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Gmail Archive vs Delete: What’s the Difference and How to Use

by Mehvish
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You’ve probably seen the term “archive” more than “delete” in Gmail, and you’re probably wondering what it does. Or, to be precise, what’s the difference between archive and delete in Gmail, and which one should you use after you’ve read the emails? There are subtle but noticeable differences between the two. Without further ado, let’s begin the comparison between archive vs delete in Gmail.

What Is Meant by Archive in Gmail

Archive, in simple words, lets you hide e-mails from the main inbox view without deleting them. It basically lets you clean your inbox without deleting the e-mails.

It’s an extremely useful feature that allows users to keep unessential e-mails in a different folder than the main inbox. When you archive an e-mail, it’s moved from the Inbox folder to the All Mail, thus giving a cleaner look to your main inbox.

Gmail Archive

You can access archived e-mails anytime and unarchive them whenever you want. Interestingly, whenever someone replies to an archived e-mail, it will be unarchived automatically. So, even though you can use the archive feature to hide e-mails as well, be careful, because if the person replies, the e-mail will be unarchived and will appear in the main inbox.

What Is Meant by Delete in Gmail

Delete or Trash, as expected, actually removes the e-mail from your Gmail account and doesn’t merely hide the e-mail. When you delete an e-mail, it’s first taken to the Trash folder where it stays for 30 days after which it gets deleted permanently. You can restore the e-mail within 30 days of deleting it. But, once deleted permanently, it’s gone forever and you can no longer bring it back.

Differences Between Archive and Delete in Gmail


Archive is a temporary way of removing e-mails from Gmail’s inbox. It doesn’t delete them from the Gmail account. Delete, on the other hand, is a permanent way of removing e-mails from your account. It removes the e-mail from the inbox and also deletes it from the Gmail account.

Dedicated Folder

The only issue with the archive is that it doesn’t have a dedicated folder in Gmail i.e., there is no Archived folder. The archived e-mails will land in the All Mail folder that houses your other e-mails too. You will have to manually look for the archived e-mail in the All Mail folder or search for the e-mail to unarchive it.

Gmail PC All Mail

On the contrary, deleted e-mails land up in the dedicated Trash folder for 30 days. It’s comparatively easy to find and restore deleted e-mails.

Gmail PC Trash

Restore E-mail

An e-mail will be unarchived automatically if someone replies to the e-mail. You can also manually unarchive the e-mail as shown below. Deleted e-mails cannot be restored automatically. You will have to manually move the e-mail back to Inbox from the Trash folder in order to restore it.

Search Results

The archived e-mails appear in the Gmail search results. On the hand other, deleted e-mails in the Trash folder or those that have been deleted permanently will not show up in the search results.


The archived e-mails will stay hidden until you unarchive them or someone replies to the archived e-mail. That is, there is no time limit on the archived e-mails.

However, as mentioned before, deleted e-mails will stay in the Trash folder for 30 days after which they are deleted permanently. You can manually delete the e-mail permanently anytime before 30 days as well.

Bulk Selection

While you can easily archive or delete e-mails in bulk, there is no easy way to unarchive e-mails in bulk. On the other hand, you can restore multiple e-mails or empty the trash completely quite easily. For the latter, simply press the Empty trash button.

Gmail Empty Trash

Storage Space

One of the major misconceptions that users have is that archiving an e-mail will free up the storage space on their Google account. However, that’s not true at all. Archiving an e-mail merely moves it from one folder to another folder. To clear space, you must delete the e-mail permanently (i.e., remove it from Trash) instead of archiving it.

How to Archive or Delete Emails in Gmail on PC and Mobile

Open the Gmail website in a browser. Hover your mouse over the e-mail that you want to archive or delete. Click on the Archive or Trash icon to archive and delete respectively.

Gmail Archive PC

Tip: Find out how to auto-archive e-mails in Gmail.

In the Android or iPhone app for Gmail, open the e-mail and tap on the Archive icon at the top. Or, press the Trash icon to delete the e-mail.

Gmail Mobile Archive Trash

How to Unarchive Emails on PC

On PC, open the Gmail website and click on the More > All Mail folder.

Gmail PC All Mail

Find the e-mail that you want to unarchive and open it. Press the Move to inbox button.

Gmail PC Move to Inbox

How to Unarchive Emails on Mobile

On Gmail mobile apps, tap on the three-bar icon to open the navigation drawer. Choose All mail from the menu.

Gmail Mobile All Mail

Open the e-mail to unarchive and tap on the Move to inbox icon at the top.

Gmail Mobile Unarchive

Pro Tip: You can also search for the archived e-mail using the search bar and press the Move to inbox icon to bring the archived e-mail back to inbox.

How to Restore Deleted Emails on PC

On the Gmail website, click on More > Trash from the left sidebar.

Gmail PC Trash

Open the e-mail to restore. Click on the Move to icon and choose Inbox from the list.

Gmail PC Trash Move to Inbox

How to Restore Deleted Emails on Mobile

1. On Gmail Android and iPhone apps, tap on the three-bar icon and choose Trash or Bin from the menu.

Gmail Mobile Trash

2. Open the e-mail and tap on the three-dot icon at the top.

Gmail Mobile Restore Delete

3. Choose Move to > Primary to restore the deleted e-mail.

Gmail Mobile Restore Trash

Which One to Use: Archive or Delete

As you saw above, there are major differences between archive and delete in Gmail. Use archive when you want to clean your inbox or hide e-mails without removing them permanently. It’s a safer option as compared to deleting e-mails. In the future, if you decide that you no longer need the archived e-mail, you can then delete it.

Delete the e-mails only when you are pretty sure that you don’t require them at all. You can delete e-mails like OTP, verification, promotional, social, etc. Deleting unnecessary e-mails also helps when you want to free up space on your Google account.

If you like organizing e-mails, learn how to create subfolders in Gmail. You might also be interested in knowing how to unsend emails in Gmail.

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