How does versioning work in a list or library?

When versioning is enabled in your list or library, you can store, track, and restore items in a list and files in a library whenever they change. Versioning, combined with other settings, such as required check-out, gives you a lot of control of the content that is posted on your site and can provide real value if you ever have a need to look at or restore an old version of an item or file.

In this article

Versioning overview

When versions are created

Major and minor versions

Version numbering

Enabling, configuring, and using versioning in lists and libraries

Other settings that affect versioning in lists and libraries

Versioning overview

Versioning is available for list items in all default list types—including calendars, issue tracking lists, and custom lists. It is also available for all file types that can be stored in libraries, including Web Part pages.

You can use versioning to do the following:

  • Track history of a version   . When versioning is enabled, you can see when an item or file was changed and who changed it. You can also see when properties (information about the file) were changed. For example, if someone changes the due date of a list item, that information appears in the version history. You can also see the comments people make when they check files into libraries.

  • Restore a previous version   . If you made a mistake in a current version, if the current version is corrupt, or if you simply like a previous version better, you can replace the current version with a previous one. The “restored” version becomes the new current version.

  • View a previous version   . You can view a previous version without overwriting your current version. If you are viewing version history within a Microsoft Office document, such as a Word or Excel file, you can compare the two versions to determine what the differences are.

Top of Page

When versions are created

When versioning is enabled, versions are created in the following situations:

  • When a list item or file is first created or when a file is uploaded.

    Note:  If file check-out is required, you must check the file in to create its first version.

  • When a file is uploaded that has the same name as an existing file and the Add as a new version to existing files check box is selected.

  • When the properties of a list item or file are changed.

  • When a file is opened, edited, and saved. A version is created when you first click Save. It retains the new version number for the duration of the current editing session, even though you might save it several times. When you close it and then reopen it for another editing session, another version is created.

  • When, during co-authoring of a document, a different user begins working on the document. The default time period for creating new versions during co-authoring is 30 minutes, but an administrator can change that setting.

There can be up to three current versions of a file at any given time: the checked-out version, the latest minor or draft version, and the latest published or major version. All other versions are considered historical versions. Some current versions are only visible to users who have permissions to view them.

Top of Page

Major and minor versions

Some organizations track both major and minor versions of files in their libraries. Others only track the major versions. When only the major versions are tracked, it is referred to as “simple versioning.” Minor versions can be configured in libraries. Major versions are identified by whole numbers; minor versions are identified by decimal numbers. A major version number, for example, is 5.0. The first minor version of that file will be numbered 5.1.

Most organizations use minor versions when files are under development, and major versions when certain milestones are reached or when the files are ready for review by a wide audience. In many organizations, draft security is set to allow only the owner of a file and people who have permissions to approve files. That means that minor versions cannot be seen by anyone else until a major version is published.

Simple versioning is available for site lists, but minor versions are not available. Each version of a list item is numbered with a whole number. If your organization requires approval of items in a list, the items remain in Pending status until they are approved by someone who has permissions to approve them. While in Pending status they are numbered with whole numbers and are referred to as drafts.


Top of Page

Version numbering

Version numbers are automatically added each time you create a new version. In a list or library that has simple versioning enabled, the increments are made in whole numbers, such as 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and so on. In libraries, your administrator might enable versioning for both major and minor versions. When minor versions are being tracked, they are numbered in decimals such as 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and so on. When one of those versions is published as a major version, its number becomes 2.0. Subsequent minor versions are numbered 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, and so on. The default number of minor versions between major versions is 512. If you attempt to save another minor version, you will see an error message that tells you that you must first publish the document. Your site administrator can change the default to allow fewer minor versions.

When you discard a check-out, the version number does not change. If the most recent version was version 3.0, it remains at 3.0 after you discard the check-out.

When you delete a version, the version goes to the Recycle bin and its number goes with it. The Version History will show the remaining version numbers. In the following example, which has both major and minor versions, you can see that versions 1.0, 2.0, 2.1, and 3.0 are no longer there. The version history indicates that some versions have been deleted. The current major version, 4.0, is both highlighted in color and identified with a note that it is “the current published major version.”

Version History dialog box showing several versions. Some versions are missing and the most recent one is highlighted.

Top of Page

Enabling, configuring, and using versioning in lists and libraries

The following table lists and describes several articles that show you how to enable and configure versioning in site lists and libraries, how to work with those versions, and how to delete them or restore them, when necessary.


The article explains…

Enable and configure versioning for a library

  • How versioning settings work in a SharePoint library

  • How to enable and configure versioning in a SharePoint library

  • How to remove versioning from a SharePoint library

Enable and configure versioning for a SharePoint list

  • The reasons for enabling versioning in a SharePoint list

  • How versioning settings work in a SharePoint list

  • How to enable and configure versioning in a SharePoint list

  • How to remove versioning from a SharePoint list

Publish or unpublish a version of a file in a SharePoint document library

  • How to publish a major version of a file in a SharePoint document library

  • How to unpublish a version of a file in a SharePoint document library

View the version history of an item or file in a SharePoint list or library

  • How to view the version history of an item or file while in a SharePoint list or library

  • How to view the version history of a file from within a Microsoft Office document

  • How to compare document versions

Delete a previous version of a SharePoint item or file

  • How to delete a previous version

  • How to delete all previous versions

  • How to delete all minor versions

Restore a previous version of an item or file

  • How to restore a previous version

Top of Page

Other settings that affect versioning in lists and libraries

When setting up a list or library, the site administrator makes a number of decisions. In addition to enabling versioning, the administrator must determine whether or not to require content approval, who can view draft items, and whether or not check-out is required. Each of these decisions has an impact on how versioning works. For example, if the administrator decides to require check-out, version numbers are only created when the file is checked in. If content approval is required, major version numbers are not applied until files are approved by someone who has permission to do so.

For more information about these settings, see

Important:  If the people who work in your library are planning to co-author documents, do not configure the library to require check-out. People cannot work as co-authors when the documents that they need are checked out.

Top of Page

Share Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Email Email

Was this information helpful?

Great! Any other feedback?

How can we improve it?

Thank you for your feedback!