How to Recover Deleted Text Message on iPhones

Three ways to get those messages back

What to Know

  • In iOS 16 and later, go to Filters screen in Messages > Recently Deleted > select a conversation > Recover or Recover All.
  • To retrieve deleted messages on iPhone using iCloud, go to Settings, select your name, and choose iCloud.
  • Using iTunes backup, open iTunes on a computer, select Preferences > General Preferences > Devices, and choose a backup.

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

How to Recover Texts in iOS 16 and Later

The easiest way to get deleted texts back is in iOS 16. You have 30 to 40 days from deleting a text to recover it.

  1. From the conversations screen in Messages, select Filters.

    If you don't have Message Filtering on, select Edit.

  2. Tap Recently Deleted.

  3. A list of the messages you've deleted in the past 30 days will appear, along with the number of days before your phone will remove them permanently.

    The Filters and Recently Deleted options in Messages for iOS
  4. Select the bubble next to a conversation to select it.

  5. Choose Recover to return the text to your conversations screen.

  6. Alternatively, select Recover All to restore every text on the page.

    Recovering one or all deleted messages in Messages for iOS

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.

  2. Turn on the Messages toggle switch.

    iOS retreive deleted texts iCloud

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, your old text messages may 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.

    iOS retreive deleted texts iCloud 2
  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 only works on pre-Catalina (10.15) devices. On 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 backed up your iPhone via your 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 indicates 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 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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