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Unarchive vs. Archive — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on May 2, 2024
Archiving involves moving data to a storage location for long-term retention, typically to declutter or save space, while unarchiving means retrieving data from these storage locations back to active use.
Unarchive vs. Archive — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Unarchive and Archive


Key Differences

Archiving data is a process used to store files, emails, or other digital content in a less accessible but secure location to conserve space and reduce clutter in primary storage systems. On the other hand, unarchiving is the action of restoring these files to their original location or a new, active storage space.
When you archive something, it's usually because you no longer need regular access to it but wish to keep it for records or compliance reasons. Conversely, unarchiving is typically done when you need to access archived information for review, use, or to reintegrate it into current projects.
Archiving often compresses data to save storage space, which can make retrieval slightly time-consuming as files need to be decompressed during unarchiving. Unarchiving, therefore, sometimes involves a delay while the data is restored to its usable form.
Security measures and access controls are often stricter for archived data to ensure its integrity over long periods. When unarchiving, these security measures need to be navigated to access and utilize the data once more.
Tools and software applications used for archiving often have built-in options for unarchiving as well, reflecting the reversible nature of the process. This makes it convenient for users to manage their data lifecycle effectively.

Comparison Chart


Retrieve data for active use
Store data long-term, reduce primary storage


Accessing stored information
Reducing clutter, saving space


Involves decompression
Often involves compression


Navigation of security for data access
High security and access controls

Software Features

Includes options to restore and decompress
Includes options to store and compress data

Compare with Definitions


The process of restoring previously archived information.
Unarchiving the document took a few minutes due to its large size.


A secure way to keep data without regular access.
Archived records are kept in a secure server with limited access.


A necessary step to access archived materials.
To update the file, first, it needed to be unarchived.


To compress and move data to conserve storage.
Archiving software can greatly reduce the amount of space used on your hard drive.


To reverse the archiving process when needed.
Unarchiving can be done seamlessly with the right software tools.


A method for reducing digital clutter.
She archived her old essays and assignments at the end of the school year.


To retrieve data from storage back to regular use.
He had to unarchive the meeting minutes from two years ago for the audit.


A process of data management for long-term retention.
The company archives all emails after two years for compliance.


To decompress and move data back to accessible storage.
They unarchived the old database for the merger review.


To store digital data in a designated less-accessible space.
He decided to archive the old project files to clear up server space.


An archive is an accumulation of historical records – in any media – or the physical facility in which they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of that person or organization.


Often archives A place or collection containing records, documents, or other materials of historical interest
Old land deeds in the municipal archives.


A long-term storage area, often on magnetic tape, for backup copies of files or for files that are no longer in active use.


A file containing one or more files in compressed format for more efficient storage and transfer.


A repository for stored memories or information
The archive of the mind.


To place or store in an archive.


(Computers) To copy or compress (a file) into an archive.


A place for storing earlier, and often historical, material. An archive usually contains documents (letters, records, newspapers, etc.) or other types of media kept for historical interest.


The material so kept, considered as a whole (compare archives).
His archive of Old High German texts is the most extensive in Britain.


(ecology) Natural deposits of material, regarded as a record of environmental changes over time.
Soil archive
Peat archive


(transitive) To put (something) into an archive.
I was planning on archiving the documents from 2001.


The place in which public records or historic documents are kept.
Our words . . . . become records in God's court, and are laid up in his archives as witnesses.


Public records or documents preserved as evidence of facts; as, the archives of a country or family.
Some rotten archive, rummaged out of some seldom explored press.


A depository containing historical records and documents


Put into an archive

Common Curiosities

What happens to data when it is archived?

It is often compressed and moved to a designated storage area.

Can all types of data be archived?

Yes, most digital data can be archived, including emails, documents, and databases.

How does unarchiving differ from accessing regular files?

Unarchiving involves decompressing and restoring files from a less accessible storage.

What is the main purpose of archiving data?

To reduce clutter and save space by storing data long-term.

How often should data be archived?

This depends on personal or organizational needs for space management and data retention policies.

Can unarchiving be automated?

Some systems allow for automated unarchiving based on specific criteria or schedules.

Is unarchiving a time-consuming process?

It can be, especially if the data is large or heavily compressed.

Is archived data secure?

Yes, archived data typically has strict security and access controls.

Can archived files be edited?

Not directly; they need to be unarchived and restored to an editable state first.

Why would someone unarchive data?

To access or use the data again for various reasons like audits, updates, or reinstatement into projects.

Are there risks associated with unarchiving data?

Minimal risks, but it's important to ensure that unarchiving is done securely.

Does unarchiving affect the original archived data?

No, it simply makes a copy available for use while keeping the original in archive.

How can one access archived data?

Through the process of unarchiving, which may require special software or tools.

How do I know if my data should be archived or deleted?

Consider whether the data might be needed in the future; if not, deletion might be more appropriate.

What tools are needed for archiving?

Archiving software that can compress and securely store data.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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