Move SharePoint subsites to the top level in SharePoint Online

Image of orange background with illustrated subsites being promoted to top-level sites

Wondering how to move SharePoint sites or subsites? We explain how to move the contents of one SharePoint site to another site collection—and how to move subsites to the top level in SharePoint Online.

You need an intranet that continually adapts to the ways your organization is evolving—aligning the user experience with the new ways of work.

That means that—sooner or later—you’ll need to make the switch to SharePoint’s modern interface, restructuring your environment from top-down to flat. The idea is that by adopting a flat topology, it’s easier to move things around as your organization continues to evolve.

At ShareGate, we decided to embrace a flat site structure in order to leverage new Microsoft experiences—like Teams, Microsoft 365 Groups, and Planner—that can only be attached to top-level sites. In the process, we learned a lot of valuable lessons that were useful for improving ShareGate, our migration and Teams management tool.

When it comes to converting your subsites to independent sites, you have two main options.

Option 1: Move SharePoint files and folders to a new site collection

The modern experience is faster, easier to use, and displays better in mobile browsers. And the new document library and list experience in SharePoint Online also makes it easier to complete tasks using the command bar—including copying and moving files between site collections.

First, you’ll need to create a new site:

  1. Make sure you’re signed in to the SharePoint admin center as a global or SharePoint admin, and that you have Microsoft 365 administrator permissions in your organization.
  2. In the left pane, under Admin centers, select SharePoint.
  3. In the left pane, under Active sites, select Create.
  4. Depending on what your new site will be used for, select Team site, Communication site, or Other options (to create a new team site without a Microsoft 365 group).
  5. Choose a name and owner for your site, then select Finish.

Once your new site is set up, navigate to the document library with the file or folders you want to move, and do the following:

1. Select the items you want to move.

Image of subsite document library with folders selected.

2. Click Move to in the main menu at the top of the page. You may have to click the ellipses (), and then click Move to.

image of mouse selecting the "move to" option

3. In the Choose a destination pane, click Browse sites and navigate to the new site you just created. Then click Move here.

Choose the destination then click Move here.

4. You also have the option to create a new folder within your new site’s document library to move the item to. In the Choose destination pane, click New folder, assign it a name, click the check mark, and then click Move here.

Create a new folder to move content to

Moving your subsite’s files and folders might seem like the most straightforward option—but it’s also the most time-consuming.

You can only move document libraries this way, not lists. In fact, if you decide to use this method, you’ll need to recreate all of your subsite’s structural elements in the new site—essentially, rebuilding your existing infrastructure from the ground up.

It’s also worth noting that moving your content this way won’t transfer custom metadata. And if your library uses versioning, you’ll only get the latest version—none of your previous versions will be moved over.

Option 2: Use a third-party tool to restructure your existing environment

We get it. You like everything set up a particular way.

And if you’ve already invested time and energy customizing your intranet’s infrastructure, you probably don’t want to build a new site from scratch.

Instead of trying to rebuild what you already have, why not use a third-party tool to restructure the environment you’ve invested so much time in?

Instead of trying to rebuild, why not use a third-party tool to restructure the environment you’ve already invested time in?

ShareGate has a full-fledged Promote feature. That way, your existing content stays intact.

Here’s how:

1. Select from your existing subsites. Head over to the Copy tab, select Restructure environment and click on Promote subsite into site to access the Promote feature.

Sgm Public Copy Page Restructure

On the next screen, ShareGate shows you all of your sites and subsites in one place—including all the information you need to get started.

Sgm Public Promote Subsite

2. Preview the new site structure before making a change. See the future before it happens. With a visual preview of your copy, you can preview any changes, and adapt if you need to.

Sgm Public Promote Subsite Options

3. Tailor the operation to your needs. From the same interface, you can also customize your copy, with a new name, URL, and new site template. Then you can choose whether you want to keep the original subsite as-is or delete it once it’s been successfully promoted.

4. Track progress and results. Follow the progress with a detailed report of everything happening during your subsite promotion. Identify potential issues and implement solutions in real-time.

Sgm Public Promote Subsite Results

It’s all about restructuring, not recreating what you already have

The only thing in business you can count on is that things are going to change.

Adopting modern SharePoint’s flat infrastructure will transform the way your organization does work, and lay foundations flexible enough to adapt to the future—whatever it may bring.

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