Place Google Chat messages on hold

As part of your Google Workspace data eDiscovery projects, you can use holds to preserve Chat 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.

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 Chat holds

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

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What data can be held


  • Messages and their attachments sent with history on, in Chat
  • DMs sent by external users to your users
  • Messages sent by external users in your organization’s group messages and spaces

Not covered:

  • Messages sent with history off
  • Linked files
  • Messages in external Chat spaces
  • Previewed messages

For details, see Supported services and data types.

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 that the held accounts are members of by checking a box when you create the hold.

Box unchecked (default) Box checked

Holds the following messages:

  • DMs in Chat
  • Messages in Chat group conversations created before early December 2020

Vault preserves DMs and group messages sent to a user on hold, even if the user doesn't reply or if the sender is an external user.

Holds all messages when the box is unchecked, plus messages in the following spaces:

  • Threaded spaces (spaces with messages in conversations)
  • Unthreaded spaces

Vault preserves all messages in a Chat space if a user on hold was a member, even if they didn’t send any messages. If all users on hold leave a Chat space, only messages sent before the last user on hold left are included in the hold. If a user on hold rejoins the space later, all messages, including messages sent when no user on hold was a member, are included in the hold.

Note: Holds don't apply to messages sent in Chat spaces owned by another organization.

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 but the message isn't purged. As a Vault admin with appropriate privileges, you can still search for, preview, and export the message using Vault.

Place a hold on Chat 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 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.

      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. Choose if you want the hold to include messages in Chat spaces.

  10. Click Continue.

  11. Click Create.

Edit a hold on Chat messages

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
  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.

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