SharePoint List Item: Delete vs.. DeleteItemById

If you had to choose one of these methods to call to delete an item in a large list which would you choose? Here are your options in code

1: myListItem.Delete()
2: mylist.Items.DeleteItemById(deleteItemId)

Option 2 sounds good here doesn’t it? You have the id, the key to the item in the list, so giving the SPLIstItemCollection this valuable piece of information should make it a simple matter to kill off said SPListItem, no? Well – no. It would be great if, behind the scenes, this was translated to a SQL query like “delete mylist where iitemId = id”. That, however, is not the case. This is the SharePoint object model where men are men and lists are searched in memory. Thanks to Reflector we can see that the DeleteById() method call follows this thread:

Public Sub DeleteItemById(ByVal id As Integer) 
End Sub        

Which calls … 
Public Function GetItemById(ByVal id As Integer) As SPListItem 
    Dim itemIndexById As Integer = Me.GetItemIndexById(id) 
    If (itemIndexById < 0) Then 
        Throw New ArgumentException 
    End If 
    If (Me.m_iColection Is Nothing) Then 
        Return New SPListItem(Me, itemIndexById) 
    End If 
    Return Me.m_iColection.ItemFactory(itemIndexById) 
End Function 

First line of GetItemById() needs to resolve the index of the item. Only one way to do that (emphasis in red) …

Friend Function GetItemIndexById(ByVal id As Integer) As Integer 
    Dim num As Integer = 0 
    Dim columnNumber As Integer = Me.m_mapFields.GetColumnNumber("ID") 
    Do While (num < Me.m_iRowCount) 
        If (Convert.ToInt32(Me.m_arrItemsData(columnNumber, num), CultureInfo.InvariantCulture) <> id) Then 
            num += 1 
            Continue Do 
        End If 
        Return num 
    Return -1 
End Function 

So, Item.Delete() must be the way to go? Well … yes … if you already have the item reference, because then the work is already done. However, if you need to get the item first using GetItemById() then guess where you would end up again? That’s right, GetItemIndexById() and we are back to where we started. It really comes down to a “pay me now or pay me later” situation when choosing between these two methods.

So, how to make it better? Replace either the Get or the Delete with a CAML query which pushes the heavy lifting back to the database (what a strange and mysterious concept, maybe it will catch on one day). Here is a method that constructs a CAML query to delete an item. The method accepts in the itemFileRef, which is what the CAML query needs to pass in to indentify the item in the Document Library to delete. Note: the query syntax is different based on list type, what works for a normal list will not necessarily  work on a document library and vice-versa.

Edit 9/18/2009: the owsfileref value that is needed for this query to work can be obtained from the SPListItem object. If the SpListItem is an item in a document library you can call: myItem.Item("FileRef"), which will return the needed value.

Public Sub DeleteReport(ByVal itemFileRef As String) 

        Dim site As SPSite = Nothing 
        Dim web As SPWeb = Nothing 
        Dim list As SPDocumentLibrary = Nothing 

            site = New SPSite(SPContext.Current.Site.Url) 
            web = site.RootWeb 

            list = web.GetList(MySettings.RelativeListURL(web) & MyListConfig.ListName) 

            Dim sbDelete As New System.Text.StringBuilder 
            sbDelete.Append("<?xml version=""1.0"" encoding=""UTF-8""?><Batch>") 
            Dim delCount As Integer = 0 

            sbDelete.Append("<SetList Scope='Request'>" & list.ID.ToString & "</SetList>") 
            sbDelete.Append("<SetVar Name='Cmd'>DELETE</SetVar>") 
            sbDelete.Append("<SetVar Name='ID'>1</SetVar>") 
            sbDelete.Append("<SetVar Name='owsfileref'>" & itemFileRef & "</SetVar>") 

                web.AllowUnsafeUpdates = True 
            Catch ex As Exception 
                Throw New Exception("Error deleting items from list: " & ex.GetBaseException.ToString) 
                web.AllowUnsafeUpdates = False 
            End Try 

        Catch ex As Exception 
            Throw New Exception("Error deleting items from list: {0}", ex) 
            If Not web Is Nothing Then 
            End If 
            If Not site Is Nothing Then 
            End If 

        End Try 

    End Sub 

This Fiddler trace shows the non-trivial performance boost you can get from re-factoring a delete from using the object model to using a CAML query as shown above.


Now, if your lists are small you will not see this kind of improvement, and if you have no expectation that your lists will ever get large then you may be safe using the object model provided delete options. However, if that is not the case check out CAML before you go to production.


© Copyright 2009 - Andreas Zenker


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