Place Gmail messages on hold

As part of your Google Workspace data eDiscovery projects, you can use holds to preserve Gmail messages indefinitely to meet legal or preservation obligations. You can apply a hold to individual accounts or all accounts in an organizational unit. Holds override retention rules, so data on hold is protected from your normal data governance rules that might purge it otherwise.

If your Google Workspace administrator removes a user's Vault-supporting license, Vault holds no longer protect the user's data from deletion. Data marked for deletion can be immediately purged and can't be restored. Learn more about Preserving data for users.

Important information about Gmail holds

Before you set holds, we recommend you read Get started with holds in Google Vault and review the Gmail messages supported in Vault.

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Deleted messages on hold are always visible in Vault, but not visible to users

When a message that's on hold is deleted by a user or a retention rule, the user can't access the message anymore. However, as a Vault user with appropriate privileges, you can search for, preview, and export the message using Vault.

Avoid many or complex terms to refine a hold

To refine the messages that a hold covers, you can enter search terms. We strongly recommend that you first refine your holds by accounts (specific users or smaller organizational units), then refine that smaller set with terms.

In rare cases, Google’s policy processing system might not scale if you set many broad-scoped holds that have complex sets of terms to refine the messages on hold. For example, you might reach the limit if you set several holds with scopes that include more than 100,000 accounts and that you refine with complex terms, such as multiple aliases and many AND/OR statements. If this happens, your organization may be temporarily blocked from creating any admin policies for Google Workspace, such as adding new users or applying new security rules.


Place a hold on Gmail messages

  1. Sign in to
  2. Click Matters.
  3. If the matter already exists, click it to open it. Otherwise, create a matter:
    1. Click Create.
    2. Enter a name for the matter and, optionally, a description.
    3. Click Create.
  4. Click HoldsCreate.
  5. Enter a unique name for the hold.
  6. Click Choose serviceand thenGmail.
  7. Click Continue.
  8. Select the scope of the hold:
    • Specific accounts—Enter one or more account or group email addresses.
    • Organizational unit—Select an organizational unit.

      Note: We strongly recommend that you don’t select the top organizational unit. You won’t be able to delete any Google Workspace accounts from your organization. Learn more

  9. Click Continue.
  10. (Optional) Set the conditions for the hold:
    • Sent date—Enter dates to limit the hold to messages sent within the start and end dates.
      • To hold messages sent on or after a specific date, enter only a start date.
      • To hold message sent on or before a specific date, enter only an end date.
      • To hold messages no matter when they were sent, don't enter a start or end date.
    • Terms—Enter search terms and operators to apply the hold to only messages that match the terms.

      Note: You can't use is:chat to apply a Gmail hold to chat messages in classic Hangouts or Google Chat. To hold chat messages, set a Chat hold.

  11. Click Create.

Edit a hold on Gmail messages

You can change some hold parameters, but you can't change the service (Gmail to another service) or the scope type (such as accounts to an organizational unit).

  1. Sign in to
  2. Click Matters and then the matter that contains the hold.
  3. To change the accounts or organizational units that are covered by the hold:
    1. Click Scope.
    2. Add or remove accounts or change the organizational unit.

      Note: You can't add accounts to a hold that covers an organizational unit, and you can't add organizational units to a hold that covers specific accounts.

      If you remove all accounts, you're prompted to delete the hold.

    3. Click Continue.
  4. To change the sent date range or terms, click Conditions.
    • Sent date—Expand or restrict the range of dates subject to hold.
    • Terms—Add or remove search terms and operators to change which messages are subject to the hold.
  5. Click Save.
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