What’s included in the Preservation Hold Library in SharePoint?

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When you publish a Retention Policy to a SharePoint site configured to retain content for a specific period of time, it does its “magic” behind the scenes in a special place called the Preservation Hold Library (PHL). This is well-documented in many locations including the official docs.microsoft.com site, numerous other bloggers’ sites, as well as my own.

This post is not about that, but rather what’s included in the PHL.

I was recently asked a question around what type of content is included in the Preservation Hold library. Does it include only documents (primarily what organizations are interested in and what most posts refer to) or does it also include content stored in other locations across the site?

Great question! In case you were also wondering, here’s a list of the actions done on a site for the common types of content and what, if anything, is placed in the PHL when a retention policy is published to the site (without a conditional apply):

Key to know… retention will apply to ALL libraries and lists on the site including list item attachments, site pages, calendar events, and site assets.

A retention policy configured to delete content after the retention period will NOT delete the home page of a site (good thing!), however it will delete any of the images that may have been placed on pages (including the home page) as the images exist in the Site Assets library in a page-named folder and that library is also under retention.

Retention action

In the table above:

  • if versioning is enabled for a library, ALL versions will be copied to the PHL on document deletion
  • content on the site prior to the Retention Policy being published to it (“Existing” in table) and content added after the Retention Policy was published (“New” in table) behaves differently, thus the distinction

Let me know if you have other types of content you’d like me to test/add/include in the table above.

Thanks for reading.


Credit: Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels


  1. Great info, as alway. Thank you. But what is the difference between “New document is changed” and “Existing document is changed”?

    1. Hi Goran, thank you! Any content on the site prior to the Retention Policy being published to it (“Existing” in table) and content added after the Retention Policy was published (“New” in table) behaves differently, thus the distinction.

  2. Thanks Joanne.Great table. I wonder if this is enough for GPDR . We just created a retention policy for 13 years . I hope this does the trick. Is there a “jump start” Help about this complex subject ? Many thanks .Karen

  3. Great article again.

    One addition is “list item with versioning enabled if deleted” the csv file that gets added to the PHL “only” contains the most recent version and not the version history which is a bit of a shame.

    Given that an individual csv file is added for each deleted list item there is an appropriate place to add the version history as additional rows in the csv.

  4. I’m confused by the new and existing. I ran a test…

    1. Created a new retention policy and pushed it to the site collection.
    2. Waited for the policy to take effect.
    3. Created a new document – no PHL exists.
    4. Edit the document a few dozen times – version count increases, no PHL exists.
    5. Delete the document, PHL is created and I see the deleted document.
    6. Repeat above, incase the existence of PHL is a prerequisite, still no docs in the PHL until they’re deleted.

    I have a customer asking about duplicate storage while a document is active in their doc lib. My testing suggests that the PHL won’t contain documents until they’re deleted, thus saving space.

    Am I missing something?



    P.S. Love your blog series.

    1. Hi Rob,
      I responded via Twitter but this is a longer, more complete answer. If I understand the steps and tests you’ve ran above, you’re running into the scenario I describe in the “In the table above” section… “content on the site prior to the Retention Policy being published to it (“Existing” in table) and content added after the Retention Policy was published (“New” in table) behaves differently, thus the distinction”

      What this means is if you add a new document (which you’ve done) it won’t add anything into the PHL until you delete it. If you have existing documents, it will add entries into the PHL as you edit the document. Does this answer your question? Please suggest a wording change to provide more clarity in the post.
      Thanks for you support!

      1. Thanks Joanne, I believe that helps… in my case I had no existing documents in the site collection before I published the policy. I appreciate you clearing that up for me 🙂

  5. Thanks Joanne for the information.

    Do you know if it is possible to have a retention only on deletion of document and not on change of document ?

    I have a use case where the client don’t want to let document be deleted but want to keep the possibility of moving document. Therefore we can not just remove the deletion persmission because it is required for the move functionnality.

    I tought of Retention but I don’t want to all documents changes to be keep in the PHL, only the deletion.

    Hope it clear. Thank for the help!

    1. Hi Jeff, this is not possible with retention policies. Off the top of my head I don’t know of any way to do what they’re asking.

