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How to check your Outlook auto-archive settings, do manual archiving, or access your archives

These instructions are valid for use with Outlook 2010 or 2013.

  1. Automatic archiving

  2. Manual archiving

  3. Viewing or recovering archived email


1. Automatic Archiving

How to check to see if auto-archiving is in operation:

  1. In Outlook, open the File tab and click on Options (in the column on the left).
  2. Click on Advanced, again in the column on the left.

    Outlook 2010 File - Options - Advanced menus

  3. Click on AutoArchive Settings... in the AutoArchive section to open its dialogue box:

    Outlook 2010 AutoArchive menu

    The options here control the AutoArchive function, including its frequency, how old messages should be before they are archived, and whether items should be moved to another folder:

    Outlook 2010 AutoArchive settings

    If the Run AutoArchive every N days option (at the top) is selected (ticked) then auto-archiving is switched on, and the other options below it will be active.

    If the Run AutoArchive every N days option box is not ticked then auto-archiving is switched off, and the other options shown will be greyed-out and inactive.

    If auto-archiving is switched on, the options should say where the archives will be held (in the Move old items to: chooser box).   Note this location (you may have to click in the chooser box, then use your keyboard's arrow keys to move to the right or left to see the entire file path and name).  Alternatively, click on the Browse... button which will open a window showing the current storage location.

NOTE that these options apply only to the computer on which you're now using Outlook.  If you use archives with Outlook on more than one computer then your archives may be in separate locations.   This is especially true if you are using a local storage location (for example your computer's hard drive) rather than the networked storage facilities.

REMEMBER! If you are auto-archiving to a location on your computer's hard drive, you are responsible for making backup copies of the archived data.
If your computer is replaced, upgraded or re-imaged with a new version of Windows, or if your hard drive drive fails, your archived folders are highly likely to be lost irrecoverably unless you have made a backup copy of them.


2. Manual archiving

How to perform manual archiving of your email:

  1. In Outlook, open the File menu tab, then click on the Cleanup Tools button.
  2. Click on Archive... in the drop-down menu.
  3. In the Archive dialogue box, choose the settings you want:
    - Select the Archive this folder and all subfolders button so as to choose the folders you want to archive.
    - Choose the date for archiving items older than that date.
    - Use the Browse... button to choose where your archives are to be stored, and the file name in which to store them.   The file will be an Outlook Data File with the extension .pst.   We recommend you use your N: drive (Documents area) so that your archive is stored in networked storage that will be subject to regular backups.  This will usually be represented as
    \\\username\Documents\Outlook Files...
    in the Archive file box, where username is your username, such as ano23.

    REMEMBER!  If you choose a location for your archive on your computer's hard drive or another storage medium attached to your computer, you will be responsible for the backup and security of the archive.


3. Viewing or recovering archived email

  1. In Outlook, open the File menu tab and click on Open.
  2. Click Open Outlook Data File, and then browse to locate and open the archive Outlook Data File (all such files have the extension .pst).
  3. In the Navigation pane (your list of folders), locate and click on the archive file name - this will normally be at the bottom of the list of folders.
    This will open the chosen file, and you should see it listed as a folder collection called Archives at the bottom of your folder list.  In some circumstances the folder collection may be labelled Outlook Data Files instead.
  4. You can now copy or move email from this archive folder to another folder as required, or just view items in the archive as they are.
REMEMBER! Any changes you make (name changes, relocations, deletions etc) to any items in the opened archive will also be made - permanently - to the contents of the archive file.   Think of the opened archive as being like a connection to another server, where any changes or deletions will take effect in the usual way.

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This is question number 1637, which appears in the following categories:

Created by Andy Clews on 3 February 2010 and last updated by Richard Byrom-Colburn on 20 October 2016