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Are there any reasons why you would not delete a data extension in Marketing Cloud that was no longer being used. There are no records in them and they haven't been used in some time.

I was told by a colleague that deleting them 'messes things up' but when pushed for more info they said it's just not something we do. There are now loads of unused data extensions and I'd like to know if I could start a plan to clean them up, what are the considerations for deleting them?

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@Niko's answer is accurate, but not complete.

Below is a list of things you will want to validate prior to deleting any data extensions:

Was the data extension recently used to send an email job?
When you send to a data extension, the View as Webpage(VAWP) is tied to the sendable data extension. This means that any changes to this data extension will affect what the person sees in the VAWP. If you delete that data extension though, it will cause a 500 error and the VAWP link will be broken for that send.

Is it a relational data extension?
If it is a relational data extension, you will need to validate that the data in it is definitely no longer needed and that there are no current relationships utilizing this data extension. You will also want to verify in Contact Builder if its in an Attribute Group or similar.

Are there any automations or integrations utilizing this data extension?
If you are using this data extension in relation to a report, logging or extract process - deleting this data extension will cause major issues. There is the potential for your reporting or integrations to fail and cause major issues.

Do you need this information for historical references
Do you have the sending audience and sendable data recorded somewhere else? Is it important to have this information for auditing processes? It may be better to export this information first and move to somewhere else to store and prepare for any auditing needs.


For sendable data: you can look to change the VAWP to target the send log instead and that can help remove the dependence on the sendable data extension. There are caveats to this though as you might need to make this have each of the fields for each of your data extensions and have them fill the log. This can take a lot of setup and can make the send log become very large - slowing it down and making reference to it difficult.

Places to check for usage:
(This may not be fully complete list, but should be a good majority of the places)

  • Contact Builder - Attribute Groups
  • Automation Studio - SQL Query Activity
  • Automation Studio - Script Activity
  • Automation Studio - Import Activity
  • Automation Studio - Extract Activity
  • Automation Studio - Email Send Activity
  • Journey Builder - Entry Event
  • Journey Builder - Email Sends
  • Email Studio - Data Relationships
  • Email Studio - Data Filter Definitions
  • Email Studio - Scheduled Sends (set up via Wizard or UI sends)
  • Email Studio - User-Initiated Sends (Interactions)
  • Email Studio - Triggered Sends (Interactions)
  • Transactional Emails - Email Definitions
  • Web Studio - Landing Pages / Microsites / Etc
  • API - Verify that any incoming or outgoing API calls do not use this DE
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There definitely could be many related assets tied up with those Data Extensions, like SQLs, scripts, or Lookups on the CloudPage, for example. Deleting Data Extension without knowing what purpose it served and where and how it was used before might cause errors.

Real-life example-

We had one empty Data Extension that was used to hold really specific errors from the CloudPage. And it was under conditioning rules, so due to no errors it got really old and still empty but then somebody deleted it and the whole CloudPage started to have 500 Server Error due to the absence of this Data Extension.

In other words, depending on your instance structure and your experience with it, you can delete whatever Data Extension you want as long as you are sure that it will not break any related process.

Moreover, there are some limits on the amount of Data Extension you can have on your account without reducing the performance, please review this article.

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