In my previous posts, I have covered several topics around retention labels. I have mentioned retention policies but never discussed the differences between the two features, and I thought I would cover that here. As a bonus, I created a video to cover this topic and provide you with the process for creating a retention policy. You can access the video here.

Retention Policy

Where retention labels can get very granular with respect to content, a retention policy does not. It is not possible to limit the application of a retention policy within a location it is applied to (check out the video linked above for a better illustration). The following table will provide an overview of the differences between retention policies and retention labels.

Retention PolicyRetention Label
Retention controls configured within the policy affect all content within the location(s) the retention policy is deployed to.Retention labels are available within all libraries, mailboxes, folders, etc. they are deployed to but application to content is granular. A label has to be applied to the content to affect the retention.
Cannot be deployed to sub sites or libraries. Are inherited from the parent site collection , mailbox, etc.Cannot be deployed to sub sites or libraries. Are inherited from the parent site collection , mailbox, etc.
Disposition reviews unavailableCan perform disposition reviews on content when retention schedule is complete.
No user intervention necassary.If auto-apply features are not utilized, a user must manually apply the label to content.
Will allow the deletion of content from the source location (maintained in Preservation Hold library or Recoverable Items in Exchange))Will block the deletion of content in SharePoint. Moves data to Preservation Hold library in OneDrive for Business. Moved to Recoverable Items in Exchange.
Unable to customize auto-retention on specific content.Can specify content to apply to based on auto-retention policy rules.
Regulatory controls are not possible.Regulatory controls are available through optional Regulatory Labels.
Available with Microsoft 365 E3 LicenseManual labels available with Microsoft 365 E3 License, but disposition reviews are not available with E3.
Automation of retention labels and disposition reviews available with Microsoft 365 E5 license.

Create and Deploy a Retention Policy

  1. Navigate to Compliance Console in M365 (
  2. Click on Information Governance.
  3. Click on Retention Policies
  4. Click on “+ New retention policy”

Retention Policies - Create Retention Policy

  1. Give the policy a name and a description (optional). Click Next.

Retention Policies - Policy Name

  1. Select Static scope (I’ll cover adaptive scopes in a future presentation). Click Next
  2. Select the location to deploy the policy to. Note for this example, I limited it to a single SharePoint site.

Retention Policies - Policy Locations

  1. Update the retention controls based on the requirements of the policy.
    1. Select whether to delete at the end of the schedule or do nothing. Setting it to “do nothing” allows users to delete the content after the schedule is complete.

Retention Policies - Retention Settings

  1. Click Next.
  2. Review the configuration and click Submit.

The policy will deploy to the selected location (give it an hour). Be aware that if your site contains data older than the retention settings, the policy will immediately clean up the data.


Thanks for reading!