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I'm just looking for a quick explanation of the "Deleted" index items in the crawl log of 2013 ES. It seems the number tallies all the items deleted for the past several months but I can't find any documentation on exactly how far back it goes. We're trying to track the size reduction of a content source over time but without some sort of context on the "Deletes" number I can't do that beyond an educated guess.

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I dont know what is default retention period of the crawl logs. But using the SearchServiceApplication.CrawlLogCleanupIntervalInDays you can set it to as per your requirement. this method have both get and sets, which may help you to get existing cleanup.

http://sharepoint-community.net/profiles/blogs/large-msscrawlurllog

When a crawler cannot find an item that exists in the index because the URL is obsolete or it cannot be accessed due to a network outage, the crawler reports an error for that item in that crawl. If this continues during the next three crawls, the item is deleted from the index.

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff621096%28v=office.14%29.aspx

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