Your Microsoft Outlook mailbox grows as you create and receive items (item: An item is the basic element that holds information in Outlook (similar to a file in other programs). Items include e-mail messages, appointments, contacts, tasks, journal entries, notes, posted items, and documents.). To keep your mailbox manageable, you need another place to store — archive — the old items that are important but not frequently used. You also need a way to automatically move those old items to the archive location and to discard items whose content has expired and is no longer valid. AutoArchive takes care of these processes for you.
AutoArchive is on by default and runs automatically at scheduled intervals, clearing out old and expired items from folders. Old items are those that reach the archiving age you specify, and may include such things as the original e-mail you received with the goals for a project you're assigned to. Expired items are mail and meeting items whose content is no longer valid after a certain date, such as a meeting you had four months ago that still appears on your calendar. Although an expiration date is optional, you can define it at the time you create the item or at a later date. When the item expires, it's unavailable and has a strike-out mark through it.
What AutoArchive does with items
AutoArchive can do one or both of the following for items in a folder: Permanently delete expired items; delete or archive old items to an archive file. The archive file is a special type of data file. The first time AutoArchive runs, Outlook creates the archive file automatically in the following location:
C:\Documents and Settings\yourusername \Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Archive.pst
If you don't see the Local Settings folder, it may be hidden. See Microsoft Windows Help for information about showing hidden folders.
After Outlook archives items for the first time, you can access items in the file directly from Archive Folders in your Outlook Folder List (Folder List: Displays the folders available in your mailbox. To view subfolders, click the plus sign (+) next to the folder. If the Folder List is not visible, on the Go menu, click Folder List.). If you want, you can have separate archive files for individual folders.
When you open Archive Folders, you'll see that Outlook maintains your existing folder structure. If there is a parent folder above the folder you chose to archive, the parent folder is created in the archive file, but items within 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 work with the items the same way you work with items in your main mailbox. If you decide you want archived items moved back into your main mailbox, you can import all the items from the archive file into their original folders or into other folders you specify, or you can manually move or copy individual items.
Changing how AutoArchive works
There are two sets of AutoArchive settings: global settings and per-folder settings. The global settings — called default settings — determine whether AutoArchive runs at all and what it does by default with the items in any Outlook folder (except Contacts, which is not affected by AutoArchive). The per-folder settings override the default settings so you can AutoArchive individual folders differently. If you don't specify AutoArchive settings for a specific folder, the folder will not be archived. Default settings and per-folder settings apply to the current mailbox only. If you want, you can also manually archive items.
Company retention policies
In addition to the AutoArchive settings, items in your mailbox may also be subject to retention policies that your company enforces. Retention policies encourage users to retain documents and items for only a fixed period of time as defined by company policy. These policies take precedence over AutoArchive settings.