Retain files in Drive with Vault

As part of your organization's information governance plan, you can control how long files in Drive are retained. Use retention rules to set how long to keep files and when to delete them, if ever. By default, Drive rules apply to Meet data but not to sites. To change which data Drive rules cover, you can set and turn on Meet-specific rules and change Sites retention settings.

Set custom retention rules to keep data that matches specific conditions for set time. Set a default retention rule when you need to keep all data for a service for all licensed accounts in your organization for a set time. Custom retention rules override default retention rules, even when the default retention rule has a longer retention period.

Important information about Drive and retention

Before you set retention rules, we strongly recommend you read about how retention works and review the Drive files supported in Vault.

WARNING: An improperly configured retention rule can cause the immediate and irreversible purging of data from user accounts. Use caution when creating or changing retention rules. We recommend that you test new rules on a small group of users before applying them to your entire organization.

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Organizational unit versus shared drive-scoped custom retention rules

Organizational unit scope

When you apply a custom retention rule to an organizational unit, it applies to the files owned by and directly shared with users in that organizational unit. It also applies to files in a shared drive that are directly shared with a user, regardless of whether that user is a member of that shared drive.

If a rule is set to purge files at the end of the retention period, Vault purges only the files owned by users in that organizational unit. Files shared from outside the organizational unit aren't purged.

When Include items from shared drives is checked, the rule also applies to shared drives that accounts in the selected organizational unit are members of. However, these rules can only extend the lifecycle of shared drive files. To purge files from shared drives, set shared drive-specific retention rules.

Shared drive scope

You can set a custom retention rule to cover all shared drives in your organization or only selected shared drives.

Only shared drive-specific retention rules can purge files from shared drives because shared drive files are owned by the team and not by any specific user.

Potential delays in retention rule propagation and execution
  • When you create or update a retention rule, it can take up to three hours for the rule to propagate. Files deleted by users during this propagation period aren't retained.
  • When a retention coverage period expires and the rule is set to purge files, it can take up to 15 days for affected files to be removed from Drive.
Creation and modification time of an uploaded file depends on the source of the file
The creation time and modification time that Drive sets for a file when it's first uploaded might match the local file or be equal to the upload time, depending on how the file was added to Drive. The following table shows which time is used for different sources, where:
  • Upload—The timestamp is when the file was uploaded to Drive
  • Local—The timestamp is the same as the timestamp of the original file on the source device or service
File source (client) Created time Modified time
Web app Upload

Before April 8, 2020: Upload

After April 8, 2020: Local

Drive File Stream Local Local
Backup & Sync Upload Local
iOS Upload Upload
Android Upload Upload
G Suite Migrate Local Local
Drive API Can be set by caller Can be set by caller
Vault doesn't let you create Drive retention rules with identical criteria

Each custom retention rule you create for files in Drive must:

  • Have a unique last-modified or created date.
    OR
  • Apply to a unique set of users.

For example, a conflict can occur if you have a rule that applies to an organizational unit, then you try to add a rule that applies to a shared drive that all members of the organizational unit have access to. Vault rejects the new rule if it has the same created or last-modified date.

Additionally, you can use the Include Shared Drives setting to make a retention rule unique. There’s no conflict for two rules with identical retention criteria if one rule includes shared drives, and the other does not.

Files subject to multiple retention rules are always preserved according to the rule with the longest retention period.

Manage retention for apps that store data in Drive

Some Google services store their data in Drive. This data is covered by Drive retention rules as follows:

Product Retention
Jamboard

Vault retains jams saved to users' Drives according to Drive retention rules. Unsaved jams are discarded when the Jamboard session ends and are unavailable to Vault.

Google Meet

Meet recordings are covered by Drive retention rules by default.

To manage retention of Meet recordings differently from other items in Drive, you can set up retention rules for Google Meet. When retention rules for Meet are turned on, Drive retention rules don't apply to Meet recordings.

Google Sites

Sites are covered by Sites retention rules by default.

