Content Database FAQ

This post describes the most frequently asked questions on a content database in SharePoint.

Since there is a lot of misconception on how different SharePoint components relate to each other, I will try to answer some common questions. Please feel free to comment or ask additional questions in the comment section. I will add them to the FAQ list.

The below figure shows the infrastructure of Content databases related to Web Applications and site collections.

Content Database FAQ


1. Can we create a site collection in a specific Content Database?
Yes, but you can only do this by using PowerShell using the New-SPSite cmdlet. You can use the “-ContentDatabase” parameter to specify in which Content Database the site collection will be created.

2. When using the “-ContentDatabase” parameter in the New-SPSite cmdlet, does the content database get automatically created if it does not exist?
No, if you enter a Content Database name that does not exist, you will get an error saying the content database could not be found.

3. My site collection is getting very big, can I add a second Content Database to spread the load?
Because of the way SharePoint is designed, you cannot have 1 site collection spread over multiple Content Databases. If you want to split up your site collection in to multiple site collections, you can do this by exporting and importing subsites, or by using 3rd party tools.

4. What site collections are currently in my Content Database?
For this specific question, I have written a PowerShell one-liner that will return every Content Database with their respective site collections. You can find this one liner here:

5. How can I check the size of my Content Database?
The easiest way to accomplish this is by looking at the database file on your SQL Server. But there may be some scenario’s where this is not possible. Insufficient permissions being the most common one. In this case, you can use this article to find out the approximate Content Database size:

6. What Content Databases are attached to my Web Applications?
For this question, I have also written a small blog post. It will return all Web Applications with their respective Content Databases:

7. Why are my Content Databases named WSS_Content_<Guid>?
The moment you create a Web Application, you will be asked to fill in details regarding your content database. By default, SharePoint will fill in this field for you with the following syntax: WSS_Content. If a content database with this name already exists, it will add a GUID to it.

8. What if I want to move my site collection to another Content Database?
In this case, there are 2 scenario’s:
– Move the site collection to another Content Database that is attached to the same Web Application
You can use the Move-SPSite cmdlet to move the site collection.
– Move the site collection to another Content Database that is attached to another Web Application
You can use the Backup-SPSite and Restore-SPSite functionality to accomplish this task.

9. I have multiple site collections in my Content Database, can I use PowerShell to see their sizes?
Yes, you can. You can use the following line of code to check the approximate size of your site collection (From Todd’s blog: Using PowerShell to find site collection size in SharePoint 2010)

Get-SPSite "" | select url, @{label="Size in MB";Expression={$}}

10. Is it possible to maintain the same Content Database for more than one Web Application?
No, this is not possible. A Content Database can only be attached to a single Web Application.

12 thoughts on “Content Database FAQ

  • “When using the New-SPSite cmdlet. You can use the “-ContentDatabase” parameter to specify in which Content Database the site collection will be created.” Is a content database automatically created or does it need to be an existing content database, perhaps an ampty one you create yourself?

  • Hi Rene,

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

    When you use the -ContentDatabase parameter for the New-SPSite cmdlet, the Content Database has to exist. If this database does not exist, you will receive an error saying the content database could not be found.
    You can however create an empty content database from the GUI, or use the New-SPContentDatabase cmdlet to create an empty content database.
    You can then use this content database to create the new site collection in.

  • I think the script in #9 should read :

    Get-SPSite “” | select url, @{label=”Size in MB”;Expression={$}}

    In order to get size in MB … No?

    • Hi malli, if you create a content database (without any site collections in it) I think it should be around 30MB. I am not sure about the precise size. Why is it you want to know this?

  • Hello,
    Interesting and helpful post.
    On the point 3 of your FAQ, you touch the main drawback of the Site Collection/Content Database, which is the fact that once your Content Database is getting too big, it is indeed possible to move some content to another Site Collection, but of course you will have to change the URL.
    What I find really boring/disturbing is that you have to know in advanced the usage to make a proper WebApp/SiteCol/ContentDB.

    • Hi JeanLouis,

      Yes this is indeed something you need to plan up front. We all know this isn’t always possible to get it 100% right.
      What version of SharePoint are you running, and how large is your Content Database?

      Microsoft changed some limitations since writing this post, so it might be that you are still good for now.

      Regards, Nico

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