Learn What the Archive Button Does in OS X Mail

Use the Archive mailbox to get your Inbox to zero messages

File boxes in a hallways representing word archives

Hindrik Sijens / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Mail application in OS X and macOS provides an Archive mailbox for each mail account you use. The Archive mailbox is useful for storing email messages when you don't want to delete them, but you also don't want them sitting in your Inbox, fighting for your attention.

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.

Information in this article applies to the Mail application on Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Lion (10.7).

Moving an Email to the Archive Mailbox

Selecting a message in Mail and pressing the Archive button at the top of the Mail screen or selecting Message > Archive from the Mail menu bar moves the message or thread to the account's Archive mailbox, where you can quickly find it later for other actions. It is not deleted.

If you prefer using a keyboard shortcut, Control+Command+A moves a selected 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.

Mail automatically generates a mailbox called Archive for each email account. If no archiving mailbox exists for the account, Mail creates a new mailbox called Archive automatically the first time you archive a message in one of your accounts.

When you archive an email that is part of a conversation, other messages in the conversation that are in the current mailbox are archived with it. Related emails in other accounts are not archived.

Where to Find the Archive Mailbox

If the Mailboxes sidebar isn't already open in Mail, 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, expanding the Archive mailbox reveals a separate Archive subfolder for each account you use.

Mail application window on a Mac

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.