Archiving Verses Deleting Emails

When it comes to removing emails, there are two options that nearly every service has; Archive and Delete. It’s a little confusing why there are two choices that sound very similar. What’s the difference and which should you use?

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RAYMOND OGLESBY @RaymondOglesby2
May 3, 2022

When it comes to removing emails, there are two options that nearly every service has; Archive and Delete. It’s a little confusing why there are two choices that sound very similar. What’s the difference and which should you use?

Both archiving and deleting emails will remove them from your Inbox, but that’s where the similarities end. Knowing the difference between the two can save you from some trouble. Let’s explore the difference

This is for devices running Microsoft Office 365 Outlook app. Screenshots are from Windows 10

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Archive an Email

The Archive function in email services is essentially Delete Lite. The email is removed from your Inbox and instantly removed. It feels like you deleted the email, but it’s not gone forever.

If you think about physical mail, the Archive function is like shoving a piece of mail into a drawer. You will not see it anymore, but it’s still there if you need it.

Archived emails are usually put into a special Archive folder. First, open an Outlook email in your Inbox. Refer to the below image:

Email 1
Opening an Outlook email

Next, right-click on the email, and select Archive from the drop-down menu. The email will be moved to your Archive folder. Or, you can drag and drop email(s) to your Archive folder. If you do not have this folder, you will receive a message asking if you want to create the Archive folder or choose another folder. See the below image:

Email 2
Selecting to Archive an email

AutoArchive for Folders

If you want to clean up your folders but do not want to spend the time manually doing this, consider using the AutoArchive feature. Using AutoArchive, you can tuck away older emails and items you no longer need but do not necessarily want to delete.

You can decide when to archive your items, which ones to archive, and where they should be sent. You can set up AutoArchive for specific folders or completely remove folders from the archive process.

To get started:

Open Outlook, then click:

File > Options > Advanced > AutoArchive Settings

and select/change your options, then click OK when finished. See the following image:

Email 4
AutoArchive options

Delete an Email

Deleting an email is a permanent function. When you delete an email it’s usually moved to a Trash folder. That’s where it will sit for 30 days, after which it is removed for good (usually).

To use the physical mail example again, deleting is like putting mail in your trash can. You might have 30 days to retrieve it, but after you take it to the curb, it’s gone forever.

First, open an Outlook email in your Inbox. Next, right-click on the email, and select Delete from the drop-down menu. The email will be moved to your Trash folder. Or, you can drag ad drop email(s) to your Trash folder. Refer to the below image:

Email 3
Selecting to Delete an email

Archive and Delete an email is similar in Gmail. The difference lies in the location of these options. Once a Gmail is opened, they are located in the top toolbar.

Which One to Use

With these definitions in mind, you might be thinking there’s no reason to ever fully delete an email. Well, that might be true if you are willing to pay for storage. The days of unlimited free storage for email accounts are over.

All those archived emails are added to your storage. So unless you want to pay for more storage, you should delete some emails.

It’s a good practice to delete any email you know you will never need again and Archive the others. Keep in mind that the U.S. government can look at emails older than 180 days without a warrant.

Archive and Delete may sound familiar, but their functions are drastically different. By using them, you can maintain a clean Inbox.

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Author: Raymond

I am Raymond Oglesby, an Information Technology (IT) specialist with 30 years in the field. I have taught Microsoft Applications and troubleshot computers in 15 countries and many States. My career was focused on mainframes and desktops from application development to implementation. I have written hundreds of programs for various architectures. I decided to start a blog to share my knowledge and experiences with you. I plan on updating this blog at least twice a week about smart phone apps to Windows. Please feel free to leave a Comment or Tweet. I would love to hear from you. Do you have a computer tech question? I will do my best to answer your inquiry. Please mention the app and version that you are using. To help me out, you can send screenshots of your data related to your question.

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