Description of archiving and the AutoArchive feature in Outlook

For a Microsoft Outlook 2003 version of this article, see
830119 .
For a Microsoft Outlook 2000 version of this article, see
239652 .


This article describes the Outlook AutoArchive feature and explains how to use it.

More Information

Your Outlook mailbox grows as items are created, in the same way that papers pile up on your desk. In the paper-based world, you can occasionally shuffle through your documents and store those that are important but rarely used. Documents that are less important, such as newspapers and magazines, you can discard based on their age.

You can quickly complete the same process in Outlook. You can manually transfer old items to a storage file by clicking Archive on the File menu, or you can have old items automatically transferred by using AutoArchive. Items are considered old when they reach the age you specify. With AutoArchive, you can either delete or move old items. Outlook can archive all kinds of items, but it can only locate files that are stored in an e-mail folder, such as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a Microsoft Word document that is attached to an e-mail message. A file that is not stored in an e-mail folder cannot be archived.

AutoArchive is a two-step process. First, you turn on AutoArchive. Second, you set the AutoArchive properties for each folder that you want archived.

At the folder level, you can determine which items are archived, and how frequently they are archived. You can automatically archive individual folders or you can configure a default AutoArchive setting for all folders and then configure AutoArchive settings for individual folders that you do not want to use the default AutoArchive settings. The AutoArchive process runs automatically whenever you start Outlook. Outlook checks the AutoArchive properties of each folder by date, and moves old items to your archive file. Items in the Deleted Items folder are deleted.

Several Outlook folders are set up with AutoArchive turned on. These folders and their default aging periods are Calendar (6 months), Tasks (6 months), Journal (6 months), Sent Items (2 months), and Deleted Items (2 months). The Inbox, Notes, Contacts, and Drafts folders do not have AutoArchive activated automatically. The Contacts folder cannot be set to AutoArchive and does not have an archive property.

Archiving vs. Exporting

When you archive, you can only archive to a personal folders file (a PST file). When you export, you can export too many different file types, including PST files and delimited text files. Your existing folder structure is maintained in your new archive file. If there is a parent folder above the folder you archived, the parent folder is created in the archive file, but items in 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 can only archive one file type, a personal folder file.

When you export, the original items are copied to the export file, but are not removed from the current folder. In addition, you can only archive one file type, a personal folder file, but you can export many file types.

When you export, it changes the dates in the records. This is especially important in the case where e-mail items have had the Sent date reset to the export date.

How to Turn on AutoArchive

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Other tab.
  2. Click AutoArchive.
  3. Click to select the AutoArchive Every check box, and then specify how often the AutoArchive process will run by typing a number in the days box.
  4. If you want to be notified before the items are archived, click to select the Prompt Before AutoArchive check box.
  5. In the Default archive file box, type a file name for the archived items to be transferred to, or click Browse to select from a list.
  6. Click OK, and then click OK again to close Options.
Now that you have turned on AutoArchive, you must set AutoArchive properties for each folder.

How to Set AutoArchive Properties for a Folder

  1. In the Folder List, right-click the folder that you want to AutoArchive, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the AutoArchive tab.
  3. To set AutoArchive for this folder, click to select
    Clean out items older than.
  4. To specify when items should be automatically transferred to your archive file, type a number in the Months box.
  5. To specify a file for the archived items to be transferred to, click Move old items to.
  6. In the Move old items to box, type a file name for the archived items, or click Browse to select from a list, and then click OK.
NOTE: You must activate AutoArchive first. For more information see the "How to Turn on AutoArchive" section of this article.

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