Disposition Review and the SharePoint Recycle Bin

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I received this question from an attendee during a recent presentation I was giving on Microsoft 365 Information Governance so I thought I’d share the answer in a post in case there are others wondering the same…

Question: “When reviewing dispositions for your organization’s records and the deletion is approved, does it go into the SharePoint site’s recycle bin?”

Great question! This post walks thru the lifecycle of a document once a disposition reviewer approves its deletion.

First things first… here’s Microsoft’s official answer for How long until disposed content is permanently deleted? The key point from their article as it relates to this question is “the content in the SharePoint site or OneDrive account becomes eligible for the standard cleanup process”. In case you’re wondering what that means… this post is for you! 🙂

What is the Standard Cleanup Process?

From reference link (Restore deleted items from the site collection recycle bin), the Standard cleanup process within SharePoint/OneDrive means items are retained for 93 days from the time you delete them from their original location. They stay in the site Recycle Bin the entire time, unless someone deletes them from there or empties that Recycle Bin. In that case, the items go to the second stage Recycle Bin, where they stay for the remainder of the 93 days unless:

  • the site collection Recycle Bin exceeds its quota and starts purging the oldest items
  • the items are manually deleted by the site collection administrator from the site collection Recycle Bin

SharePoint Online retains backups of all content for 14 additional days beyond actual deletion. If content can not be restored via the Recycle Bin or Files Restore, an administrator can contact Microsoft Support to request a restore any time inside the 14 day window .

You therefore have up to 93+14 days to retrieve the document once a disposition has been approved (with the noted exceptions above) from the recycle bin if required.

To demonstrate, I’ll walk-thru the disposition process on a single item in my own tenant. I have a document set with several documents in it, each labeled with the retention label, Test Review Label. This label is configured to require a disposition review at the end of the retention period. I’ll work with the document named Sample policy 4.docx.

Before starting, both the first and second stage recycle bins in this SharePoint site are empty. Once the retention period has been met for any item tagged with the retention label, the disposition review process will occur.

Since I’m one of the disposition reviewers, I’ll receive an email reminder of the pending disposition of all items labeled with Test Review Label:

I can either click Go there now from the email  OR navigate to the Compliance Centre, select the Records management menu option and the Disposition tab. For this example, I’m performing a disposition review on items labeled with the Test Review Label so I’ll select that one:

There are 12 items (documents and items) pending disposition. I’ll select the first item in the list, Sample policy 4.docx, view its details, and select Approve disposal.

I’ll provide a reason for disposition.

Tip: To apply some rigor and control, include specialized training for disposition reviewers in your organization on a standard vocabulary to use for their disposal reasons. E.g. Organizations may want additional information provided on dispositions such as destruction certificate reference #, authority, etc.

The reasons can be entered either for an individual item or in bulk. They appear under a Comments column in the Disposed items tab although are not in the exported csv (as of Dec. 2020).

Once saved, it’s immediately removed from the Pending Dispositions tab, however it doesn’t appear in the Disposed items tab immediately nor is it deleted from the source SharePoint library immediately. How long does that take?

Disposed items tab

It was visible on the Disposed items tab ~an hour after the disposition review was complete.

SharePoint library

The document was still visible and wasn’t deleted from the document set until the weekly process ran (which on my tenant was about 5 days later). Since I am a disposition reviewer for this label, I also received an automated email from the Disposition Review process indicating this:

If I select the Go there now link above, it takes me to the Disposed items tab within the Records Management feature in the Compliance Center.

SharePoint Recycle Bin

When the document is deleted from SharePoint, it moves to the second stage recycle bin. At this point, it will follow the standard cleanup process. As stated earlier in this post, this means it will stay here for 93 days before being permanently deleted. You will have an additional 14 days beyond the 93 to request a restore from Microsoft if necessary.

As of December 2020, an eDiscovery search will currently NOT look into the recycle bin and see this document, however Microsoft has announced they are working on allowing this capability on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap with a targeted release of October CY2021.

Reference: Microsoft Compliance Center: Expanded support to search and export items in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business Recycle Bin in Core eDiscovery and Advanced eDiscovery (Feature ID 67092)

BONUS: Add this to your Governance site!

I’m a proponent of building a SharePoint site in your environment dedicated to governance. Governance can span many areas, however as it relates to Data Governance and Security Governance, it consistently has four key messages end-users should understand (applies whether you are talking about security controls, retention controls, or protection controls):

The content on the site should be customized to the organization’s needs and should evolve over time. This is not a once-and-done activity.

