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Exchange Online Archiving Guidance and FAQs

This article sets out all the information you will need to make the most of online archiving including links to additional Microsoft guidance.

What is exchange online archiving?

Online Archiving is a solution that enables you to store and manage older or legacy emails outside of your primary mailbox – freeing up quota space and improving Outlook performance. As explained later in the article, users will be able to manage their own individual archiving setup to best suit their needs. Initially 100GB online archiving storage space will be provided, alongside your standard 4GB mailbox.

Once upgraded, you will see an additional mailbox in the left-hand side panel of Outlook (Outlook desktop application or Outlook on the Web). This will follow a similar naming convention to your primary account with the prefix ‘Online Archive’ used in the Outlook desktop client and ‘In-Place Archive’ used in Outlook on the Web, followed by your nhs.net account email address. This mailbox will hold all of your archived content.



Desktop client


Important Note

The archiving feature cannot be used for any non-user mailboxes (shared mailboxes)

Important Note

Not all versions of Outlook support Exchange Online Archiving functionality. Further guidance from Microsoft can be found here, outlining in what versions of Outlook you can expect to see the Online Archive folder. If you do not use a version of Outlook that supports this functionality, you can access Online Archiving through Outlook Web App (OWA)

Accessing Online Archive via mobile device


Supported Browsers: Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera

Browsers on smartphones such as Safari, by default uses the mobile web version content of sites which only shows the primary mailbox of the user.
For the end-users to view the Online Archive folder on iOS device, they must enable the desktop site settings while accessing emails via OWA.

Steps to enable ‘Desktop site’ in Safari browser:


1. Open the Safari browser and navigate to OWA




2. Click the “aA” icon on the left of the address bar to view the website view menu.



3. Select Request Desktop Website



Supported Browsers: Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Firefox

Steps to enable Desktop site in Google Chrome:


1. Open the Chrome browser and navigate to OWA



2. Click on vertical ellipsis (⋮) icon on the top right corner




3. Request the Desktop site from the drop-down menu


4. Click on vertical ellipsis (⋮) icon and select Settings




5. Select Site settings from Settings




6. Select Data Stored



7. Select the Site URL that you want to delete storage (portal.nhs.net,         www.office.com,outlook.office.com,https://outlook.office.com)


8. Click on Clear and Reset button




9. Reload OWA




10. User may now view the online archive folder



How do I use archiving?

Manually Archive Content:

There are two ways in which you can manually archive emails and email folders:

  1. The simplest way to archive is to drag and drop the selected email from your primary nhs.net mailbox into the Online Archive mailbox within your Outlook client (desktop or OWA). With the desktop client you can also move folders to or from the Online Archive mailbox. Note that OWA does not support folder moves.
  2. Import .pst files to your mailbox and migrate the items to the Online Archive mailbox. Detailed guidance on how to do so can be found here (Outlook desktop only)

Setup an Auto Archive Policy:

There is an option to configure a policy that will automatically move emails of a certain age into the Online Archive mailbox:


  1. Right click the selected folder in your primary mailbox (i.e. Inbox), select mailbox properties, click the policy tab and choose from the following options in the Online Archive section:
          • Personal one month move to archive
          • Personal three months move to archive
          • Personal six months move to archive
          • Personal 1 year move to archive
          • Personal 5 years move to archive
          • Never move to archive

2. Selecting ‘Apply’ will implement the policy update. The selected time period refers to the age of the mailbox items before they are automatically moved to the Online Archive without intervention. It will take a number of hours for all the content to be moved into the Online Archive.


Hints & Tips:

  • Archiving content takes time and may temporarily impact Outlook performance. It is recommended that users only manually move content or setup archive policies at appropriate quiet times when they will not need to use Outlook intensively
  • Archived emails are stored online and therefore will only be accessible when connected to the internet. Users should consider this when deciding what content to archive. It is advised that emails or folders that are regularly accessed are not moved into the Online Archive
  • In order to search for emails in both your primary and Online Archive mailboxes in the Outlook Desktop client you will need to change the scope of your mailbox search using the dropdown to the right of the search box. To search archived emails in OWA, you must select the appropriate mailbox and re-attempt your search.
Important Note

Under your primary mailbox, there is a folder called ‘Archive’ – it is important that users do not use this when attempting to move content into the Online Archive. The ‘Archive’ folder is a standard folder provided by Microsoft (it cannot be removed) – it does not provide additional storage. When moving content please always ensure it is being added into the Online Archive

Recovering deleted items

You can restore items from the deleted folder in your Online Archive mailbox. The items remain in this folder until/unless manually removed by yourself. If an item is then deleted from the Online Archive deleted items folder, it is moved to the archives recoverable items folder for 14 days before being permanently deleted.

