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complete drupal(7) noob question: I'm wondering if my site's contents are kept entirely on the db or perhaps also on the file system of my host.

In other words, suppose I want to migrate a site from one host to another, would it be enough to copy the sql db? or do I need to bother with additional files?

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It would be best to grab a copy of the website files/code base as well in almost every case.

For example the code that manipulates the look of the site is contained in the file structure.
Most of the text that is found on pages are in the sql DB.
The way content is displayed on some pages and not others could be in DB or the way the files manipulate the DB.

Therefor the standard practice is to take a snapshot of the code base as well as the database, as a pair, to the new hosting environment.

I would strongly suggest that you have a really good look at the D7 migration manual. It may look lengthy, but there are so many things that could derail your move, it's definitely worth it to know what's going on if things go funny.

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The file system contains: contrib modules, themes, and uploaded images.

Therefore, if you have added any of these and if you were to just move the DB, you will get errors.

Important

sites/all/default/settings.php contains the connection to the DB. So either you edit this file and update the settings, or don't bring this file with you. In your new host, you will get the Drupal installer when you try to see the site (since settings.php is missing). Install Drupal, then clear the DB and import your DB.

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