Create retention labels for exceptions to your retention policies

Microsoft 365 licensing guidance for security & compliance.

As part of your data governance strategy to retain what you need and delete what you don't, you might need to create a few retention labels for items that need exceptions to your retention policies.

Whereas retention policies automatically apply to all items at the container level (such as SharePoint sites, user mailboxes, and so on), retention labels apply to individual items, such as a SharePoint document or an email message.

Make sure you understand the principles of retention before you use retention labels to supplement a retention policy for specific SharePoint, OneDrive, or Exchange items. Typically, you'll use retention labels to retain specific items longer than an applied retention policy, but they can also be used to override automatic deletion at the end of the retention period, or apply a different deletion period.

As a typical example: The majority of content on your SharePoint sites need to be retained for three years, which is covered with a retention policy. But you have some contract documents that must be retained for seven years. These exceptions can be addressed with retention labels. After assigning the retention policy to all SharePoint sites, you apply the retention labels to the contract documents. All SharePoint items will be retained for three years, and just the contract documents will be retained for seven years.

For more examples of how retention labels can be used as exceptions to retention policies, see Combining retention policies and retention labels.

Retention labels also support more capabilities than retention policies. For more information, see Compare capabilities for retention policies and retention labels.

Use the following information to help you create retention labels to supplement retention policies as part of your data lifecycle management strategy.


Create retention labels from the Records management solution rather than Data lifecycle management if you need to use retention labels to manage high-value items for business, legal, or regulatory record-keeping requirements. For example, you want to use event-based retention or disposition review. For instructions, see Use file plan to create and manage retention labels.


If you're not an E5 customer, use the 90-day Microsoft Purview solutions trial to explore how additional Purview capabilities can help your organization manage data security and compliance needs. Start now at the Microsoft Purview compliance portal trials hub. Learn details about signing up and trial terms.

Before you begin

To make sure you have permissions to create and edit retention labels and their policies, see Permissions for retention policies and retention labels.

How to create retention labels for data lifecycle management

For this configuration, you can use either the Microsoft Purview portal or the Microsoft Purview compliance portal.

  1. Depending on the portal you're using, navigate to one of the following locations:

  2. Select Create a label and follow the prompts to create the retention label. Be careful what name you choose, because this can't be changed after the label is saved.

    For more information about the retention settings, see Settings for retaining and deleting content.

  3. After you have created the label and you see the options to publish the label, auto-apply the label, or just save the label: Select Just save the label for now, and then select Done.

  4. Repeat these steps to create any more retention labels that you need for different retention settings.

To edit an existing label, select it, and then select the Edit label option to start the Edit retention label configuration that lets you change the label descriptions and any eligible settings.

Most settings can't be changed after the label is created and saved, which include the label name, and the retention settings except the retention period.

Next steps

Now you've created retention labels, they are ready to be added to items by publishing the labels, or automatically applying them: