How to use Key Vault soft-delete with CLI

Azure Key Vault's soft delete feature allows recovery of deleted vaults and vault objects. Specifically, soft-delete addresses the following scenarios:

  • Support for recoverable deletion of a key vault
  • Support for recoverable deletion of key vault objects; keys, secrets, and, certificates


For Key Vault specific reference information for CLI, see Azure CLI Key Vault reference.

Required permissions

Key Vault operations are separately managed via role-based access control (RBAC) permissions as follows:

Operation Description User permission
List Lists deleted key vaults. Microsoft.KeyVault/deletedVaults/read
Recover Restores a deleted key vault. Microsoft.KeyVault/vaults/write
Purge Permanently removes a deleted key vault and all its contents. Microsoft.KeyVault/locations/deletedVaults/purge/action

For more information on permissions and access control, see Secure your key vault.

Enabling soft-delete

You enable "soft-delete" to allow recovery of a deleted key vault, or objects stored in a key vault.


Enabling 'soft delete' on a key vault is an irreversible action. Once the soft-delete property has been set to "true", it cannot be changed or removed.

Existing key vault

For an existing key vault named ContosoVault, enable soft-delete as follows.

az resource update --id $(az keyvault show --name ContosoVault -o tsv | awk '{print $1}') --set properties.enableSoftDelete=true

New key vault

Enabling soft-delete for a new key vault is done at creation time by adding the soft-delete enable flag to your create command.

az keyvault create --name ContosoVault --resource-group ContosoRG --enable-soft-delete true --location westus

Verify soft-delete enablement

To verify that a key vault has soft-delete enabled, run the show command and look for the 'Soft Delete Enabled?' attribute:

az keyvault show --name ContosoVault

Deleting a soft-delete protected key vault

The command to delete a key vault changes in behavior, depending on whether soft-delete is enabled.


If you run the following command for a key vault that does not have soft-delete enabled, you will permanently delete this key vault and all its content with no options for recovery!

az keyvault delete --name ContosoVault

How soft-delete protects your key vaults

With soft-delete enabled:

  • A deleted key vault is removed from its resource group and placed in a reserved namespace, associated with the location where it was created.
  • Deleted objects such as keys, secrets, and certificates, are inaccessible as long as their containing key vault is in the deleted state.
  • The DNS name for a deleted key vault is reserved, preventing a new key vault with same name from being created. 

You may view deleted state key vaults, associated with your subscription, using the following command:

az keyvault list-deleted
  • ID can be used to identify the resource when recovering or purging.
  • Resource ID is the original resource ID of this vault. Since this key vault is now in a deleted state, no resource exists with that resource ID.
  • Scheduled Purge Date is when the vault will be permanently deleted, if no action is taken. The default retention period, used to calculate the Scheduled Purge Date, is 90 days.

Recovering a key vault

To recover a key vault, you specify the key vault name, resource group, and location. Note the location and the resource group of the deleted key vault, as you need them for the recovery process.

az keyvault recover --location westus --resource-group ContosoRG --name ContosoVault

When a key vault is recovered, a new resource is created with the key vault's original resource ID. If the original resource group is removed, one must be created with same name before attempting recovery.

Deleting and purging key vault objects

The following command will delete the 'ContosoFirstKey' key, in a key vault named 'ContosoVault', which has soft-delete enabled:

az keyvault key delete --name ContosoFirstKey --vault-name ContosoVault

With your key vault enabled for soft-delete, a deleted key still appears like it's deleted except, when you explicitly list or retrieve deleted keys. Most operations on a key in the deleted state will fail except for listing a deleted key, recovering it or purging it.

For example, to request to list deleted keys in a key vault, use the following command:

az keyvault key list-deleted --vault-name ContosoVault

Transition state

When you delete a key in a key vault with soft-delete enabled, it may take a few seconds for the transition to complete. During this transition, it may appear that the key isn't in the active state or the deleted state.

