Place Google Chat and classic Hangouts messages on hold

As part of your Google Workspace data eDiscovery projects, you can use holds to preserve Chat and classic Hangouts 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 standard information governance rules that might purge it otherwise.

If a user on hold deletes messages, the messages are removed from the user's view. However, the messages are still available to Vault. As long as the hold is in place, you can search and export all messages.

If your Google Workspace administrator deletes a user's account in the Admin console, the user's data is no longer available in Vault and cannot be restored. If you want to hold or retain a user's data, the user must have both Google Workspace and Vault licenses. Learn more about Preserving data for users.

For more information about holds, see the holds FAQ.

Important information about Chat and classic Hangouts holds

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Retention rules and holds apply to messages only when history is on

Retention rules and holds always apply to rooms with threaded replies (conversations). However, they apply to DMs, group messages, and unthreaded rooms only when history is turned on.

A Google Workspace administrator can control whether history is on or off, or they can allow users to decide.

Holding messages in Chat spaces

Unlike Chat retention rules, holds can be placed only on individual accounts or organizational units. Holds can't be set on Chat spaces exclusively. However, you can include messages in Chat spaces associated with the accounts that are on hold by checking a box when you create the hold.

Box unchecked (default) Box checked
  • DMs in Chat and classic Hangouts
  • Messages in Chat group chats created before early December 2020
  • Group conversations in classic Hangouts

All messages when the box is unchecked, plus certain messages* in the following spaces:

  • Threaded rooms (rooms with messages in conversations)
  • Unthreaded rooms
  • Group chats in Chat created after early December 2020 (Note: If your organization still uses classic Hangouts, these messages are synced to classic Hangouts and will be included in holds by default until classic Hangouts is shut down)

*The messages in Chat spaces that Vault includes in a hold depend on the type of Chat space:

  • Threaded rooms—Vault holds a conversation if a user on hold sent at least one message and the room was created by someone in your organization. Conversations where the user wasn't an active participant aren't included in the hold, even though that user might have viewed messages.
  • Unthreaded rooms—Vault holds all messages if a user on hold was a member of the room, even if they didn’t send any messages. If all users on hold leave a room, only messages sent before the last user on hold left are included in the hold.
  • Group chats in Chat created after early December 2020—Vault holds messages if a user on hold was a member of the group chat, even if they didn’t send any messages. If all users on hold leave a group chat, only messages sent before the last user on hold left are included in the hold.
  • External Chat spaces—Holds don't apply to messages sent in Chat spaces owned by another organization.

DMs and most group messages sent to a user on hold are preserved by the hold even if the user doesn't reply or if the sender is an external user.

Messages on hold are always visible to Vault users with access privileges

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, a Vault user with appropriate privileges can search for and view the message in Vault. The Vault user can also export the message using Vault.

Files directly attached to Chat messages are subject to Chat holds

When a user shares a file stored in Drive, such as a doc, sheet, or PDF, Chat inserts a link rather than attaching a copy of the file to the message. Because the original file is stored in Drive, it isn't included when you place a hold on Chat messages. Set up a Drive hold to hold this data.

Other file types directly attached to a Chat message, such as PDFs, IMGs, DOCX, are covered by Chat holds.

Place a hold on Chat and classic Hangouts messages

These steps are for new Vault (vault.google.com). Go to steps for classic Vault

  1. Sign in to https://vault.google.com.
  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 then Chat.
  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.
  9. Choose if you want the hold to include messages in Chat spaces.

  10. Click Continue.

  11. Click Create.

Edit a hold on Chat and classic Hangouts messages

These steps are for new Vault (vault.google.com). Go to steps for classic Vault

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

  1. Sign in to https://vault.google.com.
  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 if the hold applies to messages in Chat spaces:
    1. Click Scope.
    2. Click ""Include conversations in Chat spaces.
  5. Click Save.

Use classic Vault

Click below to open steps for classic Vault (ediscovery.google.com). Go to steps for new Vault

Set holds for Chat and classic Hangouts in ediscovery.google.com

Place Chat and classic Hangouts on hold

  1. Create or open the matter that will contain the hold.
  2. Click Create Hold.
  3. Enter a unique name for the hold. 
  4. Choose the type of hold: Chat.
  5. Use the down arrow to apply the hold to either individual accounts or to an entire organizational unit:
    • Accounts—enter one or more email addresses for the accounts that are subject to this hold.
    • Organization—Choose an organizational unit from the drop-down list.
  6. (Optional) Check the box to include conversations from Chat spaces. For details, review how messages in Chat spaces are held
  7. Click Save to create the hold.

Modify an existing Chat and classic Hangouts hold

You can change some of the criteria of a hold. However, you can't change the data type.

  1. Open the matter that contains the hold.
  2. Click the hold, then click Edit Hold.
  3. Modify any of the following criteria:
    • Accounts—Add or remove accounts or organizational units. You cannot add accounts to a hold that covers an organizational unit, nor can you add organizational units to a hold that covers individual accounts. If you remove all users, you're prompted to delete the hold. 
    • Also include conversations in Chat spaces—Change this setting as desired to include or exclude messages in Chat spaces. For details, review how messages in Chat spaces are held.
  4. Click Save.
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