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What is an Archive and what does it do?

In most cases Outlook keeps all your email in a file called the Outlook Data File (sometimes called the .pst file) locally on your PC. The Personal Folders and all the sub folders listed on the left side of the Outlook screen are a snapshot of what is in the Outlook Data File. So if you take into consideration all the pictures, documents, videos and music you might have in your email, the file can become quite large.

Outlook can only use the computer resources available to it. An Archive is a way to reduce the size of your Outlook Data File when the amount of email you keep starts to tax your computers resources, causing it to slow down. Unlike a traditional backup in which a copy is made, archived items are moved to a separate Outlook Data File and set aside to be accessed when needed.

To learn more about AutoArchive or Archiving in general, see Use AutoArchive to back up or delete items.

Where is the Archive file located?

The location of the archive Outlook Data File (.pst) varies depending on the version of Microsoft Windows you have on your computer when you create the archive. New archives created with Microsoft Outlook 2010 are saved in the following locations:

Windows 7 and Windows Vista
drive:\Users\\Documents\Outlook Files\archive.pst

Windows XP
drive:\Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\archive.pst

If your computer previously had an earlier version of Outlook installed, archive Outlook Data Files (.psts) created by the earlier versions of Outlook are saved in the following locations:

Windows 7 and Windows 10

Windows XP
drive:\Documents and Settings\\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\archive.pst

How do I create an Archive file?

By default Outlook 2010 does not have an Archive file, one has to be created manually. Once the file has been created, you’ll need to check the AutoArchive settings to see if the default settings meet your needs.

Open Outlook.
Select: File > Info > Cleanup Tools (Mailbox Cleanup).
Click on Archive in the dropdown box.
In the window that opens you can change the settings to Archive:

All your folders and subfolders.
A single folder and all its subfolders.
Set Outlook to Archive everything before a specified date.
Click OK and the Archive file will be created and attached to Outlook.
The Archive process will then run using the settings you previously entered. All email received before the date you selected will be moved to the Archive file. If the email being Archived is in a folder named John Doe, it will be stored in a folder named John Doe in the Archive file. If a folder does not have email old enough to be Archived, the folder will not be created in the Archive file until it does.

Note: To see if the Archive process is running, look at the lower right-hand corner of the Outlook screen.

When the Archive process has finished, right-click on the Archive and select Close”archive”.

How do I set Archiving to run automatically?

Set what is Archived and when AutoArchive runs.

Go to: File > Options > Advanced.
Scroll down until you find AutoArchive and click on AutoArchive Settings.
In the window that opens you can set the following options.

Run AutoArchive every XX days.
Prompt before running AutoArchive.
Delete expired items (email folders only).
Archive or delete old items.
Show archive folder in folder list.
Set Archive to clean out email older than XX months.
Pick the Archive folder to send the old email to (Leave at default).

How do I open an Archive file?

In order to have the most computer resources available, it’s best to leave you Archive file closed and only open it when needed.
Go to: File > Open > Open Outlook Data File.

Select the Archive file you want to open and click OK. The Archive file will appear underneath your regular email file.

How do I restore mail back to my main folders?

Open your Archive using the steps outlined in: How do I open an Archive file? With both your normal email file and the Archive file open you can drag and drop email between the two as you see fit.


You can also get help from the Microsoft Community online, search for more information on Microsoft Support or Windows Help and How To, or learn more about Assisted Support options.