SharePoint Designer – Restore Previous Workflow Version

Have you ever published changes in a workflow in SharePoint Designer and wish you hadn’t? There is a little known way to go in and restore a previous version of your workflow. This uses the same versioning capability that lists and libraries have. By default, every time you publish changes to a workflow, they are saved as a new version.

This solution applies to all versions of SharePoint 2010, 2007, and SharePoint Online with Office 365. This does NOT apply to SharePoint 2013 workflows, but DOES apply to SharePoint 2010 workflows created in SharePoint 2013.

Here’s how to revert to a previous version:

  1. In the left pane of SharePoint Designer, click the little pin icon next to All Files.
  2. Once All Files is expanded, scroll down and expand out your folder called Workflows. Note that if you have not actually created any workflows yet, you will not have this folder. Each workflow will be a “subfolder” under workflows. One weird little thing to point out also is that if you changed the name of any workflow after you created it, that new name will not show here, only the original name of each workflow will show in this list.
  3. The workflow that I want to restore a previous version of is called “Check Audit Month”, so I’ll expand out that folder. Now I can see all of the files that my workflow is comprised of.
  4. Each of these files has a set of versions. Right click on the XOML file, and choose Version History. I want to get rid of all the changes I made today, and revert back to the 4/12 version which I know worked correctly. I scroll down and click on the most recent 4/12 version. (I’ve blurred out the domain name I’m working in)
  5. Click Restore.
  6. Right click on the next file, the XOML.rules. Go find that exact same date/time of the file as the one in the previous step, and restore it. Note that the version number may NOT be the same.
  7. Right click the next file, which is xoml.wfconfig.xml. Do the same thing by finding that same date/time that matches the one you restored at step 4. Restore it.
  8. In this case, I don’t need to change anything about my InfoPath XSN file, which is the task form as part of tasks that are assigned in the workflow. I’m skipping that one.
  9. Important step after you’ve restored the old versions… EXIT SharePoint Designer. This is because of a cached version of your workflow needing to be refreshed.
  10. Re-open your site in SharePoint Designer. When you open your workflow in the normal way now (as opposed to the funky way we did in step 2), you will see that good old version that you just restored.
  11. Click Publish. Now your restored workflow is live and in use on the site.


  • Thanks for sharing this way! This will be helpful.

  • Thank you. Very helpful post. What’s the best practice to backup/restore my sharepoint designer workflows, incase of a system crash?

  • Jasper Oosterveld

    This is a great article and really helpful! Thanks for this, I learned something new today 🙂

  • Erich O'Donnell

    I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to do this if your previous workflow version still has running workflow instances, correct?

  • @Erich – This only allows NEW workflows to use the workflow that was republished, and does not affect existing workflows.

  • Thanks for sharing a wonderful update. To restore previous workflow versions must visit

  • Tunde,
    You’d rely on your SharePoint server-level or database level backups for that type of situation.

    Brad’s right.

  • hi laura,

    can you please tell how to restore the infopath forms the same way ? I got an orphaned field in my infopath. because before removing the field from content type i deleted teh site column. now am unable to add any new fields.


  • Meena,
    For that, there’s a free tool on called SharePoint Manager. You’d have to run that on the server, and dig in to (carefully) find those orphaned fields. Either that, or get someone who knows PowerShell to get rid of them that way.

  • very Helpful !! Thanks Laura !!

  • Hi laura,
    wonderful ! Thank you for the tip to restart the SPD.


  • Hello Laura,

    I am new to Sharepoint and i found i dont find “all files” button… you know how can i enable it? And is there anyway to restore my global reusable approval workflow? I’ve made some modification and published.. 🙁 really want to reset and get the original workflow back…

  • Dorothy,
    In SharePoint Designer 2010, as soon as you open your site, you have a navigation pane down the left side. All Files is there in that navigation pane. I can’t think of why you wouldn’t have one. Do you have full control permission on the site? Maybe it’s permisison related?

  • Laura,

    I know this is kind of an old article. I am trying to restore a workflow version and that particular one is missing from the All Files > Workflows folder. The workflow still shows up under the normal Workflows. Any idea why that would be gone or how to get it back?

  • As Andy mentioned above, i am also missing the workflows from “All files” in Sharepoint Designer 2013.
    They appear under the “Workflows” site objects however.
    Anyone has an idea how to do this in SD 2013?

