Learn What the Archive Button Does in OS X Mail

File boxes in a hallways representing word archives

 Hindrik Sijens / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Archive button moves messages to the Archive mailbox in OS X Mail and macOS Mail on Apple computers.

Nothing irrevocable or harmful happens to emails you choose to archive. They are moved out of your Inbox and held safely in the Archive mailbox until you need them. Archiving is an alternative to deleting emails you don't want to hold in your Inbox.

What the Archive Button Does in Mac Mail

Pressing the Archive button at the top of the Mail screen or selecting Message > Archive from the Mail menu bar moves a selected message or thread to the account's Archive mailbox, where it is held — not deleted — and you can quickly find it later for other actions. If you prefer using a keyboard shortcut, Control+Command+A moves an open email to the Archive mailbox. Laptops with a Touch Bar display the Archive mailbox icon when you select a message. Tap the Archive icon in the Touch Bar to send the message to the Archive mailbox.

OS X Mail automatically uses a mailbox called Archive for archiving. If no archiving mailbox exists for the account, OS X Mail automatically creates a new mailbox called Archive the first time you archive a message using the toolbar, menu, keyboard shortcut, or Touch Bar.

Where to Find the Archive Mailbox

If it isn't already open, click Mailboxes under the Get Mail button at the top of the Mail screen to open the Mail sidebar.

The Archive mailbox is in the Mailboxes section of the sidebar. If you only have one email account, all your archived messages appear in this mailbox. If you have several email accounts, opening the Archive mailbox reveals a separate Archive subfolder for each account you use.

Click the Archive mailbox to see any email you have archived in the past. The messages remain in the Archive mailbox until you move them or delete them.