Introduction to AutoArchive in Outlook

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 can move old items that are important, but rarely used, to an archive location. This storage process occurs automatically with AutoArchive, but you can customize most of the default settings.

Note:  Items in your mailbox might be subject to your organization's retention policies or messaging records management. When applied to a Microsoft Exchange account, these policies take precedence over AutoArchive settings.

AutoArchive is on by default and runs automatically at scheduled intervals, clearing out old and expired items (items that have reached the end of their aging periods) from folders.

  • Old items are those that reach the archiving age that you specify, and may include such things as the original e-mail for a project that you're assigned to.

  • Expired items are mail and meeting items whose content is no longer valid after a certain date, such as a meeting you had four months ago that still appears on your calendar. Although an expiration date is optional, you can define it at the time that you create the item or at a later date. When the item expires, it's unavailable and has a strikeout mark through it.

Archiving is also a good way to back up and save Outlook items in another location. AutoArchive will do this for you automatically, or you can choose to manually archive items.

Find out more

What AutoArchive does with items

Changing the AutoArchive settings

Aging periods and dates used to archive items

What AutoArchive does with items

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. The archive file is a special type of data file.

Saving versus deleting items

  • Items are saved 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.

Archive location

Outlook creates the archive file automatically in the following location:

  • Windows 7 and Windows Vista    


  • Windows XP    

    C:\Documents and Settings\yourusername \Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Archive.pst

If you don't see the Local Settings or Local folders, they might be hidden.

How do I display hidden folders?

  • Windows 7 and Windows Vista    

    1. In Windows, click the Start button, and then click Control Panel.

    2. Click Appearance and Personalization.

      Note: If you are using Control Panel Classic View, double-click Folder Options, and then continue with step 4.

    3. Click Folder Options.

    4. On the View tab, under Advanced settings, under Files and Folders, under Hidden files and folders, select Show hidden files and folders.

  • Microsoft Windows XP    

    1. Click the Start button, and then click Control Panel.

    2. Click Folder Options.

      Folder Options

    3. Click the View tab, and then click the Show hidden files and folders option.

Accessing items that are archived

Archived items can be accessed from Archive Folders in your Outlook Folder List, which is located in the Navigation Pane. If you want, you can have separate archive files for individual folders.

When you open Archive Folders, you will see that Outlook copied folder structure of the archived items. If there is a parent folder above the folder you chose to archive, the parent folder is created in the archive file, but items within the parent folder are not archived. In this way, an identical folder structure exists between the archive file and your mailbox. Folders are left in place after being archived, even if they are empty. You work with the items the same way you work with items in your main mailbox. If you decide you want archived items moved back into your main mailbox, you can import all the items from the archive file into their original folders or into other folders you specify, or you can manually move or copy individual items.

Top of Page

Changing the AutoArchive settings

There are two sets of AutoArchive settings:

  • Global settings (Tools > Options > Other tab > AutoArchive)

  • Per-folder settings (Right-click a folder, choose Properties > AutoArchive tab)

The global settings — called default settings — determine whether AutoArchive runs at all and what it does by default with the items in any Outlook folder (except Contacts, which is not affected by AutoArchive). The per-folder settings override the default settings so you can AutoArchive individual folders differently. If you don't specify AutoArchive settings for a specific folder, the folder will not be archived. Default settings and per-folder settings apply to the current mailbox only. If you want, you can also manually archive items.

AutoArchive settings

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 saved 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 — save — 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 7 and 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 old 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. 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.

Top of Page

Aging periods and dates used to archive items

Note: In addition to the AutoArchive settings, items in your mailbox may also be subject to retention policies that your company enforces. Retention policies encourage users to retain documents and items for only a fixed period of time as defined by company policy. These policies take precedence over AutoArchive settings.

The default aging periods for folders are:

  • Inbox, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Journal, Drafts: 6 months

  • Sent Items, Deleted Items: 2 months

  • Outbox: 3 months

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

The way Microsoft Outlook determines the age of an item varies based on the item type.

E-mail message    The received date or the last modification date/time, whichever is later.

Calendar item    The appointment, event, or meeting date or the last modification date/time, whichever is later. Recurring items are not AutoArchived.

Task    The completion date or the last modification date/time. Tasks that are not marked complete are not AutoArchived. Tasks assigned to others are archived only if marked complete.

Note    The last modification date/time.

Journal entry    The date the journal entry was created or the last modification date/time.

Contacts    Not archived.

Top of Page

See Also

Archive items manually

Share Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Email Email

Was this information helpful?

Great! Any other feedback?

How can we improve it?

Thank you for your feedback!