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Deleting vs. Archiving in Outlook: What's the Difference?

2 minute read

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Deleting vs. archiving in Outlook: What’s the difference? We’ll explain how and when you should use each action.

If you often find yourself needing to retrieve information from old emails, you might find the archiving option useful. On the other hand, if you’re constantly struggling with your available amount of storage space, then maybe the deletion option is best for you. 

If you’re not already aware, the icon with the X is the Delete button, and the one that looks like a file box is the Archive command. Each has their place, and if you use both of them when appropriate, you’ll find managing your email much easier.


Deleting is used when you have no further use for an email. Now, this doesn’t instantly destroy the message forever–it just moves it to your Deleted Items folder. However, you’ll likely want to empty your Deleted Items folder from time to time in order to save space and stay organized. If you’re part of a larger organization, this may happen automatically or it may be managed by your tech department. Bottom line: Although you have a small recovery window available to you, typically speaking, when you delete something, it’s going to end up gone forever. The big upside to all this is that it will reduce the overall size of your mailbox. Once that Deleted Items folder is emptied, you’re no longer burdened by unnecessary emails filling up your storage space.


The beauty of archiving a message is it saves you time when saving a message–it cuts out the process of having to painstakingly move a message to an individual folder, and instead just instantly dumps it into your general archive. For messages that you might want down the road, but aren’t important enough to warrant storage in a specific folder, this makes the perfect long-term storage solution. The downside to this method is, of course, that it doesn’t shrink the size of your mailbox. The message is still there, but it’s just been moved to a different folder in an efficient fashion.

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