archiving email

Archiving email with Microsoft 365

This post is part of our Mastering Microsoft 365 series

You’ve got mail! Probably lots of it.

While modern email solutions, like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, are built to handle large volumes of mail, over time, a cluttered email inbox can lead to:

  • Lost Time – and lost productivity when too much time is spent looking for emails
  • Lost Emails – which can create issues with customers and vendors

One solution to keeping your inbox tidy is to be archiving emails regularly. Archiving emails keeps your emails searchable, but out of your inbox.

The challenge of discussing this topic is that the process has changed substantially over the years, so let’s start right at the beginning.

What is archiving email?

Archiving email is the process of moving emails out of your main Inbox folder structure and into a separate Archive folder.

In the past, when you archived emails, the email archive folder was stored on your hard drive in a separate Outlook .PST file from your main inbox file. Many organizations relied on their employees to self-manage the archiving process, The problem with storing emails on a hard drive is that they may be lost if the computer is damaged, corrupted, or lost. Today, most organizations choose to archive emails in the cloud. Microsoft makes this easy for Microsoft 365 administrators to set this up.

Personal email “archive”

email archive 1

Using the Outlook Web application (OWA), Microsoft 365 has provided a button right in the top ribbon to “archive” emails. We use quotes here because this feature is not truly archiving your emails. Instead, this button sends your email to a folder called Archive, which is simply a folder with that title. The advantage of using this Archive button is that you can move emails quickly once they’ve been handled, and still easily find them later.

The downside is that the emails in that Archive folder are actually still in your mailbox, so they count against your mailbox size limit. In short, this quick Archive button is a good fit for you if you have plenty of mailbox space, and you don’t want your inbox cleared out without doing any organizing. All emails in this folder are still searchable.

Personal archive policies

You can also create personal archive policies, which will send emails to either a separate PST file locally – or to your cloud-based email storage. These emails are actually moved out of your email mailbox and therefore do not count against your mailbox storage size limitations. Some Microsoft 365 subscription plans offer unlimited archiving space. Also, you can setup your personal archives so the emails are still searchable.

email archive 2
email archive 3

If you right click on the folder (or any folder), you can set an Archive policy. The archive policies you set on these folders differ from your organization’s archival policies.

Organizational email archives

Microsoft 365 administrators can create organization-wide policies about how email is archived – either online or on employee’s desktop. Either way, archives can be backed up with your routine backup procedures.

Which is better for your organization?

In nearly all cases, we recommend using Microsoft 365’s built-in online archive features.


Gives you the most control, with least risk of data loss

  • Moves email out of mailbox
  • No longer counts against mailbox size limit
  • Still searchable
  • Unlimited archiving space available with some subscription plans
  • Centralized and flexible archiving policies which can apply policy to all users or apply policies to different people or folders

On Desktop (PST file)

Higher risk of data loss; less centralized control

  • Moves email out of mailbox
  • No longer counts against mailbox size limit
  • Not searchable (unless you open the PST file in Outlook)
  • Not automatically backed up by Microsoft; puts more responsibility on employee
  • Easy to misplace PST files over tiem
  • Lost or damaged equipment create a significant risk of complete data loss

Emails of former employees

In the past, when an employee left a company, we would convert the mailbox to an offline archive. With Office 365, we convert the licensed mailbox to a shared mailbox. This allows us to grant multiple people access to the shared mailbox and we don’t have to manage the PST file. (There is no additional cost for shared mailboxes.)

Archiving email for legal & compliance needs

While it’s beyond the scope of this article, Microsoft 365 also has features available that can help you with compliance and retention needs.

Considering Microsoft 365?

If you’re not yet using Microsoft 365, we have services available to help clients:

  • Select the appropriate Microsoft 365 licensing plan
  • Get setup with the right security and permissions
  • Migrate your emails and files from other systems
  • Provide ongoing Microsoft 365 technical support

If you want to explore your options, please reach out to our team via email at or by calling 1-586-263-1775.

Schedule an appointment
Microsoft 365

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I archive my emails?

In your email inbox there should be an “archive” option – where it will take your emails and put them into an “archive” folder. This takes the emails out of your inbox but still makes them searchable for later.

What does archiving email mean?

When you archive an email, you’re taking it out of your inbox, but it’s still searchable so you can find it again later. This does not delete the email, only putting it in a different space.

What happens when I archive emails in Outlook?

Archiving an email in Outlook moves it to the “Archive” folder. You can still find this email later (it is NOT deleted), it is just in the archive folder. You will still be able to search for this email in your email mailbox.

Similar Posts