In Exchange 2010, you can use Retention Policies to manage message retention. Retention Policies consist of delete tags, i.e. retention tags with either Delete and Allow Recovery or Permanently Delete actions, or archive tags, i.e. retention tags with the Move To Archive action, which move items to the user's archive mailbox.

Depending on how they're applied to mailbox items, retention tags are categorized as the following three types:

  1. Default Policy Tags (DPTs), which apply to untagged items in the mailbox – untagged items being items that don't have a retention tag applied directly or by inheritance from parent folder. You can create three types of DPTs: an archive DPT, a delete DPT and a DPT for voicemail messages.
  2. Retention Policy Tags (RPTs), which are retention tags with a delete action, created for default folders such as Inbox and Deleted Items. Not all default folders are supported. You can find a table showing the default folders supported for RPTs in Understanding Retention Tags and Retention Policies. Notably, Calendar, Tasks and Contacts folders aren't supported1.
  3. Personal Tags, which are retention tags that users can apply to items and folders in Outlook 2010 and Outlook Web App. Personal tags can either be delete tags or archive tags. They're surfaced in Outlook 2010 and OWA as Retention policies and Archive policies.

To deploy retention tags, you add them to a retention policy and apply the policy to mailbox users.

In Exchange 2010 SP1, we added support for the Notes folder. In Exchange 2010 RTM, items in the Notes folder aren't processed. After you upgrade to SP1, if the user's retention policy doesn't have a RPT for the Notes folder, the DPT from the user's policy will apply to items in that folder.

In existing deployments, your users may not be used to their notes being moved or deleted.

To prevent the DPT from being applied to a default folder, you can create a disabled RPT for that folder (or disable any existing RPT for that folder). The Managed Folder Assistant, a mailbox assistant that processes mailbox items and applies retention policies, does not apply the retention action of a disabled tag. Since the item/folder still has a tag, it's not considered untagged and the DPT isn't applied to it.

Screenshot: Creating a disabled retention policy tag for the Notes folder
Figure 1: Create a disabled Retention Policy Tag for the Notes default folder to prevent the Default Policy Tag from being applied to items in that folder

Note: You can create a disabled RPTfor any supported default folder.

Why are items in the Notes folder still archived?

If you create a disabled RPT for the Notes folder, you'll see items in that folder are not deleted, but they do continue to be moved to the archive! Why does this happen? How do you prevent it?

It's important to understand that:

  • A retention policy can have a DPT to archive items (using the Move to Archive retention action) and a DPT to delete items (using the Delete and Allow Recovery or Permanently Delete retention actions). Both apply to untagged items.
  • The move and delete actions are exclusive of each other. Mailbox folders and messages can have both types of tags applied - an archive tag and a delete tag. It's not an either/or proposition.
  • If you create a disabled RPT for the Notes folder to not delete items, the archive DPT for the mailbox would still apply and move items.
  • When it comes to archiving, there's only one archive policy that administrators can enforce – the DPT with 'Move to archive' action. You can't create a RPT with the 'Move to archive' action. This rules out using the disabled RPT approach to prevent items from being moved.

How do you prevent items in a default folder from being archived?

There's no admin-controlled way to prevent items in default folders from being archived2, short of removing the archive DPT from a retention policy. However, removing the archive DPT would result in messages not moving to archive automatically unless the user applies a personal tag to messages or folders.

The workaround is to have users apply the Personal never move to archive personal tag (displayed as Never under Archive Policy in Outlook/OWA) to a default folder. The tag is included in the Default Archive and Retention Policy created by Exchange Setup. You can also add this tag to any Retention Policies you create.

Screenshot: Applying Never archive policy to a folder in Outlook 2010
Figure 2: Users can apply the Never archive policy to a default folder to prevent items in that folder from being archived

1Support for Calendar and Notes retention tags was added in Exchange 2010 SP2 RU4.
2 You can apply a disabled move tag to a folder in user's mailbox using EWS code/script. For details, see Using Exchange Web Services to Apply a Personal Tag to a Custom Folder.

Applying a disabled archive policy to the Notes default folder

You can't use Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013 to apply an archive policy to the Notes default folder or individual notes items. If your users want to preven Notes items from being moved, they must apply a disabled move tag to the Notes folder using OWA.

Screenshot: Applying a disabled moved tag to the Notes folder to prevent Notes items from being archived
Figure 3: Apply Personal never move to archive policy to the Notes folder in Outlook Web App in Exchange 2013.
The Exchange 2010 Outlook Web App UI differs slightly - it lists archive and retention policies separately. See a screenshot here.

Bharat Suneja

Update 1/23/2013: In Exchange 2010 SP2 RU4, we added Calendar and Tasks retention tag support. You can prevent these from being moved or deleted by creating registry values. See Calendar and Tasks Retention Tag Support in Exchange 2010 SP2 RU4
6/18/2013 Added screenshot - Applying disabled move tag to Notes folder in OWA and link to Using Exchange Web Services to Apply a Personal Tag to a Custom Folder.