Microsoft 365 (Outlook on the web) - Retention policies in Outlook on the web

Office 365 has a feature that allow users the ability to manage the amount of time a message is retained in a folder, Retention policy.
  • IMPORTANT: There are some folders with retention policies that cannot be modified within UW-Madison's implementation of Office 365. These include: Inbox, Deleted Items, Sent Items, Drafts, and Junk Email folders.

  • IMPORTANT: Archiving policies are not implemented within UW-Madison Office 365 implementation. Regardless of what settings you see or can select within your client, archiving options will not work. For more details on email, chat, and text retention and archiving policies for UW-Madison, please see UW-Madison Administrative Related Record Schedules page.

Note: Some desktop clients also provide archiving features. These local features are not recommended since they will store your data locally and the Office 365 team cannot guarantee its safety/security.

In this article

What are the default retention policies?

Retention policies and tags are preset for every Office 365 account. Some folders/items have retention tags assigned by default (and may not be modified) and some can be controlled by the user. Other than the Junk Email folder, all other default folders (eg. Inbox, Sent Items, Drafts, and Deleted Items, other folders you may have created) retain messages indefinitely. Messages within Junk Email folder are deleted automatically after thirty days of being placed within this folder - if you do not find a message within your Junk Email folder, you may be able to recover it. Here is a listing of current retention options you can choose from:

retention options

Note: There is no parent retention policy - any email within a folder using this retention policy will be indefinitely retained unless the owner takes some action on it.

What is a retention tag?

A retention tag contains a definition of a time limit, called the retention period, and an action to be taken once the limit is reached. The tags are intended to be applied to folders and items in a mailbox. The retention period is the length of time after an item arrives or is created before an action is taken.

What is a retention policy?

Retention policies allow you to group retention tags and apply them to users. Different retention policies can be applied to different users.

Types of retention tags - there are three types of retention tags:

Default policy tags
DPTs apply to untagged mailbox items in the entire mailbox. Untagged items are mailbox items that don't already have a retention tag applied, either by inheritance from the folder in which they're located or by the user.
Retention policy tags
RPTs apply retention settings to default folders such as the Inbox, Deleted Items, and Sent Items. Mailbox items in a default folder that have an RPT applied inherit the folder's tag. Users can't apply or change an RPT applied to a default folder, but they can apply a different tag to the items in a default folder.
Personal tags
Personal tags are available to Outlook and Outlook on the web users as part of their retention policy. Users can apply personal tags to folders they create or to individual items, even if those items already have a different tag applied. In Outlook and Outlook on the web, personal tags with the Delete and Allow Recovery or Permanently Delete actions appear as Retention Policy, as shown in the following figure.

For further retention details on specific folders/items, please review the following references:

Manage retention policies

Important: At this time, you can only use pre-existing retention policies. You cannot create your own.

Note: The steps below pertain to Outlook on the web. These settings can be managed via Outlook for Windows by using the Assign Policy menu option.

To manage the list of retention policies that you can use:

  1. Sign in to Outlook on the web.
  2. At the top of the page, select Settings settings icon > View all Outlook settings.
  3. Select Mail section within left hand navigational pane.
  4. Select Retention policies.

The following table includes details about the policies that can be applied to items in your message folders. To add additional policies, select add new icon. To remove an optional policy from your list, select the policy, and then select delete discard/trash icon.

Column Description
Name The name of the policy, usually descriptive.
Retention action What happens to a message when the retention period is over. A message may be archived or deleted.
Retention period How long a message will stay in your mailbox before the policy is applied.

To see the full details about a retention policy, select it to display the details. The details pane will show whether the policy is required, how long a message will be held, where a message will go after the retention period, and any comments.

Assign retention policies

You can see the retention policies available to you in Outlook on the web options. In Options, select Organize email > Retention policies. Or, in Options, select MAIL > Automatic processing > Retention policies.

To assign a retention policy to a message or folder, you have to go to your messages.

  1. Sign in to Outlook on the web.
  2. In the folder pane, right-click the folder for which you want to apply a policy and select Assign policy.
  3. Select the policy you want to assign. You can also select Use parent folder policy.

What happens to messages that are removed?

A retention policy may permanently delete messages, or it may move them to your Deleted Items folder. If the retention policy description says Delete (Temporarily recoverable) you can use Recover deleted items to recover the messages. The default period is 30 days for UW-Madison Office 365 accounts. See Recover an item that’s no longer in your Deleted Items folder in Recover deleted items or email in Outlook on the web.

When you recover an item that was removed by a retention policy, you have to either put it in a folder that doesn’t have a policy associated with it, or remove the policy from that item after you recover it; otherwise, the item may be removed again.

What else do I need to know?

  • You can’t manage retention policies for your Calendar.
  • Retention policies are created and managed by Office 365 Service Team.
  • Retention policies run daily.
  • You can learn more about managing folders in Outlook on the web in Working with mail folders.

Keywordsmicrosoft office365 o365 m365 microsoft 365 delete deleting archiving recovery rules service account netid filtering inbox emails folders archive arhiving   Doc ID44774
OwnerO365 S.GroupMicrosoft 365
Created2014-11-10 10:45:59Updated2023-02-02 09:22:54
SitesDoIT Help Desk, Microsoft 365
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