What is Archive in Email? A Guide to Decluttering Your Inbox

What is archive in email cover

“Archive” in email is a feature that lets you store emails you want to keep but don’t need in your primary inbox. When you archive an email, you’re not deleting it. Instead, you’re moving it out of your primary view to reduce clutter but saving it in a place where you can easily find and access it later. 

Navigating through a cluttered inbox can feel overwhelming, especially if you run a business and receive many emails daily. Each message, whether it’s a client inquiry, a team update, or an invoice, demands attention. The challenge? Balancing the need to keep essential emails close at hand without letting your inbox turn into an endless maze. 

Let’s see what is archive in email and how it can make your email experience smoother and more organized.

What Is the Purpose of Archiving Emails?

So, what is the point of archiving emails? 

Archiving is an efficient solution to declutter your main workspace while keeping important communications within reach.

When you’re done with an email, it doesn’t always mean you don’t need it anymore. But you might not know when exactly you’ll return to it. So, instead of keeping it in the inbox, you’ll archive it. You can retrieve the message any time you want, and it’ll return to your inbox if someone replies. 

Email archiving comes in two variants: 

 1. Archiving Features in Email Clients

These are built right into your email platform, like Gmail or Outlook. They work like labeling or folder systems. When you archive a conversation, the email client simply removes it from your primary inbox view and tucks it into the “Archive” folder. It’s still in your email system, just out of the main sight. 

This type of archiving is ideal for organizing your inbox if you receive a mix of important and not-so-important emails.

2. Third-Party Archiving Solutions

These software tools don’t just move your emails; they store them securely and often come with advanced search features, backup capabilities, and even compliance measures. They can handle large volumes of emails, and they might store emails outside of your main email system to guarantee 

Archiving software is great for businesses or professionals with legal or regulatory obligations to retain emails for a long time. More on archiving solutions later. 

Archiving vs. Deleting

Think of archiving like moving your emails into a storage closet. Your archived emails aren’t visible in your inbox, but they’re still in your email storage — unless you use archiving software to move them to another location or platform. These emails will stay in the archive until you manually delete them. So, shifting emails to the archive won’t free up space. 

On the other hand, deleting an email is like tossing it into a bin. It sits there for a while (typically 30 days), and then it’s gone forever. Some email clients don’t automatically empty the trash folder. In that case, if you need to free up space, you have to empty that folder manually. Remember, once an email is permanently deleted, you can’t get it back. 

Archiving vs. Backup

Archiving may seem like backing up your data. Both are ways of saving your emails for future use and protecting them against data loss. If they’re similar and you have one, do you need the other? 

Backing up saves an exact copy of your emails, preferably to another location or device.

It protects you against data loss in situations like:

  • Hardware failure
  • Data corruption
  • Cloud failure

Archiving is more about organization and accessibility. When you archive an email, you’re moving it from your main inbox, but you don’t have another copy of the email. So, if something goes wrong, you’ll lose your data. 

Here’s a detailed comparison of the two concepts: 

*Email BackupsArchiving in Email Clients
PurposeRecoveryOrganization and accessibility
Content Entire email databaseSelected emails moved out of the main inbox
Storage locationExternal drives or cloud backup systemsInside the email client, in a separate “Archived” folder
FrequencyDaily, weekly, or monthly based on set schedules.On-demand, whenever a user chooses to archive an email.
DurationBased on backup frequency; no need to keep old backups Indefinite, unless manually deleted
Comparing email backups and archives in email clients

How Do I Archive Emails? 

Each email client has its own steps for archiving. Here’s how to archive your emails with the most popular clients: 


Archiving emails in Gmail is pretty straightforward for all your devices: 

On a Computer 

  1. From your Inbox, hover your mouse over the conversation you want to Archive
  2. The Archive Icon appears on the right side, next to the Trash can. 
  3. Click it to archive the message. 
Archive email in Gmail

On Android

If you’re viewing the message, tap the Archive icon on the top. But to archive conversations from your inbox, you have to configure what happens to a conversation when you swipe it left — or right. 

  1. Open the Gmail app and navigate to Settings > General Settings
  2. Tap Gmail Default Action and select Archive
  3. After confirming the default action, return to your inbox. 
  4. Swipe the message you want to archive to the right or left. 

You can archive multiple messages by selecting them. Tap the message and hold it until you see a checkmark next to it. Do the same for the other messages and tap Archive

On iPhone

It’s just as straightforward to archive your messages on an iPhone. The only difference is that you can only swipe left to archive the message. 

Microsoft Outlook Webmail and Email Client

Archiving emails on both Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo Mail takes only a couple of clicks.

If you’re using Outlook, select the messages you want to archive and click the Archive icon. The process is similar in both webmail and email client.

Microsoft Outlook webmail Archive
Microsoft Outlook webmail Archive
Microsoft Outlook email client Archive

Yahoo! Mail

If you’re a Yahoo user, you need to select the messages you want to archive by checking the box on the left side of the messages. Then, right-click one of the selected messages and select “Archive” from the menu. Alternatively, you could click the Archive icon on top of the messages page after selecting the emails to be archived. 

Yahoo Mail Archive
Yahoo Mail Archive

How do I Retrieve Archived Emails?

Here’s how to retrieve your archived emails with different email clients. 

Retrieve Emails from Gmail Archive

Finding your archived emails on Gmail is a bit tricky. Gmail doesn’t mark your archived emails by giving them a label. So, you must remember a keyword in the email’s title to search for it.

On your computer, you can find your archived Gmail messages by clicking More on the left panel. Click All Mail. Now, use the client’s search tool and type in the email’s keyword to find it. 

