SharePoint – Can’t Delete ContentType

The Story

You know every post has to start with a story. So it’s story time, It all started with a site that needed to be templated and used to create new sites. Now when the user went to actually deploy the new template via “create new site” link under the site contents area, it errored out stating that there was an error.

Create SharePoint Site Template

I wouldn’t have blog posts if everything work via the happy path, there’s other people to blog about that…

This of course required jumping through some hoops to even make the site savable as a template, in my case it was just the property to be set using PowerShell:

$web = Get-SPWeb http://your_ site
$web.AllProperties["SaveSiteAsTemplateEnabled"] = "true"

Else you’ll get the following error:

So once this is done, you can finally create a template.

However, now we have to actually deploy it.

*NOTE* when you create a template of a site, you are secretly creating and activating a “Solution” to the main site. So if you need to manage, or delete a template you first have to deactivate the solution then you can delete it.

Deploy New SharePoint Site Template!

Would you expect anything else form my blog post? 😛 OK this should be easy enough let’s just delete this old content type as it was a legacy one left behind from a migration.

So first since this template is trash, you’d figure these type of checks would take place at creation of the template.

Ahhh SharePoint never cease to piss me off… OK, let’s google this…

The first source is dead on the solution… However it required making a direct Database change. To keep SharePoint “supported” state, although obviously broken. The alternative solution is to either find the original feature package, and re-install it either via command line (stsadm.exe), or Powershell or the front end. Of course if this is a third party feature, and you only have installation for older SharePoint, then this would have to be cleaned up on the old environment before migration. If I find the link (didn’t save at the moment) 🙁 there apparently is a way to map this ContentType to “Dummy” features, delete the content type, then delete the dummy feature. This is the only alternative way while doing it via the front end to stay “supported”.

In the mean time, you can also spin up the site in a test environment, and do the needful on the content type in the database backend (connected to the instance, and Database for the site content (WSS_Content by default):

Update DBO.ContentTypes
Set IsFromFeature = 0
Where ContentTypeID = 0xIDNum

The content type ID can be extract from the address bar via the front end as it is known by the web parameter ctypeID:

Now you’d figure there be no problem delete the content type, until another error shows up with a different reason. (OK I remember it being different but until I run through these test again maybe they were the same, as the second source explains…)

[Insert Picture of error after DB change]

Googling I came across this guys very nice blog post about the same issue!

Really short version… the content type is still used/referenced by another SharePoint object within the environment. He does show and reference some really nice C# code to help track the issuing objects. However I have no interest in building an App, just to find these… there has to be another way!

Ohh stackexchange how beautiful you are

$site = Get-SPSite("your-site-url");
foreach ($web in $site.AllWebs) {
   $ctype = $web.ContentTypes["Your Content Type"]
   $usages = [Microsoft.Sharepoint.SPContentTypeUsage]::GetUsages($ctype)
   foreach ($usage in $usages) {
      Write-Host $usage.Url

Which helped me track the objects, in my case Lists…

Turned out to be the list in all subsites called “Tasks” now this is a SharePoint created list object, however they were created after this particular feature was enabled on the site, thus all subsites inherited the issue.

Now there are some nice online references to delete content types, or lists and other objects via PowerShell.

However if you know the object model well enough you can pull one liners to do wonders…

$spsite = Get-SPSite http://yoursite
$webs = $spsite.AllWebs
($webs.Lists | ?{$_.Title -eq "Tasks"}).Delete()

And just like that hundreds of old SharePoint lists that were no longer used were gone. If the lists you have contain data that is to be kept, you are going to have to migrate the data to a new list, then delete the offending list and migrate the data back.

OK, NOW you can create a template from the site, and deploy it and it should succeed without issue. You can now navigate to the site content area where the solution packages are stored and copy it out, and then upload it to your production environment and create new clean sites. However note that this won’t fix the issue in your production side.

So you’ll have trade offs to consider in which way you decide to handle the issue.


SharePoint is a beast of a designed machine, and can often include some bugs that were not expected. I hope to extent this blogs and provide more SharePoint related content in the future. Cheers, I hoped this helped someone out there.

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