Archive Features in Exchange Online Archiving

Office 365

Applies to: Office 365

Topic Last Modified: 2017-09-28

The following sections describe the archive features of Microsoft Exchange Online Archiving.

Exchange Online Archiving offers users advanced archiving capabilities with the archive mailbox feature. An archive mailbox is a specialized mailbox that appears alongside the users’ primary mailbox folders in Outlook or Outlook Web App. Users can access the archive in the same way that they access their primary mailboxes. In addition, they can search both their archives and primary mailboxes.

Administrators can use the Exchange admin center (EAC) or remote Windows PowerShell to enable the archive feature for specific users. For more information, see Enable or disable archive mailboxes in Exchange Online.

  • Using journaling, transport rules, or auto-forwarding rules to copy messages to Exchange Online Archiving for the purposes of archiving is not permitted.

  • A user’s archive mailbox is intended for just that user. Microsoft reserves the right to deny unlimited archiving in instances where a user’s archive mailbox is used to store archive data for other users.

Users can drag and drop messages from .pst files into the archive, for easy online access. Users can also move email items from the primary mailbox to the archive mailbox automatically, using Archive Polices, to reduce the size and improve the performance of the primary mailbox. While this behavior is different than Exchange Hosted Archive, which will create a secondary copy of each message in the archive, retention requirements can be achieved in either scenario. For details on additional methods to move messages into the archive, see Archive mailboxes in Exchange Online.

Users can import data to the archive in the following ways:

  • Import data from a .pst file using Outlook’s Import and Export wizard.

  • Drag email messages from .pst files into the archive.

  • Drag email messages from the primary mailbox into the archive.

  • Let archive policies automatically move email messages from the primary mailbox, based on the age of the messages. For more information, see Retention Tags and Retention Policies.

Administrators can also use Office 365 Import service to import .pst files to users' cloud-based archive mailboxes. For more information, see Use network upload to import PST files to Office 365.

Users can restore items they have deleted from any email folder in their archive. When an item is deleted, it is kept in the archive’s Deleted Items folder. It remains there until it is manually removed by the user, or automatically removed by retention policies.

After an item has been removed from the archive’s Deleted Items folder, the item is kept in the archive’s Recoverable Items folder for an additional 14 days before being permanently removed. Users can recover these items using the Recover Deleted Items feature in Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Web App.

If a user has manually purged an item from the Recoverable Items folder, an administrator can recover the item within the same 14 day window, through a feature called Single Item Recovery. This feature allows administrators to conduct a multi-mailbox search to find purged items and then use the Search-Mailbox Windows PowerShell cmdlet to move the items from the discovery mailbox to users’ mailboxes. For more information, see Enable or disable single item recovery for a mailbox.

  • The Single Item Recovery period is 14 days by default, but it can be customized in some circumstances.

  • If an administrator has placed a user’s mailbox on In-Place Hold or Litigation Hold, purged items are retained indefinitely and the 14-day window does not apply.

When administrators delete users from the on-premises Exchange Server, the users’ archives are also deleted. If the deleted archive mailboxes need to be recovered, the Office 365 support team can perform this recovery. A recovered archive will contain all of the mail stored in it at the time it was deleted.

Administrators have 30 days from the time a user’s mailbox is deleted to request an archive mailbox recovery. After 30 days, the archive mailbox is not recoverable.

Archive mailboxes in Exchange Online Archiving are replicated to multiple database copies, in geographically dispersed Microsoft data centers, to provide data restoration capability in the event of a messaging infrastructure failure. For large-scale failures, business continuity management is initiated. For more information see, Service Continuity in the Office 365 Platform Service Description.

To view feature availability across Office 365 plans, standalone options, and on-premise solutions, see Exchange Online Archiving Service Description.


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