User Guide: Classify and protect with the Azure Information Protection unified labeling client


Are you looking for Microsoft Purview Information Protection, formerly Microsoft Information Protection (MIP)?

The Azure Information Protection add-in for Office is now in maintenance mode and will be retired April 2024. Instead, we recommend you use labels that are built in to your Office 365 apps and services. Learn more about the support status of other Azure Information Protection components.

The easiest way to classify and protect your documents and emails is when you are creating or editing them from within your Office desktop apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook.

However, you can also classify and protect files by using File Explorer. This method supports additional file types and is a convenient way to classify and protect multiple files at once. This method supports protecting Office documents, PDF files, text and image files, and a wide range of other files.

If your label applies protection to a document, the protected document might not be suitable to be saved on SharePoint or OneDrive. Check whether your administrator has enabled sensitivity labels for Office files in SharePoint and OneDrive.


Use these instructions to help you classify and protect your documents and emails. If you need to only classify and not protect your documents and emails, see the classify-only instructions. If you are not sure which set of instructions to use, check with your administrator or help desk.

Safely share a file with people outside your organization

Files that are protected are safe to share with others. For example, you attach a protected document to an email.

Before you share files with people outside your organization, check with your help desk or administrator how to protect files for external users.

For example, if your organization regularly communicates with people in another organization, your administrator might have configured labels that sets protection such that these people can read and use protected documents. Then, select these labels to classify and protect the documents to share.

Alternatively, if the external users have business-to-business (B2B) accounts created for them, you can use File Explorer to set custom permissions for a document before you share it. If you set your own custom permissions and the document is already protected for internal use, first make a copy of it to retain the original permissions. Then use the copy to set the custom permissions.

Use Office apps to classify and protect documents and emails

From the Home tab, select the Sensitivity button on the ribbon, and then select one of the labels that has been configured for you. For example:

Sensitivity button example

Or, if you have selected Show Bar from the Sensitivity button, you can select a label from the Azure Information Protection bar. For example:

Azure Information Protection bar example

To set a label, such as "Confidential \ All Employees", select Confidential and then All Employees. If you're not sure which label to apply to the current document or email, use the label tooltips to learn more about each label and when to apply it.

If a label is already applied to the document and you want to change it, you can select a different label. If you have displayed the Azure Information Protection bar, and the labels are not displayed on the bar for you to select, first click the Edit Label icon, next to the current label value.

In addition to manually selecting labels, labels can also be applied in the following ways:

  • Your administrator configured a default label, which you can keep or change.

  • Your administrator configured labels to be set automatically when sensitive information is detected.

  • Your administrator configured recommended labels when sensitive information is detected, and you are prompted to accept the recommendation (and the label is applied), or reject it (the recommended label is not applied).

Don't see the Sensitivity button or expected labels in your Office apps?

If you don't see the Sensitivity button in your Office apps, you might not have the Azure Information Protection unified labeling client installed.

If you don't see a Sensitivity button on the ribbon, but do see a Protect button with labels instead, you have the legacy Azure Information Protection classic client installed and not the Azure Information Protection unified labeling client. For more information, see the archived AIP classic client documentation.

Your labels may appear differently than you expect for one of the following reasons:

  • Your administrator may have re-configured your labels. In this case, try closing all instances of your Office app and reopening it. This action checks for changes to your labels.

  • You may not have a supported Office edition. If the missing label applies protection, you might have an edition of Office that does not support applying Rights Management protection.

    To verify, select Sensitivity > Help and Feedback. In the dialog box, check if you have a message in the Client status section that says This client is not licensed for Office Professional Plus.

    You do not need Office Professional Plus if you have Office apps from Microsoft 365 Apps for Business or Microsoft 365 Business Premium when the user is assigned a license for Azure Rights Management (also known as Azure Information Protection for Microsoft 365).

  • You may not be included in the label's scope. In this case, the label would be in a scoped policy that doesn't include your account. Check with your help desk or administrator.

Safely sharing by email

When you share Office documents by email, you can attach the document to an email that you protect, and the document is automatically protected with the same restrictions that apply to the email.

However, you might want to protect the document first, and then attach it to the email. Protect the email as well if the email message contains sensitive information. A benefit of protecting the document before you attach it to an email is that you can apply different permissions to the document than to the email message.

Use the File Explorer to classify and protect files

When you use File Explorer, you can quickly classify and protect a single file, multiple files, or a folder.

When you select a folder, all the files in that folder and any subfolders it has are automatically selected for the classification and protection options that you set. However, new files that you create in that folder or subfolders are not automatically configured with those options.

When you use File Explorer to classify and protect your files, if one or more of the labels appear dimmed, the files that you selected do not support classification. For these files, you can select a label only if your administrator has configured the label to apply protection. Or, you can specify your own protection settings.


Some files, such as executable files and your Windows folder, are automatically excluded from classification and protection, because changing them might stop your PC from running. Although you can select these files, they are skipped as an excluded folder or file.

For more information, see File types supported by the Azure Information Protection unified labeling client.

To classify and protect a file by using File Explorer:

  1. In File Explorer, select your file, multiple files, or a folder. Right-click, and select Classify and protect. For example:

    File Explorer right-click Classify and protect using Azure Information Protection

  2. In the Classify and protect - Azure Information Protection dialog box, use the labels as you would do in an Office application, which sets the classification and protection as defined by your administrator.

    • If none of the labels can be selected (they appear dimmed): The selected file does not support classification but you can protect it with custom permissions (step 3). For example:

      No labels available in the Classify and protect - Azure Information Protection** dialog box

  3. You can specify your own protection settings rather than use the protection settings that your administrator might have included with your selected label. To do this, select Protect with custom permissions.

    Any custom permissions that you specify replace rather than supplement protection settings that your administrator might have defined for your chosen label.

  4. If you selected the custom permissions option, now specify the following:

    Option Description
    Select permissions Select the level of access that you want people to have when you protect the selected file or files.
    Select users, groups, or organizations Specify the people who should have the permissions you selected for your file or files. Type their full email address, a group email address, or a domain name from the organization for all users in that organization.

    Alternatively, you can use the address book icon to select users or groups from the Outlook address book.
    Expire access Select this option only for time-sensitive files so that the people you specified can't open your selected file or files after a date that you set. You will still be able to open the original file but after midnight (your current time zone), on the day that you set, the people that you specified will not be able to open the file.
  5. Click Apply and wait for the Work finished message to see the results. Then click Close.

The selected file or files are now classified and protected, according to your selections. In some cases (when adding protection changes the file name extension), the original file in File Explorer is replaced with a new file that has the Azure Information Protection lock icon. For example:

Protected file with lock icon for Azure Information Protection

If you change your mind about the classification and protection, or later need to modify your settings, simply repeat this process with your new settings.

The classification and protection that you specified stays with the file, even if you email the file or save it to another location.

Protecting generic file types

To protect generic file types, which do not have built-in support for protection, while ensuring that recipients will be able to access them as expected, we recommend that you define the recipient as a co-owner of the file.

For example, if you are sharing a .pub file and want to make sure that your recipient can open it, either choose a label that grants co-owning permissions, or set custom permissions for the file.

If you set custom permissions for the file, in the Select users, groups, or organizations box, make sure that you define the email address for the users who need access to the file.

For example:

Protecting files without built-in support from the File Explorer.

For more information, see File types supported by the Azure Information Protection unified labeling client.

Next steps

For more information, see: