In Exchange 2013 – Apply Retention Policy to All Mailboxes

Anuraag Singh | Modified: July 13, 2016 | Exchange Server 2013 | 4 Minutes Reading
In this write up we will be discussing about how to apply retention policy to all mailboxes in Exchange Server 2013.
Users of Exchange Server can manage the life cycle of their email and other communications using Message Records Management (MRM) Strategy. The MRM strategy in Exchange 2013 and Exchange Online makes use of features like retention tags and retention policies. Often, user wonders how they can utilize these features to apply the desired retention settings to messages and folders.

What is Retention Policy?

A Retention Policy contains group of retention tags that can be applied to a mailbox. Before studying about the retention policies, let us learn about Retention Tags first. Retention tags are used to apply retention settings to messages and folders. It comes in three types of retention tags:
  • Default Policy Tag: Applies to all items without a retention tag
  • Retention Policy tags: Created for default folders like inbox, deleted items
  • Personal Tags: Used by Outlook & Outlook web app to apply retention settings to some folders or individual messages
Retention Policies are used after combining one or more retention tags and apply them to mailboxes in order to implement message retention settings. Only one retention policy can be applied to a mailbox.

Things to Know before applying Retention Policy

Emails are expired according to the settings specified in the retention tags linked to the policy. Settings may include actions like Move to archive, permanently delete the messages. It is highly advisable to test each retention policy and inspect them properly before applying to one or more mailboxes. Additionally, proper permissions are required to configure messaging policy and compliance before applying the retention policy.

How to apply Retention Policy

Some of the ways to apply Retention Policy to the mailbox in Exchange Server 2013 are as follows:

  • Using Exchange Admin Center (EAC)
    1. Apply Retention Policy to a single mailbox
      User can apply Retention policy to one mailbox using EAC by following steps defined below:

      • We can access EAC through Office 365 Admin Center and select Exchange under Admin Tab
      • Go to Recipients Tab and select Mailboxes
      • Among the list of mailboxes displayed, select the one to which user needs to apply retention policy and click on Edit
      • Select Mailbox Features under User Mailbox
      • Choose a desired retention policy from the list to apply to the selected mailbox and Click on save
    2. Apply Retention Policy to multiple mailboxes
      Similarly, we can use EAC to apply retention policy on multiple mailboxes using steps below:

      • Go to Recipients -> Mailboxes, Use Shift and Ctrl keys together to select multiple mailboxes.
      • Click on More Options under the details pane
      • Select Update option present under Retention Policy
      • In the Bulk Assign Retention Policy, Choose the desired retention policy to be applied to the mailboxes and click on Save
  • Using Shell Commands
    Here, we will use Shell commands to apply retention policy (Example: “RP-Official”) to a mailbox (Example – Steve)

    1. For a single Mailbox
      User can use shell commands to apply retention policy to one mailbox by using the below commands:
      Set-Mailbox “Steve” –RetentionPolicy “RP-Official”
    2. For Multiple Mailboxes
      User can apply retention policy to multiple mailboxes using the shell commands. Some examples are:

      • To apply Retention policy “RP-Official” to all mailboxes in the Exchange organization
        Get-Mailbox -ResultSize unlimited | Set-Mailbox -RetentionPolicy "RP-Official”
      • To apply Retention Policy “RP-InfomationTechnology” to all mailboxes in an IT Organizational Unit
        Get-Mailbox -OrganizationalUnit "IT" -ResultSize Unlimited | Set-Mailbox -RetentionPolicy "RP-InformationTechnology"


In the blog, we have considered all the ways through which a user in Exchange Server 2013 environment can apply Retention Policy to all the mailboxes. It is possible either by using Exchange Admin Center (EAC) or Shell commands. However, Retention policy should be inspected properly before it is being applied to the mailboxes as it may contain actions like permanent deletion of messages. Therefore this complete write up was about how to apply retention policy to all mailboxes in Exchange Server 2013.