How Long Does Office 365 Keep Emails using the Retention Policy?

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A topic that seems to be surrounded by a lot of confusion these days is how long Microsoft Office 365 retains the data. Well MS office retains your data till the time you delete them by chance or deliberately. The Office 365 retention policy defines how long data can last in the mailbox. Action is required when it reaches the maturity level or the directed retention age. As soon as the message reaches its retention level, it is either shifted to the archive mailbox or deleted. As the organizations and MNC’s are taking a leap they are experiencing the problem of massive and complex data. This results in the loss of data or certain deletion in MS Office 365.

Now many questions arise in our mind like:

  • How long your mails are there in Office 365?
  • What happens to the mailbox that is deleted from MS Office 365?
  • What all retention policies Microsoft Office 365 offers?

In this article, I will be addressing all these questions. But before jumping into any question let’s take a sneak-peak into the Retention Policy

What do you mean by Retention Policy?

In a layman language “Retention Policies defines the maximum limit of time where an email exists but there is no guarantee that it will be there for how long.”

How long your mails are there in Office 365?

In the latest update of MS Office 365, Microsoft has switched to the Exchange Server hosting. This recent amendment in Office 365 hosting facilitates its clients to store the deleted items up to the ‘Forever’ limit. It also has the Messaging Record Management (MRM) feature which has a retention policy in it. When you choose this option, you have the access to control the time limit of your email as for how long you want to retain the ‘Deleted Items’ folder. Those who are using MS Office 365 can also use the same option as On-Premises Exchange Administrators and also enhance their Retention time from 30 to 24855 days.

What happens to the mailbox that is deleted from MS Office 365?

To date, whenever you used to delete any email from Office 365 it used to go in the Deleted Items folder, but now the story has changed completely, you have two options.

  • Keep the deleted emails in the deleted Items folder
  • Give specification that whenever you sign out Outlook Web App (OWA) empties your folder

The messages of your email are remain stored in the Deleted folder or marked as deleted till the time you delete them on your own. After some time they are shifted to the Hidden Deleted Items folder. Hang on! They can still recover from there but within 30 days. Post 30 days, files in the Hidden Deleted folder is deleted forever and cannot be recovered anymore.

  • When you sign off, deleted items folder get empty automatically

If you are looking forward to vacating the Deleted Items folder automatically whenever you take a sign off, then follow these steps mentioned below:

  • In Outlook Web Apps, select Settings icon >> Options >> Mail >> Message
  • Then, click on the checkbox beside the Empty the Deleted Items folder when you log out.

What all retention policies Microsoft Office 365 offers

Nowadays most of our data sit on cloud service. It is very important to know that how long Office 365 stores our emails. Retention Policy feature plays a very significant role in managing your data. It allows the Office 365 users to set the time period for which they want to retain their folder. This policy further has two categories.

  • Default Retention Policy
  • Manage Retention Policy

Default Retention Policy:

When you create a new account in Office 365 you will get an Exchange Online License. The new mailbox will be there for you automatically. As soon as the mailbox is created it will assign a default retention policy, by the name of Default MRM Policy. Note that a mailbox can have only one retention policy at a time.

Retention Policy: Manage

In this category, you can only manage the policies created earlier. To perform the action, Outlook Web Apps (OWA) enables you to view the Retention policies that have been created earlier by the Office 365 admin. In the Retention Time duration settings “Never Delete” is set default for all the folders and messages.

How to manage retention policies?

  • Log in to the Outlook web-based account
  • Then select the Outlook option given at the top of the page
  • Now click the Settings icon>> Options>>Mail>>Retention policies

Create Retention Policy

You can also allocate the retention policy to Office 365. It will set standards for your messages and folders as per your preference.  How to set this policy let’s follow the steps given below:

  • Log in to the web-based outlook account
  • Now select the Outlook/Mail option and browse to the folder pane
  • Now select Assign policy else select Use parent folder policy



Nowadays, the accidental deletion of Office 365 is common. Therefore many users want to know Office 365 retention policy. So it is better to take a backup of Office 365 Emails into PC or hard drive. This could be only possible with the help Office 365 Export tool. You can easily use this tool to keep your data into the PC. As you never know when the retention policy expires and you lose all your crucial data.

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