Automatically move or delete older items with AutoArchive

Your Microsoft Outlook mailbox grows as you create and receive items. To manage the space in your mailbox or on the mail server you are using, you might need another place to store — archive — old items that are important but rarely used. AutoArchive handles this storage process automatically, moving items to an archive location, an Outlook Personal Folders file (.pst), but you can customize most of the default settings to fit your storage needs.

Note: Items in your mailbox might be subject to your organization's retention policies or messaging records management. These policies restrict users' ability to retain messages and other records beyond a specific period of time that is defined by the organization. When applied, these policies take precedence over AutoArchive settings, and the AutoArchive feature is removed from Outlook profiles that are set up to use Microsoft Exchange.

What do you want to do?

Review or change the default AutoArchive settings

Change the AutoArchive settings for an individual folder

Review or change the default AutoArchive settings

AutoArchive moves items from their original location in Outlook to an archive file folder when they expire, that is, when they pass their aging period. You can also set options for items to be deleted when they expire.

Important: More about storing and deleting items

  • Items are stored in their archived locations unless you change one or more AutoArchive settings, choosing to have the items deleted when they expire. The items are not deleted from their archived locations, they can only automatically deleted before they are moved to their archive location. Once they are archived, they can only be deleted manually

  • Choosing an option to have items deleted permanently deletes the items automatically when they expire. They are not archived. For instance, if you click Delete expired items (e-mail folders only), this option deletes all messages in all your e-mail folders, such as Inbox, Sent, or Drafts, when they reach the end of their aging periods. The messages are not archived.

The different types of Outlook items, such as messages, appointments, and tasks, have different aging periods. These default aging periods do not change unless you change the settings for them manually.

Tell me more about when specific Outlook items expire

The default aging periods for when items in Outlook folders expire or are deleted are:


Aging period

Inbox and Drafts

6 months

Sent Items and Deleted Items

2 months


3 months


6 months


6 months


6 months


6 months


Do not expire

Note: Folders you create that contain the same type of items as Inbox, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, or Journal have the same default, six-month aging period.

The age of an item is determined by its type:

Item type

When the aging period starts

E-mail message

The received date/time or when you last changed and saved the message, whichever is later.

Meeting, event, or appointment

The date when you last changed and saved the item, whichever is later. Recurring items are not AutoArchived.


The completion date or when you last changed and saved the task. Tasks that are not marked complete are not AutoArchived. Tasks assigned to other people are archived only if marked complete.


When you last changed and saved the note.

Journal entry

The date the Journal entry was created or when you last changed and saved the entry.


Contacts are not archived by default. However, you can manually archive them.

The first time that you run Outlook, AutoArchive is on by default and runs every 14 days. You can change how often AutoArchive runs, specify the Outlook data file (.pst) used to store archived items, and choose when items in your Outlook folders are subject to being archived.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Other tab.

  2. Click AutoArchive.

    Note: Depending on your computer settings and add-ins, you might see different tabs in the Options dialog box.

    AutoArchive in the Tools Options dialog box

  3. Select the Run AutoArchive every n days check box, and then specify how often to run AutoArchive.

  4. Select the options that you want.

    Click here to learn more about the AutoArchive settings and options 1-9 in the picture below.

    1. Run AutoArchive every   Choose how often you want AutoArchive to run. Archiving many items at the same time might slow down your computer's performance. Therefore, it is good to choose a period of time that shortens the AutoArchive process. Consider how many items that you typically receive during a given time and adjust the timeframe accordingly. Prompt before AutoArchive runs    Choose this option if you want Outlook to display a reminder message before AutoArchive processes your Outlook items. When you see the message, you can click No to cancel that AutoArchive session.

    2. Delete expired items (e-mail folders only)   This option is not selected by default. You can choose to have e-mail messages deleted when their aging period has expired. The default period for your Draft and Inbox items is six months, and three months for your Sent Items, but you can change these periods using the Clean out items older than option.

    3. Archive or delete old items   You must choose this option if you want AutoArchive to delete some or all items when they expire. This option activates other options that enable you to decide which items are archived and which are deleted when they reach the end of the aging period. Then choose additional settings to apply to both archiving and deletion.

    Note: In the AutoArchive dialog box, "folders" refers to your main Outlook feature areas, such as the Calendar folder and Task folder, and individual e-mail folders. This is because your Calendar and Task items are stored in their respective Calendar and Task folders.

    4. Show archive folder in folder list   Choose to have the Archive folder listed with your other working folders in the Navigation Pane. In the main Archive folder, you can open the subfolders and view your archived items. When viewing your archived items, you can verify that the correct items were archived, and you can also drag any items that you need back to a working folder.

    5. Clean out items older than    Choose the default setting for when you want your items archived, in days, weeks, or months. You can set a period of one day up to a period of 60 months. "Clean" means to archive — store — items. It does not mean "delete" unless you have specified that setting for the folders elsewhere.

    6. Move old items to    The default setting for this location is different for computers that are running the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows XP operating systems.

    Windows Vista: C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\Archive.pst.

    Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\user \Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Archive.pst.

    If you want to set another destination for the archived items, you can browse to and set a different location. Items will be moved to this location after their aging period.

    Note: Items archived in a custom location will not be deleted unless you open the folders and delete them manually.

    7. Permanently delete items   This option immediately deletes the expired items instead of moving them to the default location, another folder that you have designated, or the Deleted Items folder.

    8. Apply these settings to all folders now    This option applies the AutoArchive settings, including your changes, to all of your folders. To specify different settings for one or more folders, do not choose this option. Instead, use the instructions shown below the button that explain how to specify settings for individual folders. These instructions are also included in the following section, "Change the AutoArchive settings for an individual folder." Changes made to specific folders apply only to those folders.

    9. Retention Policy Information    In your organization, a system administrator might set retention policies that determine when and how your mailbox items are AutoArchived. You can view the policies here, but you can't change them without the appropriate permissions.

    AutoArchive settings

  5. Click OK.


    • If you change the archive file listed under Move old items to, this new file will be used each time that AutoArchive runs.

    • Set the default folder options first, and then customize individual folder settings, otherwise you may unintentionally change the default settings.

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Change the AutoArchive settings for an individual folder

  1. In the folder list in the Navigation Pane, right-click the folder you want to change, and then click Properties on the shortcut menu.

  2. Click the AutoArchive tab.

  3. Select the options that you want.

    Note: For more information on the settings, please see Step 4 in the section above, "Review or change the default AutoArchive settings."

  4. Click OK.

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