  6. Thanks for your information Joanne.

    Do you know if it possible to have the documents associated with meta data after deletion of the document and can I restore the document from PHL with all versions and meta data values.

    Let’s assume I’m using document set and deleting the files from one of the document set and would like to restore it from PHL.

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Yes there is. I’m publishing a blog post in about an hour to share the answer.

  7. Hi Joanne,

    Great article!!! I do have 1 question regarding PHL. We created a new site and applied a retain forever policy. However we are seeing some documents in the PHL that have a modified date many years before the site creation date. Trying to figure out why a document would have been added to the PHL that has a last modified date of 2018 when the site was created in 2021. The item was never deleted but yet exists in the PHL.

    Thank you

    1. Hi! Not sure. When was the document created? Was it migrated in? Check the file properties of the document in the regular library (not the PHL). The file doesn’t have to be deleted to show up in the PHL… if it was modified it will also show up.
      It’s difficult for me to t-shoot from afar… I’ve never noticed this behaviour before.

      1. Thank you for your reply. Document was created in 2018 and stored locally on our on prem server. Moved the file to the sharepoint site right after the site was created. (Sept 17th 2021). In looking at the properties of the file it appears it was editied twice on 9/17/21. But in PHL it has a modified date of 2018.

      2. It is likely putting the file version “as it existed before the change” in the PHL. Look at the version history of the file on the regular library in SP… does it match that date?

        That’s all the t-shooting I can provide.

      3. Hi Joanne,

        I think what happened is that we created the site and applied the “Forever” retention policy. Then immeditaly started moving documents. From my reasearch it could take 24 hours for the retention policy to kick in therefore any documents uploaded prior to the retention policy hitting would hit the PHL as per your chart above. That is if im understanding your chart correctly.

  8. How about folders? If I delete a folder, I can see that folder in the Recycle bin. If I delete that folder from the Recycle bin I don’t see htat folder in Preservation hold library.

    1. Hi Vlad,
      Folders are not included in retention processing… only the documents within. You won’t see a folder in the PHL.

  9. Great article! But can you field some questions:

    I was running out of space in onedrive 1TB. Someone said I could change it to 5TB. (for free… there’s only 2 of us in the tenant). I did that and the system took it.

    Now I am at 1.8TB and being told I am out of space. I tried deleting things from one drive, then empty recycle bin and empty 2nd recycle bin. Space wasn;t getting freed up. PHL was getting larger.

    Googling, I found something about retention policies. I changed it from years to 1 day. now things are disappearing from the active folders of one drive and emails from inbox and other folders..

    I changed retention back to years (do I need a retention policy at all? I don’t want my active data to disappear.)

    Trying to delete some of that data i deleted from onedrive , now that it’s in PHL to free up one drive space… I get a message that ‘This library contains items that have been modified or deleted but must remain available due to eDiscovery holds. Items cannot be modified or removed.’

    I have business basic plan. there’s no ediscovery cases that I can see.

    1) Is there a way to delete files from PHL?


    the view of the PHL shows 30 items (there’s 80K items in there).

    2) Is there a way to restore things to the onedrive / exchange folders they were taken from?

    3) is there a way to see more than 30 things at a time?


    1. Hi Mike,
      1. There is no way to delete files from the PHL – this is by design. You have to decide if you want a retention policy or not… based on your description I’m unclear on that. If you don’t need/want it, then disable the retention policy, wait until that is ‘successful’ and then you may have to wait for a period of time for the content to be removed from the PHL. (up to 30 days????)
      2. The restore capability for SP/OD is 93 days in the combination of the first and second stage recycle bins. If you’ve permanently deleted them out of the second-stage, then you may be out-of-luck. Log a ticket with Microsoft to see if you have any further recourse.
      3. Assuming you’re referring to more than 30 things at a time from the PHL… I’ve never tried. Can you create a custom view by selecting Library from the ribbon? At that point, it’s like any other SP library.

      Hope some of this helped!

  10. Some great articles on this site. Many thanks.

    Apologies for dragging up an older post but do you have any input on what Microsoft are referring to when they state in their documentation that:

    “List items are not supported by retention policies but are supported by retention labels”?


    My testing aligns with this article in that list items do end up in the preservation hold library when a retention policy is in scope. I haven’t tested with deletion so I suppose it could be this.

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