  • Andy and Chris,
    Sorry, I’ve never seen that happen. All I can think is it may be related to permissions. Make sure you’re a site collection admin and see if that makes a difference.

  • This is a great tip and would be great, but it doesn’t seem to do anything with workflows in SPD2013/O365. I can click on version history all day and nothing happens – no restore window opens – SPD goes about it’s business as if that button wasn’t eve clicked. Have you run in to that before with SPD?

  • Nik,
    No, I haven’t run into that, and haven’t tried it in 2013, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that doesn’t work anymore, since 2013 is a completely separate workflow engine.

  • I am trying to open a old version of a workflow (SPD2010) but, when I do it doesn’t open. Do you know of settings why this cannot be displayed or could you be any help for this issue? I think the version history only exist and the versions are not actually being stored anywhere. Is this the case? if so how do I turn the versioning for the workflows?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi Richard,
    I’m not sure why that wouldn’t work, but one thing you can try would be to clear the SharePoint Designer local cache on your computer. Here’s someone’s blog about it
    If you see the list of versions, I’m pretty sure that means versioning is already turned on. I don’t know how you’d edit/fix that default setting.

  • Hi Laura,

    This is great information. Thank you!

    Quick question: do you know if there is a way to see the last published version of the workflow?
    I have made multiple changes to the workflow since the last time it was published. For every save, a version appears, but I would like to see which of these versions were published.

    Is there any way to get a history of published versions? Or at least, the date in which the last publish was made?

    Gonzalo @gbarbitta

  • Laura,

    I’m experiencing the same problem as Chris, I can’t see the workflow folder. I’m using SPD2013 on on-premise SP2013.

    Thank you

  • Jivan,
    Since 2013 workflows are based on a completely new / different workflow engine, I believe that is why this solution will not be applicable. This solution is only applicable to 2007/2010 workflows. If you create 2010 workflows in your 2013 environment, this should work.

  • I working with O365 with SPD 2013 and SPD 2010 globally reusable workflows (associated to content types). Somehow I’ve mucked up the approval workflow that goes through two approvals – it now hangs after trying to approve the second level and similar to a couple others I have no workflows listed in the workflow folder under All Items. I’m guessing the globally reusable workflows are not going to be listed here.

    Trying to dig into content types doesn’t get me anywhere either. It looks as if my only option is to rebuild the workflow even though when I look at the workflow settings I see the previous versions listed in the web. 🙁

  • Okay, so right after I made the previous comment I found where all the reusable workflows live:

    All Files -> _catalogs -> wfpub

    Getting all excited I was let down pretty quickly as selecting version history from my workflow I get a dialog window stating, “Versions cannot be accessed at this time, because the server is busy. Please try again later.”

    The error is consistent among other workflows in this location. I’ve tried a few ways to “get to the version” – checking the file out, browsing the URL location shown where the file is stored, etc.

    I’d be interested if any workaround is found for the reusable workflows.


  • Vijay Arockiasamy

    I have followed the steps but still when i click on my workfow i am getting the workflow name as workflow1 and there empty steps inside it.

    Could you please guide me how to resolve this issue.

  • Thank you for this help full information, but unfortunately I’m getting error by clicking on Version history – “Versions cannot be accessed at this time because server is busy. Please try again”

    Please help me to resolve this.

  • Jer, Vijay and Akram,
    None of this works with SharePoint 2013 workflows. Sorry, I can’t help with those issues.

  • I am trying to roll back my SharePoint 2010 workflow to a previous version because something have changed not sure what. When I right click on the xoml file and select Versiosn History, I get this error message:”versions cannot be accessed at this time, because the server is busy. Please try again later”

    Anyone experienced this issue before?

  • Thank you !!!

  • Hi laura , I know you may have answered this question earlier , but I want to make precise to my case ..I created my workflow on SPD 2013 but the workflow is a 2010 workflow. But when I follow your steps to revert to the previous version SPD 2013 didnt display version history up on right click. do you think i can open my workflow on SPD 2010 and do the restoration the way you did ? Twiter — @MiftahEthio

  • Hi Laura. I realize this is a very old (but incredibly helpful!) post, but I hope you can still help me. When trying to access the version history of the workflow .xoml files I get a message saying “Versions cannot be accessed at this time because server is busy .Please try again later. “. So you have any recommendations on how to get around this? Thank you!

  • Does this restore action resurrect the GUID of the workflow? I’ve used a fixed URL to start this workflow (as a button and other visual effects)

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