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Office 365 – Watch Your “Recoverable Items Quota”!

Many of the limits within Exchange Online are values that your users are unlikely to exceed. Despite this, we occasionally see situations where a limit is exceeded in ways you might not expect.
As perhaps best illustrated by the fabled “640K ought to be enough for anybody” quote (falsely?) attributed to Bill Gates, the requirements of users changes over time. Fortunately, Office 365 has maintained pace in most cases by raising various limits.
I recently worked with a client that exceeded the default 30 GB “RecoverableItemsQuota” value set on their mailbox. As a result, meeting invites sent to the user were being returned as undeliverable to the senders.
What is the “RecoverableItemsQuota”?
How can you tell if you’re at risk of exceeding the limit?
Is 30 GB a limit we can expect to exceed?
How can we increase the limit in Exchange Online?

First, some background on “Recoverable Items”

When a message in Exchange Online is deleted, it goes to the “Deleted Items” folder in the mailbox. If the user presses Shift+Delete or deletes the message from the “Deleted Items”, it then goes into the “Deletions” folder within the hidden “Recoverable Items” folder in the mailbox. While in the “Deletions” folder, users have the ability to recover the message themselves via Outlook or OWA. The message sits in the “Deletions” folder for 14 days by default (although this can be increased to 30 days) before it is moved to the hidden “Purges” folder and then purged from the mailbox.
The folder structure we’re talking about looks like this:

For mailboxes on holds such as “In-Place Hold” or “Litigation Hold”, the purge never occurs and the messages under hold continue to accumulate in the hidden “Purges” folder. Additionally, any changes to a message are retained through “copy on write” and stored in the hidden “Versions” folder within “Recoverable Items”.

What is the “RecoverableItemsQuota”?

The “RecoverableItemsQuota” as you might imagine is a quota for this “Recoverable Items” folder. It’s actually separate from the mailbox quota and not counted against the user’s mailbox quota. The default value for this quota in Exchange Online is 30 GB.

How can you tell if you’re at risk of exceeding the limit?

Much like your mailbox size, the size of the “Recoverable Items” folder is easily accessible via PowerShell. You can run similar scripts to run Get-MailboxStatistics and report on the “TotalDeletedItemSize” for a mailbox.

Is 30 GB a limit we can expect to exceed?

Let’s face it, 30 GB should be a pretty significant amount of deletions. Unless a mailbox is on hold, it would seem pretty unlikely that someone could queue up 30 GB of deletions in the maximum 30 day retention window. Of course, whenever there’s a limit, someone will eventually exceed it so it’s worth checking on a scheduled basis. That said, there are also situations that can occur that inflate a user’s “Recoverable Items” due to an error condition; more on that below.

How can we increase the limit in Exchange Online?

The value for “RecoverableItemsQuota” in Exchange Online cannot be changed by an admin. You can, however, open a support ticket and request an increase from Microsoft.
Fortunately, per the Office 365 Roadmap, Microsoft has begun increasing this quota to 100 GB for mailboxes that are on In-Place Hold or Litigation Hold. The feature is currently listed as “Launched” and I’ve started to see it appear in some but not all tenants.

When messages go wrong…

I recently worked with a client that was having problems receiving meeting invites. The error received by the sender is below:

STOREDRV.Deliver.Exception:QuotaExceededException.MapiExceptionShutoffQuotaExceeded; Failed to process message due to a permanent exception with message Move/Copy messages failed.
Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
User, Test (
There's a problem with the recipient's mailbox. Please try resending the message. If the problem
continues, please contact your helpdesk.
The following organization rejected your message:
Diagnostic information for administrators:
Generating server:
Remote Server returned
'554 5.2.0 STOREDRV.Deliver.Exception:QuotaExceededException.MapiExceptionShutoffQuotaExceeded;
Failed to process message due to a permanent exception with message Move/Copy messages failed.
[Stage: OnCreatedEvent][Agent: Meeting Message Processing Agent]'

This recipient, who was on Litigation Hold, had in fact exceeded the 30 GB “Recoverable Items” limit. A ticket was placed into Microsoft and the quota was raised to 100 GB.
Looking further into the mailbox, I found that it was the “Versions” folder where nearly all of the 30 GB resided. A deeper look into the folder and there were hundreds of the same meeting invite (with a sizable attachment) repeated over and over. The meetings all had the text:

Exchange 2013 re-created a meeting that was missing from your calendar

If you’ve been paying attention to some the issues with the iOS ActiveSync client, you’ll recognize this is currently one of the issues that creeps up from time to time. Additional documentation can be found in KB3015401. As best that I could tell, the meeting invite had some corruption issues, possibly as a result of a mobile device, and since the mailbox is on Litigation Hold, any changes to that entry are then saved in the “Versions” folder. There are a number of reasons why the invite might have been updated, some related to the attachment but in any case, it was an interesting issue.


  • There is a flow to deleted messages that progress through various folders (some hidden) in the mailbox.
  • The default quota for “Recoverable Items” in Exchange Online is 30 GB.
  • PowerShell scripts can be used to report on the current size of a user’s “Recoverable Items”.
  • A ticket can be opened with Microsoft to increase the “Recoverable Items” quota.
  • The “Recoverable Items” quota is currently being increased to 100 GB for mailboxes on holds.
  • Corruption of a message can cause a user’s “Recoverable Items” to inflate if the mailbox is on hold.

Did you find this article helpful?
Leave a comment below or follow me on Twitter (@JoePalarchio) for additional posts and information on Office 365.
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Thoughts on “Office 365 – Watch Your “Recoverable Items Quota”!”

  1. When a user who is on Litigation Hold exceeds the recoverable items quota or at least is at the threshold warning, will the user receive a message from Exchange in their inbox that they are reaching that quota?

  2. Laura Lass, they will not receive any notice nor will the admin
    “weird” issues will occur, most likely, issues with deletions (losing the ability to delete any data from the mailbox)

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