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Office 365 Retention Policies - Excluding Inactive Mailboxes

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Nathanael Blevins
New Contributor

We have one global Retention Policy configured in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center. It is enabled on Exchange Items (all).

 

We also have a large number of inactive mailboxes linked to active users who also have active mailboxes. I've restored the contents of the inactive mailboxes into their active mailboxes, and now wish to delete their inactive mailboxes.

 

This would require me to exclude those inactive mailboxes from the global retention policy.

 

In Powershell, if I attempt to do so using the inactive mailbox's guid (example):

 

Set-RetentionCompliancePolicy "POLICY NAME" -AddExchangeLocationException "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000"

 

I get:

 

"The specified recipient "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000" couldn't be found.

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There does not appear to be a switch for this cmdlet to allow me to include inactive mailboxes. So what are my options here?

12 Replies
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Unfortunately I've recovered all my inactive mailboxes recently, so I don't have one handy to test in order to confirm this. Have you tried adding an exception via the SCC UI?

 

Perhaps @Tony Redmond can help here. Or you can just open a support case to get a proper answer.

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I don't think inactive mailboxes are processed by the Managed Folder Assistant even when a retention policies covers all mailboxes. These mailboxes are, after all, "inactive." They will be removed from Office 365 after any holds that cover the mailboxes lapse.

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In other words, check what organizational and specific holds exist belonging to eDiscovery cases (Office 365 and Exchange) and remove the holds from any inactive mailboxes.  For example, the screen shot shows that a number of inactive mailboxes are under hold. The inactive mailboxes are indicated clearly. If you remove any of these mailboxes from the hold - and it is the last hold the mailbox is covered by - it is removed from Office 365.Inactive mailboxes under holdInactive mailboxes under hold

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Thank you for taking the time to respond!

 

Unfortunately, we are not using eDiscovery Case Holds. We created this new retention policy to get away from those, which were giving us trouble. The documentation recommends retention policies over those other hold types as well.

 

So I guess there is currently no way to exclude these inactive mailboxes we wish to delete. It seems we're stuck with them?

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Let me get this straight. You were using old-fashioned SharePoint eDiscovery holds created through the SharePoint eDiscovery Center? 

 

In any case, the document is correct. The old-style holds are deprecated and the holds to use now are those created by eDiscovery cases.

 

But you've applied a retention policy, not a hold. When you apply a retention policy, the Managed Folder Assistant processes the mailboxes that come within the scope of the policy to apply its settings. The policy will keep information for a certain period or remove information after it reaches a certain age. The only holds that occurs is when a user tries to remove information that should be kept. In that case, Exchange will make sure that to keep a copy of the information until the hold elapses.

 

You can delete a mailbox that has a retention policy assigned to it, and Office 365 will then convert that mailbox into an inactive mailbox. Eventually, the hold placed by the retention policy will lapse and once all holds are removed from an inactive mailbox, it is permanently removed.

 

If you want to remove an inactive mailbox immediately, you must first remove it from any holds that apply. Because this is a retention policy, you can restore the inactive mailbox, then exclude it from the retention policy, and then remove it. As no holds apply to the mailbox at this point, it will be removed.

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I think somehow I am not making myself clear. But no worries, I will open a case with Microsoft.

 

We were using the Exchange eDiscovery Case Holds. We replaced them by creating a retention policy in the new Security and Compliance Center. We chose only the Exchange Items location as the scope, which creates a global hold policy at the organization level (the only place you can find the hold's guid).

 

Our hold specifies that everything be kept forever, so inactive mailboxes will never be purged my the Mailbox Folder Assistant.

 

In any case, if I get a solution from MS, I will post it here!

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@Tony Redmond the issue as I understand it is that the SCC controls don't allow you to list/select Inactive mailboxes for inclusion/exclusion to specific retention policy. According to the documentation here, they *should* be supported: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/overview-of-inactive-mailboxes-in-office-365-1fbd74e8-7a60-...

 

I provisioned a new Inactive mailbox earlier today, and I can confirm that I don't see it in the UI controls. PowerShell doesn't work either, I get an error saying the recipient couldn't be found. Looks like a bug to me, as I'm almost sure the documentation got it right - we should be able to controls this even for inactive mailboxes.

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I don't read the documentation to read that they should be supported in the picker. I read the documentation to say that you can use Office 365 retention policies "to make an inactive mailbox." In other words, if you apply a retention policy to a mailbox and then delete it, the fact that the retention policy is in place makes the deleted mailbox an inactive mailbox. I see nothing in the documentation to say that you can add inactive mailboxes to a policy after they are inactive (because another hold exists).

 

I do see the explicit statement that you can "use Security & Compliance Center PowerShell to exclude an inactive mailbox from an organization-wide Office 365 retention policy." This seems to be incorrect as I cannot make this happen using a DN, alias, or Exchange GUID (or GUID).

 

So, it seems that SCC does not include inactive mailboxes in its pickers and that you cannot use PowerShell to exclude an inactive mailbox from an Office 365 retention policy (for trivial pursuit points, you can add a litigation hold to an inactive mailbox). 

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Quick question on Retention Policies and separated employees, specifically in Office 365...

 

Say we have a General Retention Policy that retains emails for 3 years and then deletes them.  I have an employee who separates from the org.  We remove the employees license.  Under normal circumstances (no holds on the mailbox) the mailbox will be removed by O365 after 30 days.  But will it?  Since there are emails that have a Retention Policy that is Retaining the emails, will they be kept for the 3 years, or will they be deleted after 30 with the mailbox?

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If a hold exists on a mailbox, Office 365 keeps it as an inactive mailbox until that hold elapses. Once the hold elapses, the mailbox is removed.

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But a Retain Retention Policy isn't a hold on a mailbox. It's supposed to keep a shadow copy of files for the duration of the policy. If the mailbox is deleted...does O365 still keep the copy, or is that gone?
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