The same goes for Gmail’s Android and iPhone apps. To access your archived messages, open Gmail on your Android or iPhone device and click the three horizontal lines in the top left corner. Tap All Mail and search for your email by its subject or sender.

While the current setup might feel a bit counterintuitive to the essence of archiving, let’s hope Google gives it a tweak in upcoming updates!

Retrieve Emails from Outlook Archive

To retrieve your archived messages in Outlook, all you need to do is open the app and click Archive from the sidebar on the left. 

Retrieve Emails from Yahoo! Mail Archive

Open Yahoo Mail on your computer and find Archive on the left sidebar. All your archived messages are in this folder. If the folder is crowded, you can use the search bar to find the message you want. 

Third-party Archiving Services

Using the archiving features in email apps is the least complicated and fastest way to archive messages and keep them organized. It’s perfect if you’re solo, but when you’re working in a team, things can get complicated quickly. If each team member can only see their own archived emails, collaboration becomes a challenge. Important messages might be missed, and information can get siloed. 

This is where third-party archiving solutions can help. These platforms offer a more centralized approach to archiving that promotes better teamwork and information sharing. They also give you features to manage, search, and retrieve archived emails efficiently.

Google Vault, Microsoft Azure Archive Storage, and Dell EMC SourceOne are a few noteworthy options. 

Besides streamlining collaboration, using an archiving platform can have these perks: 

Storage Management

Moving emails to the archive doesn’t necessarily free up storage in the overall sense — emails aren’t deleted; they’re simply moved. But archiving services let you relocate your archived messages to a separate disk or cheaper cloud storage. This way, you can store thousands of conversations without overwhelming your inbox’s storage capacity. 

Fast Access and Retrieval 

Even if you have unlimited inbox storage, sifting through hundreds of emails to find a specific message can take hours. Archiving solutions provide organized and indexed storage, making it easier to locate any email. You’ll save time and reduce the frustration of endless scrolling and searching.


Some jurisdictions or industries have strict rules about how long businesses have to preserve customer data and communications. For example, according to HIPAA, healthcare service providers must maintain patient communications for at least six years. And the Investment Advisors Association obligates investment advisors to keep client correspondence available for at least five years

These obligations don’t just apply to large organizations. Even if you’re a one-person show, you still have to follow regulations, and keeping an efficient email archive can protect you from legal trouble. 

Litigation Protection

While archiving regulations don’t exist for all industries, it’s still a good idea to maintain records of your business correspondence and transactional emails. Any business could become involved in legal disputes, and having a historical record of your communications can protect your interests. 

How To Choose the Best Third-Party Archiving Tool

Like any B2B software, there’s no shortage of archiving platforms. While each one has distinct capabilities, there are some must-have features you shouldn’t compromise on:

  • Intuitive user interface. 
  • Integration with other tools. 
  • Advanced indexing and search.
  • Support for multiple storage types.
  • Configurable policies for compliance. 
  • Security and encrypted email storage. 

Another essential feature is granular access control. That means the platform lets you specify who can view, modify, or delete archived emails. For example, you might want only certain team members or departments to access sensitive information, while others might only need to view general communications. You should also have the option to define new roles and assign detailed permissions

Finally, watch out for vendor lock-ins. Essentially, a vendor locks you in when you become too dependent on a single service provider, making it challenging and costly to switch to another platform later. Vendors often design barriers to exit to ensure a continuous stream of revenue from existing customers. These barriers might include proprietary formats, unique configurations, or hefty termination fees.

Email Archiving Best Practices

Archiving your emails is a smart move, both for personal and professional reasons. It helps you stay organized and keeps you compliant if you’re working in a regulated industry.

Here are a few tips to help you get the best results from your archiving solution: 

  • Automate archiving: An archiving solution is only effective if it’s consistent. Don’t rely on your personnel to archive emails; set up an automatic process that categorizes and stores emails based on predefined rules.
  • Invest in storage: Archiving email means you’ll be storing a significant amount of data as your archive grows over time. Use cloud solutions or invest in physical drives to have reliable storage with enough capacity. 
  • Keep a clean archive: Just like your main inbox, your archive can get cluttered. Periodically review and remove emails that are no longer relevant or necessary.
  • Stay on top of regulations. If regulatory bodies mandate email archiving for your company, learn all about those regulations and stay up-to-date. Make sure you understand the retention conditions and minimum periods to avoid legal trouble. 
  • Get legal advice: Before implementing an archiving policy, consult a qualified lawyer about your industry and region’s regulations. 
  • Communicate policies clearly. All employees in your company should be aware of the archiving policies and processes. If there’s an update, ensure everyone is informed and knows how to act. 

Archiving Keeps You Organized, Marketing Gets You Noticed

Email archiving is like your company’s memory, neatly keeping track of every conversation for when you need it most. But you also need an engine for growth to drive customer engagement and sales. This is where Campaign Refinery shines. When you decide to venture into email marketing, we’re the experts you need. 

What sets Campaign Refinery apart? Our focus is on deliverability. Email marketing isn’t just about creating the perfect message. It’s also about making sure that the message lands in your subscribers’ inboxes instead of the spam folder or the promotions tab. 

Check out our pricing, and apply to become part of our exclusive community. 

Want to send emails that spark interest and get you more engagement?

Our Inbox Formula PDF gives you the blueprint to get there.

Here’s a peek at what the guide brings to the table:

  • Essential elements your website needs to win the trust of email service providers.
  • A straightforward overview of email authentication protocols. 
  • Tried-and-true methods by top email marketers to consistently grow their business. 

Download the “Inbox Formula” now to unlock the secrets of higher email engagement rates.

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