Integration with 3rd party archiving solutions

Integration and use of any 3rd party archiving tools may vary depending on the product used by your local organisation. If your organisation uses a separate archiving tool, and you have questions around how it works with Exchange Online archiving please raise to your Local Administrator. They may be able to support, or raise the query directly with your 3rd party provider.

Additional information

There is a host of information available via the Microsoft website. Please visit this page for generic information around Archiving in Exchange Online and this page for feature specific guidance.

Important Note

If you have already been upgraded and are yet to see this feature appear, do not worry. Exchange Online Archiving is a newly available feature and will soon be enabled on your account.


I’ve setup an auto archive policy but it doesn’t seem to have taken effect?

It will take a period of time for the auto archive policy to take effect, Exchange Online won’t move all the content instantly to ensure your Outlook performance isn’t impacted. Check back after 1/2 days to confirm the policy has taken effect

I’ve moved items to my Archive but my Mailbox Quota hasn’t reduced?

This could be due to either of these reasons:

  1. You may have moved items into the Archive folder, not the Exchange Online Archive. Moving items into the standard Archive folder won’t reduce the Mailbox size.
  2. It may take time for the mailbox size in Outlook/OWA to update once content has been moved into the Online Archive
Why haven’t I got the Archiving functionality yet?

Exchange Online archiving will be enable for all users at the point of being migrated as part of the NHSmail Refresh. You will receive communications when you have been scheduled for migration

It is taking a long time to move content in the Online Archive?

Sometimes moving large amount of content can take time, particularly if the internet connection is slow – it is recommended that bulk items are added into the Online Archive during appropriate times, when use of Outlook or  OWA is not immediately required

Why does it take a while to open the Online Archive folder?

Archived content is stored online, so requires an internet connection to access. It is recommended that any content you regularly need access to is not archived

When dragging and dropping a folder into the Online Archive do I select Copy or Move?

If you are looking to reduce the size of your primary mailbox, you will need to select Move. By selecting Copy, the content will exist in your Online Archive and your primary mailbox

When I Right Click an email to move it into the Online Archive, it doesn’t appear as an available option.

  1. When right clicking an email, two of the options will move the email into the Archive folder, not the Online Archive (as shown below in yellow)
  2. You must right click the email, select Move, Other Folder and then select Online Archive from the options (as shown below in blue)

I can’t search for emails that are in my Archive.

When using the search toolbar, select All Outlook Items – this will search for content in the Online Archive too

I can’t see my Online Archiving folder in Outlook?

Not all versions of Outlook support the In-Place Archiving functionality. Further guidance from Microsoft can be found here, outlining in what versions of Outlook you can expect to see the Online Archive folder. If you do not use a version of Outlook that supports this functionality, you can access Online Archiving through Outlook Web App (OWA)

What happens to my Online Archive mailbox when I am marked as a leaver?

The Online Archive mailbox is similar to a user mailbox. When an account is marked as a leaver the account owner has 30 days to join the account to a new organisation. If this action is not completed, the account and all data will be deleted. To retrieve 180 day mailbox data a forensic discovery request must be raised via Helpdesk self-service (HSS).

Should the Local Administrator (LA) check and delete data from the online archive mailbox when the account is marked as a leaver?

Local Administrators (LAs) cannot delete the contents of the online archive. However, as noted in the leavers/joiners guide – https://support.nhs.net/knowledge-base/leavers-and-joiners-guide/.

LAs can work with the leaver to ensure any business/role critical data is archived locally from the online archive.

The data in the Archive folder will automatically be deleted after 30 days

Will the Online Archive Mailbox and emails from the previous organisation appear automatically when my account is marked as a joiner to my new organisation?

The data in the Online Archive mailbox and emails will continue to be accessible to the mailbox owner when an account is moved between organisations.

Last Reviewed Date 10/9/2021
Updated on 25/07/2022

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