Office 365

If you are like most people, email tends to pile up and get out of hand. Your mailboxes continue to get bigger and bigger. When this happens, you can run into problems with organizing your messages as well as quota issues.

To help keep mailboxes manageable, you need another place to store, "archive", older items that you need to reference but are not used all the time. Outlook has a built-in feature called Auto Archive that stores Outlook items (messages, appointments, tasks, notes, etc.) in a different location. Items are moved to an archive file. Auto Archive copies items to the archive file (default - archive.pst) and then removes them from the current folder. It allows you to set up a schedule and archive multiple folders at the same time at set intervals. You can also individually select folders for archiving.

The first time Auto Archive runs, Outlook creates the archive file automatically in the following location:

C:\Users\username\Documents\Outlook Files\archive.pst

We recommend you do not change the name or location of the archive file because it could be hard to locate if you forget the name/location.

The default for Auto Archive is to prompt you every 14 days to archive your items older than 6 months and any expired items. Expired items are messages and meeting items that are not valid after a certain date (e.g., message set to expire 1 month ago that is still in your Inbox).

The default aging periods for folders are:
Inbox, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Journal, Drafts: 6 months
Sent Items, Deleted Items: 2 months
Outbox: 3 months

Outlook determines the age of an item based on the item type:
E-mail message - The sent or 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.

Finding Archived Items

  1. File | Open | Outlook Data File

  2. Type the name of the file (archive.pst) and click OK.

This will open the archive file and allow you to locate your message(s).

Auto Archiving Certain Folders

  1. Right click on the folder you want to archive and choose Properties.
  2. Select the Auto Archive tab and configure the options. For example, you may want to keep deleted and junk mail items for 3 days, then delete it. Choose "3" and "Days" for the Clean out items older than fields and select permanently delete.

Repeat this for each folder you want to delete messages from.

Running Auto Archive Manually

The following procedure turns off Auto Archive for all folders, including individual folders with Auto Archive turned on.

  1. Click File Tab
  2. Click Clean-Up Tools
  3. Click Archive
  4. Click the "Archive this folder and all Subfolders" option, and then click the folder you want to archive.
  5. Under "Archive items older than" Enter a Date. 

Prevent Auto Archive from running on one folder

  1. On the Go menu, click Folder List, right-click the folder you want to AutoArchive, and then click Properties on the shortcut menu.
  2. Click the Auto Archive tab.
  3. Select the "Do not archive items in this folder" option and choose OK.

Outlook 2010

Finding Archived Items

  1. File | Open | Outlook Data File.
  2. Type the name of the file (archive.pst) and click OK.

This will open the archive file and allow you to locate your message(s).

Auto Archiving Certain Folders

  1. Right click on the folder you want to archive and choose Properties.
  2. Select the Auto Archive tab and configure the options. For example, you may want to keep deleted and junk mail items for 3 days, then delete it. Choose "3" and "Days" for the Clean out items older than fields and select permanently delete.

Repeat this for each folder you want to delete messages from.

Running Auto Archive Manually

If you don't want to run Auto Archive automatically, you can choose to run it manually. This gives you more control of what you archive and when.

  1. Choose File | Archive
  2. Specify whether to archive all folders using their Auto Archive settings (that is, either the default settings, or per-folder settings you specified for individual folders) or whether to archive an individual folder using the options you specify in this dialog box.

Prevent Auto Archive from running on all folders

The following procedure turns off Auto Archive for all folders, including individual folders with Auto Archive turned on.

  1. Choose Tools | Options | Other tab.
  2. Click Auto Archive.
  3. Clear the "Run Auto Archive every n days" check box and choose OK.

Prevent Auto Archive from running on one folder

  1. On the Go menu, click Folder List, right-click the folder you want to AutoArchive, and then click Properties on the shortcut menu.
  2. Click the Auto Archive tab.
  3. Select the "Do not archive items in this folder" option and choose OK.
Article number: 
104886
Last updated: 
July 18, 2016