So the question is how can I view and download an older version of the file. Microsoft may have designed this behavior on purpose or maybe not, but that doesn’t answer the question. That can be answered using a server side tool named SharePoint Manager 2013 to find the URL to the previous file versions and download it. This tool is a must have for SharePoint administrators, developers, and the like. SharePoint Manager 2013 is a SharePoint object model explorer that  enables you to browse every site on the local farm and view every property. Follow these steps to the solution:

Step 1: Download SharePoint Manager 2013 from Codeplex at http://spm.codeplex.com
Step 2: On a SharePoint server, extract and run the “SharePoint Manager 2013.exe”
Step 3: Drill down to: SPwebService > Web Applications > “Web Application” > Sites > “Site” > Folder > File > Versions. Here you will find all the versions of the file. If the file only has one version or versions are not enabled, the version tab will not contain information.
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Step 4: Click on the version you want to download and copy the text in the URL field contained in the right column of the application.
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Step 5: In a web browser of your choice, paste the file path you copied into the browser immediately after the root URL to your site or site collection. An example would look like this: /_vti_history/512/_catalogs/masterpage/Display Templates/Content Web Parts/Control_List.html

Success

The file will should either download or prompt to be saved depending on what your browser of choice is. 2_FileVersionDownload7

There you have it. I hope you find this method to retrieve file versions from SharePoint helpful for your work and on you travels.

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