Email retention

Email retention settings are available only with Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Education.

Email retention settings give you the option to control the amount of mail that is stored for each user by specifying the following:

  • The number of days you want to retain messages
  • Whether to move messages to the Trash or delete them permanently when their retention periods have expired
  • Whether to retain messages with specific labels
  • Whether to delete messages automatically or let your users manage mail deletion
Email retention settings apply to messages in the user's inbox and archived messages. They also apply to messages added using the Email Migration API. Migrated messages older than the specified retention period are deleted unless they are tagged with a label to exclude them from deletion.

Email retention settings do not apply to messages in the Trash folder, which are deleted permanently after 30 days, nor to suspended or inactive users. To stay active, accounts must receive messages or make requests via web or client at least once a day. If you need complete archiving with auto-deletion for all accounts regardless of account activity, such as for legal and compliance purposes, use Google Apps Vault.

To set email retention:

  1. Sign in to the Google Admin console
  2. Click Google Apps > Gmail > Advanced settings
  3. In the Organizations section near the top of the page, highlight your top-level org.
  4. In the Email Retention section, select either Automatically delete email messages older than N days or Do not delete email messages automatically.

    If you select Do not delete email messages automatically, click Save changes and skip the remaining steps.
  5. Enter the number of days you want to retain messages. For example, if you enter 30, then messages older than 30 days are deleted.
  6. Specify how to handle automatically deleted messages by choosing one of these options:
    • Move messages to the Trash folder: Messages stay in the Trash folder an additional 30 days before they're deleted, which gives you additional time to retrieve a message that was deleted according to your email retention settings.
    • Delete messages permanently: Messages bypass the Trash folder and are deleted permanently after the number of days you specify. Once a message is deleted permanently, there is no way to retrieve that message.
  7. To retain messages with specific labels, enter a comma-separated list of those labels in the text field under Do not automatically delete messages with the following labels.
    You must enter the full names of the labels; wildcard characters are not supported. Nested labels do not inherit this setting from their parent labels.

    You can publish a list of these labels to your users so they have the option to prevent specific messages from being deleted automatically.
  8. Click Save changes at the bottom of the Email settings page.
The email retention policy is applied to users' mailboxes on a regular, periodic schedule. Therefore, messages whose retention period has passed may not be removed until a few hours later.