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What Really Happens To Email When Archived In Apple Mail?

I have always wondered what happens to an email when archived. Is it reduced in size so that it doesn’t take up as much room on the server? Is there a reason to archive emails rather than leave them as they are in separate folders for retrieval later? Thanks for any input.
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Peter K

Comments: 7 Responses to “What Really Happens To Email When Archived In Apple Mail?”

    5 months ago

    The Archive folder is a permanent folder on the iCloud Email server. When an email comes in, it is in your Inbox folder. You can leave it there, though the inbox can get full fast. So to do something with an email that you have already read, you can move it to your Archive folder. Of course, you can delete it as well, which moves it to the Trash folder.

    You can also create your own folders and move email messages there. But note that there are two very different types of folders you can create. You can create one in iCloud, which puts it on the server. Or, you can create one that is “On My Mac” which means it is stored on your local drive.

    Any email placed in a local “On My Mac” folder will be removed from the server and saved only in that one place on your Mac’s drive. Any other devices you use to access that email account, such as another Mac, an iPhone or an iPad, will not see the message at all anymore. I consider “On My Mac” folders to be a relic, an obsolete feature.

    (Note that sometimes the terms folders and mailboxes are used interchangeably).

    One advantage of the Archive folder over your own folder is that there are shortcuts, buttons and menu items that allow you to move a message to the Archive folder. Messages in iCloud’s Archive folder aren’t compressed or anything like that.

    An advantage to making your own folders is that you can create several of them for different topics. Some people like to do that.

    But others prefer to archive everything into a single place and use search to find things later. I’m a subscriber to that method and have been for nearly 20 years after studying productivity techniques. I think that the time and effort taken to organize messages far outweighs the benefit. You waste a second or two here and there every single day, and then end up with issues like messages that could go into more than one folder. Being able to search my archive has always succeeded in bringing up messages, many of which I would never have categorized correctly in retrospect. I read an email, take an action if needed, and then it goes into my Archive folder.

    Peter K
    5 months ago

    Gary, thanks so much for such a quick and thorough answer! Mystery solved and suggestion duly noted!

    Chris J
    5 months ago

    Great tips! On a related note, does apple mail (on mac) work much faster if I were to move most of my older emails into the archive and just keep recent emails in the current mailbox?

    5 months ago

    Chris: What is “the current mailbox?” Is that your Inbox? The basic idea is email in your Inbox should be things you haven’t read yet or need to take an action on before you move them elsewhere. I strive to keep my Inbox empty as much as possible. If you are viewing an inbox with hundred or thousands of messages, then I can see it slowing you down somewhat. Try archiving all of your email except the new stuff and see.

    Sue N
    5 months ago

    Gary, I’ve been organizing my emails in folders “On My Mac” on my iMac for years. I recently bought a MacBook and would like to have the same folders (and the emails in them) on both computers. How would I go about moving these folders and their contents to iCloud in the Mail program? Thank you.

    5 months ago

    Sue: They should come over automatically when you use Migration Assistant to bring over your user account from the old Mac to the new one.

    Sue N
    5 months ago

    Thank you Gary

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