Learn about records management in Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 licensing guidance for security & compliance.

Organizations of all types require a records-management solution to manage regulatory, legal, and business-critical records across their corporate data. Records management in Microsoft 365 helps an organization manage their legal obligations, provides the ability to demonstrate compliance with regulations, and increases efficiency with regular disposition of items that are no longer required to be retained, no longer of value, or no longer required for business purposes.

Use the following capabilities to support your records management solution in Microsoft 365:

  • Label content as a record. Create and configure retention labels to mark content as a record that can then be applied by users or automatically applied by identifying sensitive information, keywords, or content types.

  • Migrate and manage your retention requirements with file plan. By using a file plan, you can bring in an existing retention plan to Microsoft 365, or build a new one for enhanced management capabilities.

  • Configure retention and deletion settings with retention labels. Configure retention labels with the retention periods and actions based on various factors that include the date last modified or created.

  • Start different retention periods when an event occurs with event-based retention.

  • Review and validate disposition with disposition reviews and proof of records deletion.

  • Export information about all disposed items with the export option.

  • Set specific permissions for records manager functions in your organization to have the right access.

Using these capabilities, you can incorporate your organization's retention schedules and requirements into a records management solution that manages retention, records declaration, and disposition, to support the full lifecycle of your content.

In addition to the online documentation, you might find it useful to download a deck with FAQs from a records management webinar. The recording of the actual webinar is no longer available.


When content is declared a record:

  • Restrictions are placed on the items in terms of what actions are allowed or blocked.

  • Additional activities about the item are logged.

  • You have proof of disposition when the items are deleted at the end of their retention period.

You use retention labels to mark content as a record, or a regulatory record. The difference between these two are explained in the next section. You can either publish those labels so that users and administrators can manually apply them to content, or auto-apply those labels to content that you want to mark as a record or a regulatory record.

By using retention labels to declare records, you can implement a single and consistent strategy for managing records across your Microsoft 365 environment.

Compare restrictions for what actions are allowed or blocked

Use the following table to identify what restrictions are placed on content as a result of applying a standard retention label, and retention labels that mark content as a record or regulatory record.

A standard retention label has retention settings and actions but doesn't mark content as a record or a regulatory record.


For completeness, the table includes columns for a locked and unlocked record, which is applicable to SharePoint and OneDrive, but not Exchange. The ability to lock and unlock a record uses record versioning that isn't supported for Exchange items. So for all Exchange items that are marked as a record, the behavior maps to the Record - locked column, and the Record - unlocked column is not relevant.

Action Retention label Record - locked Record - unlocked Regulatory record
Edit contents Allowed Blocked Allowed Blocked
Edit properties, including rename Allowed Allowed 1 Allowed Blocked
Delete Allowed 2 Blocked Blocked Blocked
Copy Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed
Move within container 3 Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed
Move across containers 3 Allowed Allowed if never unlocked Blocked Blocked
Open/Read Allowed Allowed Allowed Allowed
Change label Allowed Allowed - container admin only Allowed - container admin only Blocked
Remove label Allowed Allowed - container admin only Allowed - container admin only Blocked


1 Allowed by default but can be blocked by a tenant setting for files that are larger than 0 bytes: Go to the Records management node in the Microsoft 365 compliance center > Records management settings > Retention labels > Allow editing of record properties and then turn off the setting Allow users to edit record properties.

2 For SharePoint and OneDrive, can be blocked as a tenant setting in the Microsoft 365 compliance center > Records management > Records management settings > Retention labels > Deletion of items

When you apply a retention label to a list item that has a document attachment, that document doesn't inherit the retention settings and can be deleted from the list item. In comparison, if that list item was declared a record with a retention label, the document attachment would inherit the retention settings and couldn't be deleted.

3 Containers include SharePoint document libraries, OneDrive accounts, and Exchange mailboxes.


The most important difference for a regulatory record is that after it is applied to content, nobody, not even a global administrator, can remove the label.

Retention labels configured for regulatory records also have the following admin restrictions:

  • The retention period can't be made shorter after the label is saved, only extended.
  • These labels aren't supported by auto-labeling policies, and must be applied by using retention label policies.

In addition, a regulatory label can't be applied to a document that's checked out in SharePoint.

Because of the restrictions and irreversible actions, make sure you really do need to use regulatory records before you select this option for your retention labels. To help prevent accidental configuration, this option is not available by default but must first be enabled by using PowerShell. Instructions are included in Declare records by using retention labels.

Configuration guidance

See Get started with records management. This article has information about subscriptions, permissions, and links to end-to-end configuration guidance for records management scenarios.