Using soft-delete with key vault objects

Just like key vaults, a deleted key, secret, or certificate, remains in deleted state for up to 90 days, unless you recover it or purge it.


To recover a soft-deleted key:

az keyvault key recover --name ContosoFirstKey --vault-name ContosoVault

To permanently delete (also known as purging) a soft-deleted key:


Purging a key will permanently delete it, and it will not be recoverable!

az keyvault key purge --name ContosoFirstKey --vault-name ContosoVault

The recover and purge actions have their own permissions associated in a key vault access policy. For a user or service principal to be able to execute a recover or purge action, they must have the respective permission for that key or secret. By default, purge isn't added to a key vault's access policy, when the 'all' shortcut is used to grant all permissions. You must specifically grant purge permission.

Set a key vault access policy

The following command grants permission to use several operations on keys in ContosoVault including purge:

az keyvault set-policy --name ContosoVault --key-permissions get create delete list update import backup restore recover purge


If you have an existing key vault that has just had soft-delete enabled, you may not have recover and purge permissions.


Like keys, secrets are managed with their own commands:

  • Delete a secret named SQLPassword:

    az keyvault secret delete --vault-name ContosoVault -name SQLPassword
  • List all deleted secrets in a key vault:

    az keyvault secret list-deleted --vault-name ContosoVault
  • Recover a secret in the deleted state:

    az keyvault secret recover --name SQLPassword --vault-name ContosoVault
  • Purge a secret in deleted state:


    Purging a secret will permanently delete it, and it will not be recoverable!

    az keyvault secret purge --name SQLPAssword --vault-name ContosoVault

Purging a soft-delete protected key vault


Purging a key vault or one of its contained objects, will permanently delete it, meaning it will not be recoverable!

The purge function is used to permanently delete a key vault object or an entire key vault, that was previously soft-deleted. As demonstrated in the previous section, objects stored in a key vault with the soft-delete feature enabled, can go through multiple states:

  • Active: before deletion.
  • Soft-Deleted: after deletion, able to be listed and recovered back to active state.
  • Permanently-Deleted: after purge, not able to be recovered.

The same is true for the key vault. In order to permanently delete a soft-deleted key vault and its contents, you must purge the key vault itself.

Purging a key vault

When a key vault is purged, its entire contents are permanently deleted, including keys, secrets, and certificates. To purge a soft-deleted key vault, use the az keyvault purge command. You can find the location your subscription's deleted key vaults using the command az keyvault list-deleted.

az keyvault purge --location westus --name ContosoVault

Purge permissions required

  • To purge a deleted key vault, the user needs RBAC permission to the Microsoft.KeyVault/locations/deletedVaults/purge/action operation.
  • To list a deleted key vault, the user needs RBAC permission to the Microsoft.KeyVault/deletedVaults/read operation.
  • By default only a subscription administrator has these permissions.

Scheduled purge

Listing deleted key vault objects also shows when they're scheduled to be purged by Key Vault. Scheduled Purge Date indicates when a key vault object will be permanently deleted, if no action is taken. By default, the retention period for a deleted key vault object is 90 days.


A purged vault object, triggered by its Scheduled Purge Date field, is permanently deleted. It is not recoverable!

Enabling Purge Protection

When purge protection is turned on, a vault or an object in deleted state cannot be purged until the retention period of 90 days has passed. Such vault or object can still be recovered. This feature gives added assurance that a vault or an object can never be permanently deleted until the retention period has passed.

You can enable purge protection only if soft-delete is also enabled.

To turn on both soft delete and purge protection when creating a vault, use the az keyvault create command:

az keyvault create --name ContosoVault --resource-group ContosoRG --location westus --enable-soft-delete true --enable-purge-protection true

To add purge protection to an existing vault (that already has soft delete enabled), use the az keyvault update command:

az keyvault update --name ContosoVault --resource-group ContosoRG --enable-purge-protection true

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