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Get rid of ghostly in-place holds

I can’t get rid of the ghosts I called. Or will I?

You know how it is: There are things you don’t have to understand. In a recent case, I wanted to deactivate the archive license for Exchange Online. But first I went to the Exchange Admincenter to deactivate the archives for the respective users. After all, everything has to be in order. But the attempt failed miserably. Again and again I received the following message:

Error executing request. Exchange can’t disable the mailbox „Displayname of the Mailbox“ because it is on In-Place Hold. ComplianceTagHoldApplied: false, DelayHoldApplied: true, DelayReleaseHoldApplied: true, OrganizationPolicies Applied: , UserPolicies Applied: , restrictivePolicies Applied: . For more information, please see the PowerShell cmdlets, Get-OrganizationConfig <>|fl inplace*, and Get-Mailbox <>|fl compl*,delay*,inplace*

So disabling the archives was not possible because there were any in-place holds. So I went on a search. In the eDiscovery portal… No holds on mailboxes to be found. Elsewhere in the Compliance Portal… No holds or any policies far and wide. In the Exchange Admin Center (even the classic one)… nothing like that. Even on the archives, no corresponding policy has been actively set. So what’s the next step?


  1. It may well happen that there are in-place holds on mailboxes, but they are not displayed in the admin portals. Where this comes from, I cannot reconstruct at this point. I suspect that moving compliance-relevant features from the Exchange Admin Center to the Compliance Center may be part of the reason. In any case, ghostly in-place holds like this can happen.
  2. Read error messages carefully and to the end. Of course, the reader of this article always does that. I don’t, I’m a scatterbrain. That cost me some time, because I would have found the first important Powershell command earlier. Because…
  3. Microsoft documentation is not always up to date. Unfortunately, this manual did not help me at this point.

After some back and forth, I managed to remove the in-place holds from the mailboxes.

Workaround to Remove the In-Place Holds

So fall back to Powershell and go into the research. We can use the Powershell command that we got in the “error message” when we tried to deactivate the archive.

In the first step, we can and should look at how the specific mailbox looks like. What is activated? What do we have to deactivate afterwards?

Get-Mailbox <em>UPN_der_Mailbox</em> |fl compl*,delay*,inplace*
Code language: PowerShell (powershell)

What you get is a list with the mailbox attributes you are looking for:

ComplianceTagHoldApplied: FALSE
DeylayHoldApplied: TRUE
DeylayReleaseHoldApplied: TRUE
InPlaceHolds: {}

We see in this example the result that two attributes are TRUE – as we also read in the error message (if you read it carefully). These actively prevent the deactivation of the archives. So an in-place hold must have been set here at some time in the past. So the ghost holds are made visible.

To reset these two attributes and to resolve the holds, in our example two more commands are needed:

Set-Mailbox <em>UPN_der_Mailbox</em> -RemoveDeylayHoldApplied Set-Mailbox <em>UPN_der_Mailbox</em> -RemoveDelayReleaseHoldApplied
Code language: PowerShell (powershell)

If you now call the above mentioned Get command again, you will (hopefully) see that the two TRUEs now each contain a FALSE.

And in the next step it is then also possible to turn off the archive in the Exchange Online Admincenter for the corresponding mailbox. It can sometimes take a few seconds or a minute until the change takes effect via Powershell. So don’t panic if the original error message reappears when disabling the archive.

So that was it. Wasn’t hard at all, basically. So yes, you can get rid of ghosts in Exchange Online. And this is important: Mailboxes that are on in-place hold are not considered by a possible retention policy.

Published by Sascha

Cloud Solution Architect for Microsoft 365 with a soft spot for data protection and security. In addition, always an eye on the no less important topics of Change & Adoption.
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