Get started with holds in Google Vault

Use holds to prevent the deletion of data associated with specific data custodians, either individual accounts or all accounts in an organizational unit. Holds are different from retention rules because they never expire.

Data placed on hold is deleted and purged only after a Vault user deletes the hold, a custodian is removed from the hold, a user's Google Account is deleted, or a user no longer has a Vault license.

What data is protected by a hold

Holds are set by Google service:

  • Gmail—Messages and attachments stored in Gmail, including content in Sent, Drafts (only drafts not deleted), Trash, Archive, and Spam.
  • Groups—Messages in Google Groups (until the group is deleted).
  • Chat—On-the-record (history on) classic Hangouts and Google Chat messages.
  • Drive—Items (not folders or shortcuts) in users' Drives and, optionally, items in associated shared drives. Drive holds apply to Meet recordings and their associated log files. Note: A hold doesn't prevent users from editing files in Drive. However, for Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings files, all versions of the file are preserved by the hold.
  • Voice—Google Voice text messages, voicemails and their transcripts, and call logs.

For more details, see Supported data types.

Holds and retention rule precedence

  • Holds override retention rules. If a retention rule is set to purge data at the end of the retention period, data on hold isn't purged until the hold is removed.
  • Holds are additive. One hold does not replace another hold.

    For example, you create 2 Gmail holds:

    1. Hold A applies to user and matches messages with the phrase "project X".

    2. Hold B applies to the same user and matches messages with term budget.

    With these 2 holds in place, Vault preserves messages that contains either project X or budget for If you remove Hold A, messages that match Hold B are still preserved but others can be purged.

When held data is purged

A hold protects data until one of the following events occurs:

  • The hold is deleted—Data that isn't covered by other holds is immediately subject to applicable retention rules. Data that users deleted more than 30 days ago may be immediately purged.
  • A custodian is removed from a hold—Data that isn't covered by other holds is immediately subject to applicable retention rules. Data that users deleted more than 30 days ago may be immediately purged.
  • The user's Google Account is deleted—If a Google Workspace administrator deletes a user in the Admin console, all of that user's data is deleted even if that user is on hold. To prevent data loss, use Archived User (AU) licenses to preserve the user’s data or suspend users instead of deleting them. For details, see Manage former employees and their data.
  • The user no longer has a Vault license—A user must have a Vault license for their data to be held. If a user on hold is downgraded to a Google Workspace edition that doesn't automatically entitle every account to a Vault license, assign an add-on license before you downgrade to protect their data. Otherwise, the hold no longer applies and data may be purged immediately.

Working with holds

To place data on hold, you need the Manage Holds Vault privilege and access to a matter.

You can review holds by matter and across all matters. For details, see Review all holds for your organization.

If you need to change the custodians covered by a hold, you can edit the hold. When you're ready to close a matter and release the custodians' data from the hold, you can delete the hold.


What's the difference between a hold and a retention rule?

Both holds and retention rules preserve data in Vault, but they have important differences:

  Holds Retention rules


Holds are typically created in response to an investigation or legal issue.

Retention rules are used to proactively control how long data is preserved.

Scope Apply to individual accounts, organizational units, or groups. Apply to users in organizational units or groups, and to product entities such as shared drives and rooms. Retention rules can't be applied to individual accounts, except by matching terms.

Preservation period

Holds preserve data indefinitely, until the hold is deleted.

Retention rules preserve data for a specified period, which can be a set number of days or indefinitely.


Holds take precedence over retention rules. When a hold is deleted, data is immediately subject to applicable retention rules.

Retention rules aren't applied to data preserved by a hold until the hold is removed.

Custom rules take precedence over default rules, even when the default rule expires later. Data can be removed from Google production systems when the last applicable retention rule expires.


Only Vault users who have access to a matter can review who and what is on hold.

Only Vault users who have retention rule privileges can manage retention rules.

Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?