Auto-Apply Retention Labels to Exchange Online Mailboxes (Archive)

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I received a great question from a reader the other day… “If I auto-apply a retention label to an Exchange mailbox, will it auto-apply the retention label to matching content in the Archive mailbox as well, if one has been enabled?”

I didn’t know the answer for certain so I set out to test it. 🙂

In this post, I’m referring to a retention label configured in the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center and published to a user’s mailbox with an auto-apply condition.

First things first… How do I know if a user has an Archive mailbox?

This can be done via PowerShell or thru the UI in either the Compliance Center (preferred) or the Exchange Online Admin Center. Link: Enable archive mailboxes in the compliance center

Images below are where you see this setting in the Microsoft 365 Compliance Center. From here, you can enable/disable the archive at a single mailbox level or in bulk:

You can see the usage across both the primary and the in-place archive mailboxes for all users where the archive has been enabled. I think this is an improvement over the UI in the EAC:

 

To get at these same settings in the Exchange Online Admin Center, select Manage mailbox archive for a user’s maibox:

Once enabled, you can see how much space is consumed by content in the archive mailbox:

The in-place archive is different from the ‘Archive’ icon you see under a user’s primary inbox. The ‘Archive’ icon is a default folder in the primary mailbox. End-users can move content to the Archive folder to remove it from their inbox; however, it does not reduce the size of the user’s primary mailbox.

The In-place Archive, in comparison, is a separate mailbox for an end-user (circled in yellow below). It is not enabled by default, but once enabled can be used by retention policies as well as Outlook rules by the end-user. It will free up space in the user’s primary mailbox.

 

Once I’ve enabled the in-place archive using any of the techniques above, I want to test if an auto-apply condition on a retention label will work on matching content across BOTH the primary and in-place archive mailboxes.

When testing auto-apply conditions in Exchange Online, you must ensure there is at least 10MB of content in the mailbox. To ensure this, I sent a number of test emails to Megan Bowen’s email address. I also moved at least 10MB of content into Megan’s in-place archive mailbox by selecting Move to… In-Place Archive – Megan Bowen from the menu.

To trigger the auto-apply condition, I seeded the text “Green Turtles” in a number of emails in both the user’s primary mailbox and their in-place archive.

I set up a sample retention label, Sample Label, and a label policy published to Megan’s mailbox with the auto-apply condition of “Green Turtles”:

I waited for up to 7 days and checked the emails in both the primary mailbox as well as the in-place archive and BOTH had the Sample Label retention label applied:

User’s primary mailbox:

User’s in-place archive:


Let’s get back to the reader’s original question… “If I auto-apply a retention label to an Exchange mailbox, will it auto-apply the retention label to matching content in the Archive mailbox as well, if one has been enabled?”

Answer… yes! The auto-apply retention label will apply across both the primary and in-place archive for a user if the user’s mailbox account is included as a location in the label policy. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

-JCK

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