Specific differences between a Litigation Hold, and a Forever Retention Policy for OneDrive data?

Frequent Contributor

We have a requirement to keep our terminated employees Exchange AND OneDrive data for a period of 'at least' seven years, with the option of it being open ended.   But I have a few questions about the differences between the two options.


1. What is the difference between creating a "Forever" Retention Policy for OneDrive and Exchange data. versus using a Litigation Hold?   And can a Litigation Hold be used for OneDrive as well, or is that only for Exchange mailboxes?

2. Where does the terminated user's mailbox and OneDrive data reside, once the policy/hold it applied and I attempt to remove their account from the tenant completely?   In other words, where would I go in the M365 portal, to see where the mailbox and OneDrive data are being held?

2.  How does each option impact user licensing, if I want to remove the user from the M365 tenant completely?

3 Replies



So, Litigation Holds may only be applied to mailboxes, where as Data Governance Based Retention Policies which you can configure via the Security and Compliance Center maybe applied across wider Microsoft 365 services.


It is Microsoft's current recommendation to use Data Governance based Retention Policies in preference to other methods such as Holds and eDiscovery cases and holds.


With Retention Policies, any content that a user deletes will be copied to a hidden folder and preserved for the duration of the retention policy which is applied.


Check out this article which explains Retention in M365 - https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/compliance/retention?view=o365-worldwide


It specifically refers to Litigation Hold as an "older feature."


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Thanks @PeterRising !


One follow up.  Do you know what happens to that OneDrive data covered under the Retention Policy, if that user's account is completely removed from M365?   Do I have to migrate it over to an existing user, or an existing Document Library, in order for it to remain?

Hey @OneTechBeyond ,


If you put OneDrive on hold ( like by creating a ediscovery case) , the hold will take precedence over the normal OneDrive deletion process and the data wont be deleted until the hold expires, even if the user account is deleted. You can either put the user on hold or simply configure retention settings for OneDrive , you can retain the OneDrive data of a deleted user using retention settings for up to 10 Years!


Configure retention settings: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/onedrive/set-retention

Do remember to set the Manager and secondary owner attributes before deleting the user to be able to receive notifications when the hold/policy is about to expire.


Please refer : https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/onedrive/retention-and-deletion


Once you delete the user, you receive an email from Microsoft, looks somewhat like this:


It gives you the URL at the bottom as well to access onedrive files.