Gmail Archive vs. Delete: What Does Archive Mean in Gmail and When to Use it

November 14, 2022
Gmail Archive vs. Delete: What Does Archive Mean in Gmail and When to Use it
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

If you have an unruly inbox that’s gotten out of control, you may consider removing emails from your inbox. There are two ways to do this on Gmail: archiving or deleting. Archiving moves the email out of your inbox, while deleting puts it into Trash. But when is it best to archive and when is it best to delete?

Overall, it’s better to archive emails than delete them. However, each has its own benefits. In this article, we’ll discuss in detail what each function is and when it’s better to do each.

Archive vs. delete: what’s the difference?

Let’s start with what is “archive” in Gmail, followed by what it means to delete emails in Gmail, and finish with key differences between the two options. First up, let’s talk about what archiving and deleting an email is and how they differ from one another.

What does archiving emails do?

So, what happens when you archive an email in Gmail? Archiving an email moves the email out of your inbox and into “All Mail.” Archiving helps to keep your inbox organized and tidy by moving emails that you no longer need to reference into a separate folder. For example, when you receive a new email and process it, you can archive it immediately to keep your inbox clear.

Archived emails are not deleted, and you can still access them if you need to. Plus, if someone responds to an email that you have archived, the reply will appear in your inbox.

So, if you decide that you want to archive an email, you can do so by selecting the email and then clicking the "Archive" button.

This will move the email out of your inbox and into your “All Mail” folder. The ''All Mail'' folder is located under ''More'' on the left side of your Gmail inbox.

You can also configure your email account so that emails from certain senders are automatically archived. To do this, go to the ''Settings'' menu in your Gmail account and click on the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab. From here, you can create a new filter that will automatically archive emails from a certain sender.

What does deleting emails do?

Deleting an email generally means that it will be removed from your inbox and moved to your Trash folder.

Once in Trash, you can either delete the email permanently or restore it to your inbox. After 30 days, emails in your Trash folder are permanently deleted. You can also empty your Trash completely.

Deleting an email permanently will also delete any associated attachments.

To delete an email, select the email and click the “Delete” icon.

You can also delete multiple emails by selecting ''All'' from the drop-down menu next to the ''Archive'' button. However, it'll only delete 50 emails at a time. So, if you have a lot of emails to delete, you'll need to do this several times.

The key differences between deleted and archived Gmail emails

When you delete an email, it goes to the Trash. When it is deleted from Trash, it's gone forever. You can't retrieve it from your account unless you have a backup of it stored somewhere else. In contrast, when you archive an email, it's just moved to “All Mail which can also be seen as the Google archive folder.” You can still access it from your account, but it's not taking up space in your inbox.

Deleted emails are permanently removed from your account and free up storage space. Archived emails are still stored in your account but moved to a different location. So, does archiving emails save space in Gmail? Technically, no. While they don't take up space in your inbox they still count toward your total storage allowance. As for how long do archived emails stay in Gmail? Well, they’ll stay there until you manually delete them and send them to the Trash folder.

When it’s best to archive or delete and why

When to archive emails in Gmail?

Archiving is more often than not the better solution for dealing with processed emails. There are many reasons why you’d want to keep emails around, and archiving removes them from your inbox.

Here are the most common reasons you’d archive an email:

  • To declutter your inbox: No one wants their inbox constantly overflowing with emails. By archiving emails that you no longer need, you can declutter your inbox and make it more manageable.
  • To comply with regulations: In some cases, you may be required to keep certain emails for compliance reasons. Archiving can help you to keep track of these emails and ensure that they are not deleted accidentally.
  • To keep a record of important conversations: There may be times when you need to refer back to an important email conversation. Archiving can help you to keep a record of these conversations and make them easier to find later.
  • To store away sensitive information: Another reason to archive emails is to store away sensitive information and attachments. If there's an email with information that you don't want to delete but don't want to keep in your inbox, again, archiving it is a good solution.

When should you delete an email in Gmail?

While the average person receives a handful of emails each day, some users find themselves constantly wading through a sea of messages. As a result, it can be tempting to simply hit the delete button on anything that doesn't require immediate attention. However, this is usually not the best thing to do.

There are some reasons you’d want to delete an email:

  • To remove emails you’re sure aren’t needed: If you’re absolutely certain that you won’t need an email in the future and don’t want it to appear in your searches in the future, you can consider deleting it.
  • To free up storage space: While Gmail gives users a sizable amount (15 GB) of storage space, there may come a time when you need to free up some room. In this case, you can delete older emails that you no longer need.
  • To prevent identity theft: If you’ve sent an email that contains sensitive personal information that could be used maliciously, it might be a good idea to delete those emails. However, remember that whoever received that email still has it until they delete themselves.

However, there are times when it's best to not delete an email. For example, if you receive a spam email, it's best to mark it as spam rather than delete it. This helps spam filters learn what kind of emails to block in the future.

Similarly, if you unsubscribe from a mailing list but continue to receive emails from that sender, marking the emails as spam will eventually stop them from coming into your inbox.

In general, it's best to only delete emails that you're sure you won't need again. Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally deleting something important.

Learn how to unarchive Gmail emails here.

Archived Gmail emails are usually the better option because they remain accessible

When it comes to archiving or deleting emails, it’s usually better to archive your messages. This allows you to keep a record of all past correspondence and makes it easier to find specific information when you need it.

Deleting emails can lead to data loss and make it more difficult to retrieve information down the line. If you are looking for a way to declutter your inbox, try archiving old messages instead of hitting the delete button.

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