What Is the Difference Between Email Archiving and Email Deletion?

When it comes to erasing emails, practically every service offers two options: “Archive” and “Delete”. It’s a little unclear why there are two options that seem so similar. What is the distinction, and which should you use?

Both archiving and deleting emails remove them from your inbox, but that’s about where the similarities end. Knowing the difference between the two might save you a lot of hassle. Let’s take a closer look.

What Happens When I Mark an Email as “Archive”?

The archive option in email services is effectively “Delete Lite,” as the email is deleted from your inbox and view. It may appear that you erased the email, but it is not gone permanently.

Archived emails are often saved in a separate “Archive” folder. In some situations, such as Gmail, they don’t move to a particular folder at all, but they are visible when you switch to viewing “All Mail,” and they still appear in search results.

When compared to real mail, the archive function is analogous to stuffing a piece of mail into a drawer. It’s no longer visible, but it’s still there if you need it.

What Happens When I Hit the “Delete” Button on an Email?

Delete an email is a permanent function… for the most part. When you delete an email, it is frequently transferred to a folder called “Trash.” It will remain there for 30 days before being permanently deleted (usually).

Emails that have been deleted do not appear in “All Mail” and cannot be found using search. You have 30 days to change your mind, but it will never return.

To return to the physical mail analogy, deleting is analogous to depositing mail in a trash can. You may have a few days to reclaim it, but if you throw it out, it’s gone for good.

Which one should I choose?

With these criteria in mind, you could conclude that there is no need to ever completely delete an email. That may be true… if you’re prepared to pay for storage. Gmail accounts no longer have unlimited free storage.

Google consolidated all account data in 2013 and limited the free plan to 15GB. That allocation includes your Gmail inbox, Google Drive, and Google Photos. All of those stored emails may quickly mount up. So, unless you want to pay for extra storage, delete some emails.

It’s a good idea to delete any emails you’re sure you’ll never need again and archive the rest. Don’t let bothersome spam emails consume your storage space. Also, keep in mind that the US government has the authority to examine emails older than 180 days without a warrant.

Although the terms archive and delete may sound similar, their functions are vastly different. Use this information to clear up your inbox.


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