How to Recover Deleted Messages on iPhone

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Matthew M. White
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Let's face it, most people send and receive a ton of text messages or iMessages every day. Whether talking with friends, families, or colleagues, most of us have a graveyard of old text messages right there. After sending them (or once reading the ones we have received), we rarely look at these messages again.

After a while, most of us can clean up our messages and delete them from our phones. Not only can it clean up your phone's Messages menu and make it less cluttered, but it can also save a little storage space on your phone because those long conversations can eat up a lot.

However, what if you realize you actually need to see or refer to an old post after you've already deleted it? Whether there are important links in the message, or photos you haven't saved, or many other things, you may think you're out of luck.

When you move to delete a message or conversation on your iPhone, it's not actually deleted immediately (just like your photos aren't completely deleted immediately). Instead, your messages are simply marked for deletion, making them always inaccessible and invisible to us. They still exist on our phones for a short time until the files are eventually overwritten or permanently deleted. Now that you know a little more about what happens when you delete a message, let's see how to recover them

How to Recover Texts on iPhone

Your ability to recover deleted messages is highly dependent on a few factors. From the time you deleted them to the backups you have made in the past, it may or may not be possible to recover these messages or any of their contents.

Recover Messages from iCloud Backup

One of the first things to try is recovering your messages from an iCloud backup. The only downside is that you will have to factory reset your device and then restore it.

To avoid losing other important data on your phone, first check that your messages are backed up to iCloud. Here's how:

  1. Go to Parameters on your iPhone and tap your name at the top.
  2. Then press iCloud.
  3. Check that the toggle switch next to messages is on.

If your messages were saved in a recent backup, you'll see the amount in gigabytes under the Manage storage space option.

After verifying that your messages are saved in the cloud, you can proceed to reset your device. Here's how:

  1. Open the settings on your iPhone and tap General.
  2. Scroll down and press reset.
  3. Tap Clear all content and settings.
  4. Once your phone is erased, it will turn off and then back on. Follow the instructions and connect it to WiFi. Select the option to Restore from iCloud backup.

You will then need to sign in with your Apple ID and password.

Warning: Before performing a factory reset, make sure your data is backed up to avoid losing more important information. Also check that you can sign in to your Apple account to avoid being locked out.

Check your messages in iCloud

Some companies and cellphone carriers will keep a backup of your messages, some won't. Either way, it's worth a try if the things you're trying to recover are really that important.

  1. Go to iCloud and enter your login information. Make sure you have your phone with you as it can send a verification code to your phone which you will need to enter before you can log in.
  2. Click the Text Messages icon (if you don't see this icon, your phone carrier doesn't back up messages to iCloud and you can skip to the next method).
  3. If you see the icon, use the search function to find the message or multiple messages you are looking for.
  4. Now go to your phone's iCloud settings and turn off text messages (once you've done that, a pop-up will appear and you'll need to select Save on my iPhone).
  5. After that, turn text messages back on and tap Merge, after a while your previously deleted messages should be back on your device.

Recover Messages from iTunes Backup

If your carrier doesn't support backing up messages or if it didn't work for you for some reason, this is the next method you should try. Again, this can only work if your messages are backed up. If you don't have a backup, this obviously won't work. It basically works the same way you would restore any lost data from an iTunes backup.

  1. Connect your phone to your computer and wait for iTunes to appear or manually launch the program yourself.
  2. You'll see your phone in the box in the bar near the top of iTunes, and if you click on it, it'll take you to your phone's info page.
  3. From there, simply select Restore Backup. This should return your phone to the state it was in when you last backed it up.

Use a third-party app to recover your messages

If none of these methods work for some reason, you'll probably have to rely on a third-party app to try and back up your deleted messages. There are many different apps that claim to be able to recover your lost data, but the thing is, some of them are pretty terrible and don't work.

It's a good idea to refer to online reviews for different options in this space until you find one that's right for you. A number of them can also set you back a few bucks, so be sure to do your research and use the one you find most trustworthy. Even though the apps are trustworthy and work for the most part, that does not guarantee that they will work for you.

If you try these methods, we hope that at least one of them will be useful for you to save your deleted messages. Otherwise, you really can't do much more than use it as a lesson to take a close look at the messages on your phone before deleting them. Personally, I always back up or capture anything important to me in a text or iMessage, as I tend to delete messages every few weeks or so. It helped me not lose anything important, without having to save hundreds or thousands of messages with the fear that you would have to refer to them later in life.

Check your other Apple devices

If all your messages have disappeared from one device, they may still be available on another. Find missing messages on all macOS devices, tablets or other phones.

Thanks to Apple's phenomenal integration setup, your missing messages may be on another device. Even an older one. If they are there, just back up to iCloud or iTunes so you can retrieve them later.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I receive my text messages from my mobile operator?

In most cases not, and there's a good reason for that. Although your carrier probably stores your messages on a server somewhere in case they are needed by law enforcement, most employees won't have access to them. Your text messages are your private messages and therefore it is unlikely that anyone can access them, even someone who works for a mobile operator.

From experience, there isn't even an option in the employee's system to review text messages let alone send them to you. However, in some cases, it may be possible for you to get your text messages through a subpoena and court hearing.

Do deleted messages disappear permanently?

In most cases yes. If you delete your messages and there is no backup, your messages are definitely gone for casual daily users. But, in some situations, they may be recovered by law enforcement or another agency.

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