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Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Managing your Exchange mailbox for easier data retention

Over time our mailboxes become cluttered with a variety of messages, some important and others not. Organizational data retention rules require that certain types of messages to be saved for a specific period of time and no longer. Exchange Online provides Retention Policies, a feature that can help you manage your Exchange mailbox by automatically deleting certain messages after a specified period of time. For example, you could create a folder to contain email from a listserv that you subscribe to.  Then you could apply a Retention Policy to that folder to delete the listserv email after a specified period of time.

Note: Retention Policies are not the same as AutoArchive, which is a different feature. Use of Auto Archive is not recommended.

What are Exchange Retention Policies?

With Retention Policies, a message or folder is moved to the Recoverable Items folder (not Deleted Items), where it will eventually be permanently deleted. Recoverable items are permanently deleted after 14 days. The Recoverable Items folder is not visible in Outlook, but you can use the Recover deleted items command to recover deleted items (see the Microsoft TechNet article Recover deleted items or email in Outlook Web App for details).  Note that if notice of a Public Records Request, Audit or Litigation is received, responsive records must be removed from the Recoverable Items Folder before they are deleted.

Setting Exchange Retention Policies

Policies are assigned by default to each folder that you create. You can set policies for individual messages and change the default policy for folders that you create. You can change policies for folders that you create, but not for standard folders such as Inbox, Sent Items, Junk E-Mail, and so forth.

Polices applied to individual items take precedence over policies applied to the folder that contains them, so if you move an item from one folder to another, it does not necessarily assume the retention policy of the destination folder.

Note on date calculations: Retention periods for mail items begin when the item is created. For calendar items, the retention period starts on the last appointment date.

Change policies

  1. Open OWA.
  2. Right-click the desired message or folder, point to Assign Policy, and then click the desired policy.

The following Retention policies are available with Exchange Online:

  • 1 Week Delete (7 days)
  • 1 Month (31 day) Delete (1 month)
  • 6 Month Delete (6 months)
  • 1 Year Delete (1 year)
  • 2 Year Delete (2 year)
  • 5 Year Delete (5 years)
  • 6 Year Delete (6 years)
  • Never Delete (Never)
  • Use parent folder policy

Note: Archive Policies is a feature related to Retention Policies in which messages or folders are moved to an online storage area called the In-Place Archive. For Exchange Online, the Archive Policies feature is not enabled. Even though you see the menu for Archive Policies, the policies are not applied. You can use Outlook Rules to move items to a designated folder. For more information on Outlook Rules, see the Microsoft article Manage email messages by using rules.

Review your Data Retention Strategy with your manager

The Retention features described here are tools that can help you satisfy the data retention requirements of your organization. However, you must review your data retention strategy with your manager to ensure that you are applying the Retention features appropriately. Organizational retention strategies are developed by the UW Records Management Office.

Retention Policies upon termination from the university

Upon termination from the University, your data will be retained in accordance with University termination policies, not the Exchange Online Retention polices.

The system administrator controls the policies

The system administrator can create new polices and can control which policies are available to users. In some systems, users can create their own policies, but this is not available in Exchange Online.

For more information