Enable archive mailboxes in the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center

Archiving in Office 365 (also called In-Place Archiving) provides users with additional mailbox storage space. After you turn on archive mailboxes, users can access and store messages in their archive mailboxes by using Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web App. Users can also move or copy messages between their primary mailbox and their archive mailbox. They can also recover deleted items from the Recoverable Items folder in their archive mailbox by using the Recover Deleted Items tool.

Tip: Office 365 provides an unlimited amount of archive storage with the auto-expanding archiving feature. When auto-expanding archiving is turned on, and then the initial storage quota in a user's archive mailbox is reached, Office 365 automatically adds additional storage space. This means that users won't run out of mailbox storage space and you won't have to manage anything after you initially enable the archive mailbox and turn on auto-expanding archiving for your organization. For more information, see Overview of unlimited archiving in Office 365.

Before you begin   You have to be assigned the Mail Recipients role in Exchange Online to enable or disable archive mailboxes. By default, this role is assigned to the Recipient Management and Organization Management role groups on the Permissions page in the Exchange admin center. If you don't see the Archive page in the Security & Compliance Center, ask your administrator to assign you the necessary permissions.

To enable an archive mailbox:

  1. Go to https://protection.office.com.

  2. Sign in to Office 365 using your work or school account.

  3. In the left pane of the Security & Compliance Center, click Data governance > Archive.

    The Archive page is displayed. The Archive mailbox column indicates whether an archive mailbox is enabled or disabled for each user.

  4. In the list of mailboxes, select the user that you want to enable the archive mailbox for.

    Click Enable in the details pane of the selected user to enable the archive mailbox
  5. In the details pane for the selected user, click Enable.

    A warning is displayed saying that if you enable the archive mailbox, items in the user’s mailbox that are older than the archiving policy assigned to the mailbox will be moved to the new archive mailbox. The default archive policy that is part of the retention policy assigned to Exchange Online mailboxes moves items to the archive mailbox two years after the date the item was delivered to the mailbox or created by the user. For more information, see the More info section in this article.

  6. Click Yes to enable the archive mailbox.

    It might take a few moments to create the archive mailbox. When it’s created, Archive mailbox: enabled is displayed in the details pane for the selected user. You might have to click Refresh Refresh icon to update the information in the details pane.

Tip: You can also bulk-enable archive mailboxes by selecting multiple users with disabled archive mailboxes (use the Shift or Ctrl keys). After selecting multiple mailboxes, click Enable in the details pane.

You can also use the Archive page in the Security & Compliance Center to disable a user’s archive mailbox. After you disable an archive mailbox, you can reconnect it to the user's primary mailbox within 30 days of disabling it. In this case, the original contents of the archive mailbox are restored. After 30 days, the contents of the original archive mailbox are permanently deleted and can't be recovered. So if you re-enable the archive more than 30 days after disabling it, a new archive mailbox is created.

Note that the default archive policy assigned to users’ mailboxes moves items to the archive mailbox two years after the date the item is delivered. If you disable a user’s archive mailbox, no action will be taken on mailbox items and they will remain in the user’s primary mailbox.

To disable an archive mailbox:

  1. Go to https://protection.office.com.

  2. Sign in to Office 365 using your work or school account.

  3. In the left pane of the Security & Compliance Center, click Data governance > Archive.

    The Archive page is displayed. The Archive mailbox column indicates whether an archive mailbox is enabled or disabled for each user.

  4. In the list of mailboxes, select the user that you want to disable the archive mailbox for.

  5. In the details pane, click Disable.

    A warning message is displayed saying that you'll have 30 days to re-enable the archive mailbox, and that after 30 days, all information in the archive will be permanently deleted.

  6. Click Yes to disable the archive mailbox.

    It might take a few moments to disable the archive mailbox. When it’s disabled, Archive mailbox: disabled is displayed in the details pane for the selected user. You might have to click Refresh Refresh icon to update the information in the details pane.

Tip: You can also bulk-disable archive mailboxes by selecting multiple users with enabled archive mailboxes (use the Shift or Ctrl keys). After selecting multiple mailboxes, click Disable in the details pane.

Archive mailboxes help you and your users to meet your organization’s retention, eDiscovery, and hold requirements. For example, you can use your organization’s Exchange retention policy to move mailbox content to users’ archive mailbox. When you use the Content Search tool in the Security & Compliance Center to search a user's mailbox for specific content, the user’s archive mailbox will also be searched. And, when you place a Litigation Hold or apply an Office 365 retention policy to a user's mailbox, items in the archive mailbox are also retained.

When an archive mailbox is enabled, users can store messages in their archive mailbox. Users can access their archive mailboxes by using Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web App. Using either of these client applications, users can view messages in their archive mailbox and move or copy messages between their primary mailbox and their archive mailbox. Users can also recover deleted items from the Recoverable Items folder in their archive mailbox by using the Recover Deleted Items tool.

After archive mailboxes are enabled, your organization can take advantage of the default Exchange retention policy (also called Messaging Records Management or MRM policy) that is automatically assigned to every mailbox. When an archive mailbox is enabled, the default Exchange retention policy automatically does the following:

  • Moves items that are two years or older from a user’s primary mailbox to their archive mailbox.

  • Moves items that are 14 days or older from the Recoverable Items folder in the user's primary mailbox to the Recoverable Items folder in their archive mailbox.

For more information about archive mailboxes and Exchange retention policies, see:

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