Where is the archive in Gmail? (How-to with pictures)

January 30, 2020

This guide will teach you everything you need to learn about the Gmail archive.

You have accidentally archived an important mail, and now you can't find back to it. It's not in the trash can, and you can't find the "Archived" folder. So where do your archived emails go, how do you find back to them, and what's the difference between archive and delete? These are some of the topics we'll cover in this guide.

In this guide: 

How to find archived emails

In Gmail, there is no folder called Archive. Instead, you can find archived emails under All Mail.

Step 1: You can get to your archived emails by clicking All Mail in the left-hand navigation: 

All Mail is located in the left hand navigation

Step 2:  Can't find the All Mail option? Try clicking More for all options, and you should find it there:

The more button is located at the bottom of your left hand menu

Step 3: You should be able to see all your emails. Clicking All Mail will show you both archived emails and the ones in your inbox.

P.S. This feature shows you all your emails, including the ones that are in your inbox and all other labels. If the email you archived is older than the email at the top of your inbox, you may have to browse for it. 

How to search specifically for archived emails

When you search for an email or a subject, you automatically search all emails, including the ones that are archived or labeled. 

If you want to see ONLY archived emails, you can type (NOT label:inbox) together with your search query. Remember that NOT has to be capitalized to work.

How to archive your emails

There are three ways to archive emails in Gmail.

Method 1: Use the shortcut icons in email list:

The archive icon is located in the quick action menu that appears when you hover a message in your inbox

Method 2: Or you can click the archive icon that's at the top when you open the email:

The archive icon  is located above the subject line

Method 3: You can bulk archive several emails directly from your inbox.

The bulk archive button is found at the top of your inbox when you mark an email.

How to unarchive an email

To retrieve an email, you first have to find back to it. 

Step 1: Find the email you archived. You can find it under All Mail or by searching.

Step 2: After you have opened it, you click the move to inbox icon:

The unarchive icon is located above the subject line in a thread

What it means to archive something

Archive vs. delete in Gmail

The first thing you should know before moving on is that Gmail orders everything by labels and not by folders. The main difference between traditional folders and labels is that with a folder structure, an email can only be found in one place. But with labels, on the other hand, you can apply multiple labels to one email. Emails you receive is automatically marked with an inbox label so that it appears in your inbox. You can then choose to mark it with additional labels. 

Archiving an email means that you remove the inbox label from it. The meaning of archiving an email in Gmail is to tidy up your inbox, without having to delete anything. It's like marking something as done in your to-do list or to save something for safekeeping. This way, you can keep all your relevant emails and avoid cluttering your inbox! 

The benefit of organizing your email in this way is that if you get an email from your wife, you can label the email wife, reply and then archive it. It then disappears from the inbox, but you can still find it by navigating to the wife-label.

Did you know? 

Archived email threads automatically reappear in your inbox when you get a reply.

Archive vs. delete

The difference between archiving and deleting something is that archiving is like keeping something for safe storage. Like your notes, papers, receipts, or important files. While moving something to the trash can indicates that this is a file you do not need anymore. 

Therefore: Archive everything you want to keep. Delete everything you want to get rid of. 

Why isn't archive a separate folder?

If you are used to Outlook, you may be used to archive beeing a separate folder. The drawback of doing it this way is that if you archive something you have in a client folder, it is then moved out of the client folder and into the Archive folder. This can be cumbersome if you still want to keep the things you archive organized. 

If you archive an email in Gmail, it will still be under the client label, but it is removed from the inbox. You will still be able to find it by searching, navigating to the client label or by clicking All Mail.

Why you should archive your emails

The main benefit of archiving emails is that this leaves your inbox less cluttered. You can think of archiving an email, like marking it as done. 

By archiving all emails that don't need any further action, you make it quicker for yourself to find emails you need to reply to. It also reduces your mental clutter.