An example of content to include on the site is for disposition reviewers. Why not dedicate a page to this important role in your organization to ensure they understand the expected behavior when disposing content housed in Microsoft 365? Explain why the file they just disposed of will not appear in the Disposed items tab immediately and why it will continue to appear in the SharePoint site for a period of time before appearing in the recycle bin.

Thanks for reading.


Credit: Photo by Neenu Vimalkumar on Unsplash


  1. Hi Joanne. Have you had any experience of the disposition review process only deleting some files and not others (despite them all being in the same library, tagged with the same label, and all being deleted from the disposition review page at the time)? The ones that weren’t deleted when they should have been are still sitting in the SharePoint library despite them being listed under the ‘Disposed Items’ page within the Compliance Centre. The ‘Label Setting Value’ column for these items is showing as 17 in the library. I’ve been able to work out what some of these values refer to but 17 is one I haven’t come across yet. And finally, where the Compliance Centre used to generate emails every 5-7 days advising that there are items awaiting disposition review…I’ve noticed that these are now being generated everyday. Do you have any information on if that means that the disposition timer job is now running daily to? (I’m using SP Online).

    1. Hi Kieran, I’m afraid I don’t have much for helpful answers for you. The last information I have on this and what I have experienced is the job that controls the deletion of the items from SharePoint occurs only once per week and in my experience it should remove everything in the library that is eligible for deletion with that same retention label.
      Generally speaking, I see the disposition email happening on the same day for all retention labels, however that may just be a coincidence in the tenants I’ve worked in (meaning perhaps you may receive an email for different retention labels on different days). Are you saying you’re receiving daily emails for the same retention label or each one for a different retention label?

      Finally, I don’t know what ’17’ means. I can dig around and see if I can determine what that internal value indicates.


      1. Hi again and thanks for your reply – greatly appreciated.

        I receive an email per retention label (where there is content ready for disposition review tagged with that label). These used to be generated once every 5-7 days in sync with when the timer job ran but since November, I have been receiving these emails on almost a daily basis. Frustratingly, there isn’t an easy way to see exactly when the timer job ran but if it is still running in sync with the auto-generated emails, I’m assuming it is now also running daily.
        I’m keeping a close eye on our recent dispositions to confirm that assumption but looking at the dates that the system has executed deletions over the past few weeks, these are often only a few days apart as opposed to the previous 5-7 days.
        While this would be a welcome improvement, you would hope that the process would delete all the content marked for disposal rather than just some of it. I have noticed in the past that it can sometimes take two ‘cycles’ of the timer job to delete content but when this happened, it normally cleared everything at the same time as opposed to leaving half of it in place.
        I know that MSFT are supposed to be in the process of rolling out a new retention engine for SharePoint Online and so I’m wondering if the process just isn’t able to cope with the volume of content we’re trying to dispose of at present.
        We frequently have issues with the dispositions page not loading at all. Not sure if you’ve come across this problem yourself either?


      2. HI Kieran, I haven’t come across that specific issue, however I do know that 1 client of mine trying to do a large volume of dispositions has also ran into issues. Microsoft is working at performance-tuning the disposition engine however I don’t have any specific details around what issues they are addressing. Have you logged an official ticket thru your Premier support channel? I would at least do that so its logged with them.

  2. Hi. I don’t yet have a dedicated ticket open for the issue where the timer job isn’t clearing all items – I am currently monitoring when the clean-up process is running and what it is/isn’t disposing of so that I have a body of evidence to open the ticket with. It is definitely now running more frequently than every 5-6 days from what I can see though.
    I do have an existing ticket open in relation to the dispositions page not loading and received an update on that on Friday. I have been advised that there is an API time-out issue being caused due to the number of retention labels and policies we have. Unfortunately, I haven’t been given any indication of what the current threshold is but we currently have 77 labels and 22 policies. There will be a requirement for us to create more labels in the near future, although not more policies. The support engineer advised me that the fix for this API issue is due by the end of this month (January 2021).

    1. Hi Kieran, I really appreciate your detailed follow up on the issues you’re experiencing. I was unaware of these thresholds- i will see if I can find out more on that as 77 labels is certainly not the highest I’ve seen. Please keep me posted on the status.

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