How to delete chats and messages in Microsoft Teams

If you want to clear space in your Microsoft Teams channels or chats, there are options for decluttering your UI and getting rid of unwanted messages.

How to delete chats and messages in Microsoft Teams

Is your Microsoft Teams app getting a little cluttered? Maybe your direct chats are filled with messages that no longer matter, or your team boards themselves are filled with infinitely scrolling records that you can't easily sort through—whatever it is, Microsoft Teams might be getting unwieldy. 

It's understandable to want an option to delete or clear out old messages. Unfortunately, Microsoft Teams is built for retention and institutional memory, so those records can't be gotten rid of easily, and in many cases can't be eliminated at all.

That doesn't mean you have no control in Microsoft Teams, though: It's possible to do at least some deleting, and things you can't delete can be hidden from view to eliminate clutter. If you need to do anything pertaining to getting rid of messages or posts in Microsoft Teams, read on.

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How to clean up your Microsoft Teams channels and delete posts

Teams channels are the general chat boards in Microsoft Teams that organizations, or sub-groups, have access to post publicly. These are one area where individual Microsoft Teams users lack control: You can't clear a channel's history, or delete messages from other users unless you're a Microsoft Teams enterprise admin--if there's a particular message you need removed from a Teams channel, you'll have to ask an administrator to do so.

Individuals can only delete their own posts, which is easy to do: With Teams open to the channel and message you want to delete, just hover your mouse over the message and wait for the emoji menu to appear. Click on the three dots on the right of the menu, and select delete (Figure A).

Figure A


Deleting a message you posted in a Microsoft Teams channel.

Deleted messages may be gone, but the context in which they existed isn't erased with them: Note in Figure B that the message itself is replaced by a note saying it was deleted, and responses remain in line below. Also note, the poster of the message can undo the deletion by clicking Undo; other users won't see that option, only that the message was deleted.

Figure B


What it looks like when you delete a message in a Microsoft Teams chat channel.

If you want to get rid of a channel that you're a part of you can't really do that, either, unless you're the channel creator. You can, however, hide a particular channel if you don't post to it or read it, or if it's not used very often. 

To hide a channel, mouse over its name and look for the three dots indicating the menu. Look for Hide, and click it (Figure C), which removes the channel from the channel list. 

Figure C


How to hide a channel in Microsoft Teams.

Hidden channels are grouped together under a Hidden Channels list. To unhide a channel, just mouse over its name and click Show (Figure D). 

Figure D


Unhiding a channel in Microsoft Teams.

How to delete and hide chats in Microsoft Teams

Chats, unfortunately for those who want to get rid of old messages, behave mostly the same ways as Microsoft Teams channels: You can delete messages you've sent in the same way as in Figure A above, but can't delete messages from others, and can't get rid of an entire chat log, only hide it.

Hiding works the same way as with channels, but with the added benefit of not seeing a field saying messages have been hidden (Figure E). Once hidden, they only reappear if you search the sender's name to send a new message, or are sent one by the original sender.  

Figure E


Hiding chat messages in Microsoft Teams (left) and a chat window with all messages hidden (right).

"By default, Teams chat, channel, and files data are retained indefinitely, unless there is an attempt to delete the content via retention policies, user deletes, admin deletes etc.," Microsoft states on its Teams retention page

Administrators can shorten or lengthen retention time based on institutional need, as well as delete messages and other content that users request (and get approval for). If you need specific content deleted or don't want a certain channel or chat retained, you'll have to contact your Microsoft Teams administrator to change the policy for you. 

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Image: Brandon Vigliarolo