Manage legal holds for your Dropbox team account

Updated Mar 25, 2024
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Legal holds is a feature available to Dropbox team accounts that have purchased the Data Governance Add-On.

Placing a legal hold on a team member allows admins to view and export all the content that’s been created or modified by that member. Members affected by a legal hold won't be notified of the hold and will still maintain their permissions to create, edit, and delete files.

Create a legal hold

To create a legal hold:

  1. Log in to dropbox.com with your admin credentials.
  2. Click Admin console in the left sidebar.
  3. Click >More dropdown.
  4. Click Legal holds.
  5. Click New hold.
  6. Fill out the name and details of the hold, then click Continue.
  7. Enter the name or email of the member or members you want to place a hold on, then click Continue.
  8. Select a start and end date for the hold.
    • You can set the start date in the past or today, but not in the future
    • You can set the end date in the past, today, in the future, or check Don’t set an end date
  9. Click Activate.

If you create a hold with a start date in the past, it may take some time to activate the hold. You'll be notified via email when the hold is activated. You can also view the status of a hold from the Legal holds page in the admin console.

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Note: A legal hold is considered active until an admin releases the hold, even if the end date has passed. After the end date, new file versions will no longer be copied, but the existing copies will be available until you release the hold.

What types of files can I put on hold?

When you create a legal hold, copies of all files a member has created or edited between the start and end date period will be held with the exception of:

  • Cloud docs, including Dropbox Paper docs and Google Docs/Sheets/Slides
  • Files the member only previewed
  • Files the member has access to but hasn’t edited
  • Files that were created and modified before the user joined the team
  • Files the member no longer has access to at the time the hold is placed
  • Files that were created or edited by an admin signed in as a team member
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Tip: In rare cases, files may not be held if a member loses access to them shortly after creating or editing them. To avoid this, we recommend making sure the legal hold is fully activated before deleting any members.

Who can I place on legal hold?

You can place holds on active, invited, and suspended members of your team, including holds on other admins and yourself.

You can’t place holds on deleted members, entire groups, or entire teams. However, you can delete a member while they are on hold.

View a legal hold

You can view any active or released legal hold at any time. To view a legal hold:

  1. Log in to dropbox.com with your admin credentials.
  2. Click Admin console.
  3. Click >More dropdown.
  4. Click Legal holds.
  5. Toggle between the Active and Released tabs to view all of your team’s legal holds.

Edit a legal hold

You can edit the name and details of a hold or add or remove members; however, you can’t edit the dates of the hold. To edit a legal hold:

  1. Log in to dropbox.com with your admin credentials.
  2. Click Admin console.
  3. Click >More dropdown.
  4. Click Legal holds.
  5. Click the checkbox that appears when you hover over the name of the legal hold you’d like to edit.
  6. Click Edit hold.
  7. Edit the name or details of the hold.
  8. Click Continue.
  9. Add or remove members from the hold.
  10. Click Continue.
  11. Review your changes.
  12. Click Save.

Release a legal hold

If you no longer need a hold, you can release the hold. This will remove all files associated with that hold and can't be undone. To release a legal hold:

  1. Log in to dropbox.com with your admin credentials.
  2. Click Admin console.
  3. Click >More dropdown.
  4. Click Legal holds.
  5. Click the checkbox that appears when you hover over the name of the legal hold you’d like to release.
  6. Click Release hold.

Export a legal hold

You can export all of a legal hold’s files at once or decide which ones to export by filtering files by member name, date range, file type, and file version. The export can be saved to any folder in your Dropbox account.

To see which files are being held without fully exporting the hold, export the hold summary .CSV file. 

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Notes:

  • Files created within 24 hours prior to export may not be included.
  • Names of files and folders in the export will be lowercase.
  • In rare cases, names of files and folders in the export will be truncated due to file and folder path character limits.

To export a legal hold:

  1. Log in to dropbox.com with your admin credentials.
  2. Click Admin console.
  3. Click >More dropdown.
  4. Click Legal holds.
  5. Click the “” (ellipsis) to the right of the legal hold you’d like to export.
  6. Click Create new export.
  7. Select the file filters to use in your export.
    • Note: To export all files, select Everyone’s filesAll datesAll types, and Every version available
  8. (Optional) Click Select folder to exclude to exclude specific folders from the export. Once you’ve selected the folder, click Select.
    • Note: You can exclude a maximum of 100 folders.
  9. Click Continue.
  10. Type the export name and an optional description in the appropriate fields.
  11. Click Continue.
  12. The export may take some time to process before you can download it. Once it’s finished, click Download

Watch this video for more information about legal holds.

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