To retain sites differently from other items in Drive, you can set up retention rules for Sites. When retention rules for Sites are turned on, Drive retention rules don't apply to sites.

To retain sites the same as other items in Drive, you can change retention settings so sites are retained by Drive rules.  

Retention rules and files in trash

By default, Drive empties files from trash 30 days after they’re moved to trash. A user can also empty their entire trash or delete a file in trash forever. Files emptied from trash, automatically or by a user, can be recovered by a Google Workspace admin for 25 days (learn how).

You can set moved-to-trash rules in Vault to extend or shorten how long files in trash remain available to Vault. For example, if you set a moved-to-trash rule with a 5-day retention period, a file in trash is automatically emptied from trash 5 days after it’s moved there. Admins can still restore the file for 25 days, but it’s no longer available to Vault. If a user empties the file from trash 2 days after they moved it to trash, it’s available to Vault for 3 more days, and can be recovered by admins for 25 more days.

A moved-to-trash rule has the following properties:

  • Applies to files in trash owned by the user or shared drive the rule applies to.
  • Applies only to files moved to trash on or after August 1, 2016.
  • Can’t have an indefinite retention period.
  • Overrides other Drive retention rules, including other custom rules that expire later. If multiple moved-to-trash rules apply to a file, the file is retained according to the one with the latest expiration date.
  • Is overridden by holds.

To set moved-to-trash rules, for the Duration and action, set a retention period based on the Date moved to trash.

Set a custom retention rule for Drive

  1. Sign in to vault.google.com.
  2. Click Retentionand thenCustom Rulesand thenCreate.
  3. For the service, select Drive and then click Continue.
  4. Choose an entity:
    • Organizational unit—Apply the rule to a specific organizational unit:
      1. Click the field and choose an organizational unit.
      2. (Optional) To apply the rule to shared drives that accounts in the selected organizational unit are members of, enable Include results from shared drives.
    • All shared drives—Apply the rule to all shared drives in your organization.
    • Specific shared drives—Apply the rule to a shared drive that a specific account is a member of.
      1. Enter one or more accounts and click Find.
      2. Select one or more shared drives.
      3. Click Add.
  5. Click Continue.
  6. Choose how long to keep files:

    • To permanently retain files covered by this rule, select Indefinitely.
    • To discard files after a set time:
      1. Select Retention period.
      2. Enter the number of days, from 1 to 36,500.
      3. Select the reference time for the start of the retention period.
  7. If you set a retention period, choose what to do with files when the retention period ends:
    • To purge only files that are already emptied from the users' Trash, choose the first option.
    • To purge all files, including files that aren't deleted, choose the second option.
    Warning: Vault allows Drive to immediately purge files that exceeds the retention period when you submit the rule. The purged data can include data that users expect to keep. Don't proceed to the next step until you’re sure the rule is configured correctly.
  8. Click Create. If you set a retention period, Vault asks you to confirm you understand the rule's effects. Check the boxes and click Accept to create the rule.

Set the default retention rule for Drive

The default retention rule applies to files in Drive, including files in shared drives, that aren't covered by a custom rule or a hold.

  1. Sign in to vault.google.com.
  2. Click Retention. The list of default rules opens.
  3. Click Drive "".
  4. Choose how long to keep files:

    • To permanently retain files covered by this rule, select Indefinitely.
    • To discard files after a set time:
      1. Select Retention period.
      2. Enter the number of days, from 1 to 36,500.
      3. Select the reference time for the start of the retention period.
  5. If you set a retention period, choose what to do with files when the retention period ends:
    • To purge only files that are already emptied from the users' Trash, choose the first option.
    • To purge all files, including files that aren't deleted, choose the second option.
    Warning: Vault allows Drive to immediately purge files that exceeds the retention period when you submit the rule. The purged data can include data that users expect to keep. Don't proceed to the next step until you’re sure the rule is configured correctly.
  6. Click Save. Vault asks you to confirm you understand the rule's effects. Check the boxes and click Accept to save the rule.
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