How to set retention policies for Microsoft Teams files

Retention policies can be beneficial for archiving and backing up work. For instance, take accidentally deleted work: lost work doesn’t mean much if you can restore it moments later. A Microsoft 365 retention policy allows you to retain otherwise lost content for a set time post its deletion.

You can set up a Microsoft Teams files retention policy by following the steps below:

  1. Access the Microsoft 365 Admin portal via the Office app launcher.
  2. Click “Show all” to reveal the hidden Admin centers.
  3. Under “Admin centers,” select “Compliance.”
  4. From the Compliance center’s sidebar, select “Information governance.”
  5. Open the “Retention policies” tab.
  6. In the policy table, select “New retention policy.”
  7. Set a policy name and description, then click “Next.”
  8. Exclusively toggle “SharePoint sites” and click “Next.”
  9. Choose a “Static” or “Adaptive” retention policy type and click “Next.”
  10. Configure your retention policy and click “Next.”
  11. Submit your retention policy.

In the following post, I’ll briefly discuss Microsoft 365 retention policies (what they are), why you can’t find a retention policy page for your Teams’ files, why you need a SharePoint retention policy, and how to make one. Each segment is reasonably straightforward, so you should be able to follow along with ease.

You can use the following links to access relevant content faster:

  1. What are Microsoft 365 retention policies
  2. I can’t find retention policies for Teams files
  3. Creating a SharePoint retention policy
  4. Blog post recap

What are Microsoft 365 retention policies

A Microsoft 365 retention policy controls how various Office applications handle deleted content and user data. For example, a SharePoint retention policy will preserve your site’s data for several years (by default) after its deletion.

Although most companies use retention policies due to compliance requirements, they are pretty helpful. A retention policy aids in backing up existing content, archiving/preserving aged content, and keeping evidence of past staff’s work.

I can’t find retention policies for Teams files

If you’ve been reading Microsoft’s documentation, you may have struggled to find where you can set up retention policies for Teams files. Don’t be embarrassed— Microsoft did not make the information easy to find. Unfortunately, that’s because the information doesn’t exist: not technically.

A Teams’ files are stored on an associated SharePoint site. Hence, a Microsoft Teams file retention policy would be a SharePoint retention policy. Fortunately, we can easily find that; we only need the Microsoft 365 Compliance center.

Creating a SharePoint retention policy

Before continuing, be aware that enabling a retention policy will automatically delete files older than your policy permits. For instance, take a three-year retention policy; Microsoft 365 would delete any files older than three years upon the policy’s activation.

Step 1 — Access the Microsoft 365 Admin Portal

First off, head to the Microsoft 365 Office homepage; in the top left corner, you can access the app launcher— click the button. Open the Microsoft 365 Admin Portal via the app launcher by clicking “Admin.”

Step 2 — Open the Compliance center

Although they’re hidden by default, the Microsoft 365 Admin Portal is home to several admin centers that affect your experience within the Microsoft 365 suite. First, reveal the Admin centers by selecting “Show all,” then click “Compliance” under “Admin centers.”

Step 3 — Select Information governance under eDiscovery

You will find the eDiscovery category in the Compliance center’s sidebar. Open the category, and select its “Information governance” option.

Step 4 — Begin creating a retention policy

Initially, you’ll find yourself in the Overview tab— you can switch to the “Retention policies” tab via the tab bar. After doing so, click “New retention policy” above the policy table.

Step 5 — Set your policy’s name and description

You’ll need to name your policy on the first page— doing so is mandatory. You can optionally provide a description of your policy. A good policy would have an informative name and description; try to keep this in mind. Afterward, click “Next.”

Step 6 — Specify a retention policy type

Specify a retention policy type. If you don’t plan on switching SharePoint sites, a static type should be acceptable. However, an adaptive type is the safest option if you’re unsure. Once done, click “Next.”

Step 7 — Select SharePoint sites

You need to specify where we’d like to apply this retention policy. Untoggle each option, except for “SharePoint sites.” Then, hit “Next.”

Step 8 — Configure your retention policy

Finally, we can configure the retention policy. You should notice four options. Don’t worry; I’m going to explain each one.

  • Retain items for a specific period
    • Your choice here will determine how long you can retain deleted items.
  • Start the retention period based on
    • Your choice here will determine when an item’s retention period will begin. Take choosing “When items were created,” for instance: the retention period will start from the item’s creation date.
  • Retain items forever
    • Toggling this option will make your first choice irrelevant— Microsoft 365 will preserve items indefinitely.
  • Only delete items when they reach a certain age
    • Items will be deleted (without retention) after reaching your specified rage.

Step 9 — Submit your retention policy

To conclude the process, hit “Submit.” After doing so, Microsoft 365 will delete any files with an age greater than your specified retention period. In short, were you to set a retention policy of two years, Microsoft 365 would delete every three-year-old item.

Blog post recap

A retention policy allows you to retain deleted data for a set (or indefinite) period after its creation, deletion, or modification date. Users are unaware that a “Teams files” retention policy page does not exist— this is because Teams’ files are stored in SharePoint. Thus, a SharePoint retention policy will apply to your Teams’ files. You can create a SharePoint retention policy via the Microsoft 365 Compliance center.

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Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell has been the Operations manager at telecoms and MSP Optionbox for more than 4 years. He has played a crucial role in the company, from marketing to helpdesk, and ensures that the IT requirements of over 300 clients are continuously met. With his innate passion for technology and troubleshooting and a particular interest in Apple products, Jack now delivers the most comprehensive tech guides to make your life easier. You can connect with Jack on LinkedIn.

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