Do you archive your email? Why?

I’ve been listening to the Email related episodes of MPU and Asian Efficiency and was surprised to find that archiving email seems to be standard practice!

I’ve never used the archive function before and while I’m not behind on my emails (I read/mark as read everything) am intrigued by how people use it. I just assumed that deleting unwanted emails and keeping the ones you want to preserve in the inbox (and optionally in folders) was the way to go but apparently not. I am particularly curious about Sent messages. Are they supposed to be archived too? What added benefit does archiving emails have as opposed to keeping them where they are? The search functions don’t seem to be any different and the messages continue to count towards your quota either ways, no? I understand why going through each email and not having hundreds and thousands of unread messages is desirable but can’t seem to figure out the benefits of archiving. Sorry if these are noob questions!

For me: no*

  • Google Mail collect them all, i do no delete there.
1 Like

Archiving saves the trouble of deciding what to keep and what to delete. I just archive everything that’s not spam. Everything. And then I search if I need something, and it comes up in seconds.

This is how I handle software licenses btw.


You keep all of your email in the Inbox?



There are email retention laws in place for business email that require you to keep the emails for a minimum number of years. I archive all of my work emails as a matter of complying with legal guidance.

For personal email, I typically archive electronic receipts and emails from friends and family. Generally everything else is deleted after it passes a certain age. I have rules set up to flag deletion candidates within my personal email archive folder to have that done.


Archiving is just a way to indicate you are “done” with it. If you have a way to do that leaving them in your inbox, it is essentially the same. Most people just don’t like to see a list of emails that have already been handled.


Sent messages with the original text has ended who said what to whom and when conversations.

1 Like

Is it still the case that US law enforcement considers mail left on a server more than 180 days to be “abandoned” and therefore accessible without a warrant? That’s based on a law (ECPA) passed in the '80s but as far as I know that provision is still on the books. That’s why I got into the habit of regularly archiving my mail locally. Most major providers insist on a warrant now anyway, but this whole thing still gives me the heebie-jeebies.


I delete. A lot. Saves me the trouble of wading through heaps of trash when I need to actually find something.

I use Arcive for receipts mainly. The Sent folder, I delete anything older than a year when I remember to.


This might help:

Maybe start with watching the video of Merlin’s presentation?


I used to actually archive it. But that has gotten to be a bit of a pain in the neck to do. So now, yeah, it stays in the inbox. It’s easy enough to filter on unread or filter on flagged, and deal with the stuff that requires action. With the filters on, I don’t even see the rest.

1 Like

I treat the inbox like the one on my desk. The stuff in it needs to go somewhere, I don’t store anything in it. I delete messages first. What’s left gets archived, sometimes sent to Evernote or Omnifocus.


If I want to preserve an email I save it as a PDF and file it into my filing system. My inbox rarely has more than 10 read messages in it at any given time. Currently has one message. Most messages end up in either an Action folder for later filing or a Later folder for dealing with at a later time. Examples of the Later folder are messages for tracking numbers for shipments I’ve ordered or items that need extensive time for processing.

I’ve seen too many people get burned by unmanageable email stores. The database gets corrupted and they can’t get to the information they need. Add in the problem of organizing and searching hundreds of thousands of individual messages and you find it’s a poor platform for that.


Just keep in mind that when your email gets compromised everything is available to the hacker…

I wish one could create encrypted archives within an email client.

There is a case for POP3 and delete after download…


I have a requirement to archive my work emails. I do this by saving particularly relevant individual emails into our document management system by project or subject, and creating a YYYYArchive folder for everything else (received and sent). One a year, I dump the whole .pst file into the document management system.

Personal emails that are important are saved as PDFs in my file structure. Everything else goes into an archive folder and it’s amazing how many times I do search for something in there, long after I think I’m done with it.

1 Like

I still use POP for all my e-mail for exactly that reason. I also compartmentalize e-mail on a single machine and never use or access it on mobile devices, via public wifi or any other computer. If I have to access it while traveling I use the webmail feature of the mail server just to delete spam and get urgent I have had to go back and find and need e-mails that I sent or received over 25 years ago. I am now also in the process of moving many of my archives into other storage,testing out both DEVONThink and MailSteward. Haven’t decided which to use yet.

One big issue is my e-mail is now huge with thousands of e-mails and Apple Mail sometimes loses its brains and requires resetting.

1 Like

If your email library gets very big spotlight needs a lot of resources to process that data. Older Mac’s tend to choke on that.

1 Like

It used to be a big issue when employers allocated a paltry amount of storage per email account. Now, not so much.

I have used Devonthink Pro Office to archive email.

I don’t bother with gmail archiving (outside of the app), I just make sure I weed out the spam

1 Like

I consider “Inbox>10” to be out of control. So I have two periodic Omnifocus tasks:

  • Reduce Inbox to below 10.
  • Handle flagged items.

These keep me reasonably responsive to incoming emails.

I don’t think just having emails marked as read has the same effect.

(Right now I’m at Inbox 4.)

1 Like

I have never used the provided archive folder but I do keep significant emails.

I have three work-related accounts, a main personal account and a number of other personal accounts for various reasons. Through these multiple inboxes I receive 100-200 messages/day, so for sanity’s sake I have evolved a workflow in Apple Mail to keep it all under control.

I have three smart mailboxes: one for mail received today, one for yesterday’s mail, and one for the rest of the past week’s mail. The ‘Today’ folder is effectively my inbox, and the main focus. When I can, I deal with mail as or as soon as possible as it arrives: a lot of it is read and deleted there and then, or can be dealt with by a quick reply.

I have a daily ToDoist task to ‘Clear yesterday’s email’, and a weekly task to ‘Clear the week’s email’. Clearing mail is a mix of replying, filing in a meaningful folder, and deleting. To speed up filing, I have the top 9 destination folders in the favourites bar so selected messages can be filed by a simple shift-cmd-n keystroke. Work-related emails are mostly stored on the relevant server (where colleagues may have access) but the bulk ends up in a personal IMAP server. (I need access from multiple devices so POP no help.)

I also flag important messages and review them periodically, and have a ‘pending’ folder where messages go that need more work than I have time for right now. I have a daily task to review these, but don’t always manage it - so there is always a backlog but it’s at least not in my ‘inbox’.

The sum total of my ‘archive’ - which goes back to 2010 online - is over 25GB. AppleMail struggles with this and freezes every few days. Unfortunately, it insists on downloading all messages even though the IMAP standard allows clients to subscribe to specific folders. (Apple got as far as implementing the UI for the function; ctrl-click any IMAP account and select ‘Account info’, but no further it seems).