How to Recover Deleted Text Message on iPhones

Three ways to get those messages back

What to Know

  • Make sure iCloud is enabled. To check, open Settings > iCloud > toggle Messages.
  • To retrieve deleted messages on iPhone using iCloud, Settings > your name > iCloud.
  • Using iTunes backup, open iTunes on computer > Preferences > General Preferences > Devices > select backup.

This article explains how to retrieve deleted texts and iMessages and potentially recover what messages you've lost. Instruction apply to iOS 12 and iOS 11.

How to Retrieve Deleted Texts Using iCloud

The first step to successfully recover text messages is to check whether or not Messages in iCloud is turned on for your device. This feature from Apple saves your text messages to the cloud and makes it easy to recover messages if your device is lost, stolen, or ceases to function.

To check whether the feature is enabled:

  1. Open the Settings app, tap your name, then tap iCloud.

    screenshot - The path to the iCloud menu on an iPhone
  2. Turn on the Messages toggle switch.

    screenshot - The Messages toggle in the iCloud settings on an iPhone

If you purchased a new device or restored a phone, and Messages in iCloud is turned on, the conversations appear after the iPhone is set up and you sign in with your Apple ID.

If you have Messages in iCloud enabled but have manually deleted a message, it's most likely lost. The Messages in iCloud service works as a synchronization tool between your devices, so any messages you delete are instantly removed from the cloud. However, if you don't have Messages in iCloud enabled, it's possible your old text messages have been saved in either an iCloud or iTunes backup.

In Messages in iCloud, messages cannot be restored from an iCloud or iTunes backup, as the backup does not include standard text messages or iMessages once Messages in iCloud is switched on.

Recover a Deleted Text Message on iPhone Using an iCloud Backup

If your iPhone automatically backs up to iCloud, it may be possible to restore the device to an earlier point in time.

Restoring an iPhone to a previous point in time will cause any new changes to the device after the specified time period to be lost. Items may include newer text messages, photos, videos, notes, and more.

Begin by checking when the latest iCloud backup took place. If the last backup took place during a time when the messages were still present on the device, it may be possible to restore your iPhone back in time to recover those messages.

To check when the latest iCloud backup took place:

  1. Go to Settings, tap your name, then tap iCloud.

  2. If the iCloud Backup toggle switch is on, select the On button to view when the last backup took place.

    If iCloud Backup isn't on, the device cannot be restored using this method.

    The iCloud Backup menu on an iPhone - screenshort
  3. If the most recent iCloud backup was before you deleted the texts, restore your iPhone from the backup. The process is the same on iPad and iPhone.

Do not back up the iPhone to iCloud after you determine the most recent backup contains the deleted text messages. This would overwrite the old backup with a newer backup that doesn't contain the messages.

How to Retrieve Deleted Texts Using an iTunes Backup

If you manually connect your iPhone to your computer to back it up with iTunes, it may be possible to restore the device to an earlier point in time using a backup stored on your computer.

This method will only work on pre-Catalina (10.15) devices; if you are running macOS Catalina or later, use the Finder method in the following section to look up or retrieve a backup stored on your Mac computer.

Begin by checking when your latest iTunes backups took place. If one of the available backups took place during a time when the messages were still present on the device, it may be possible to restore your iPhone back in time to recover those messages.

To check when your latest iTunes backup took place:

  1. Open iTunes on a Mac or PC.

  2. In the menu bar, select Preferences.

    The Preferences menu in iTunes - screenshot
  3. In the General Preferences window, select the Devices tab.

    The devices menu in iTunes - screenshot
  4. If the iPhone was backed up with iTunes, all backups currently on your computer are listed. Note the different date options available.

    List of device backups in iTunes - screenshot
  5. Restore your iPhone from the backup if you have one that contains the messages you want to recover.

How to Retrieve Deleted Texts Using Mac Finder

If you've opted to back up your iPhone via Mac computer, you can find recent backups, including the date of the most recent backup in Finder. Open a Finder window and navigate to the following folder:

~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/

You can also open Spotlight and enter MobileSync in the search field. Open the folder with the random string of text. The Date Modified column will indicate the most recent backup.

Recover Deleted Texts Messages on iPhone Using a Third-Party Recovery Tool

Many third-party software applications claim to be able to restore lost data on an iPhone. Two of the most popular options for iPhone data recovery include EaseUS MobiSaver and Gihosoft iPhone Data Recovery. These applications don't guarantee results as their success rate is based on whether or not the iPhone has written new data over where the old text messages were restored. However, if you are in a bind, they're a viable last effort.

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