The importance of text messages has evolved over the years from being a cute feature of early dumbphones to being the main form of communication for many iPhone users. A lot of people regularly send text messages rather than make voice calls. Maybe they need to be quiet or just don’t feel like speaking.
In any case, accidentally deleting saved messages can be very disturbing and result in the loss of vital information. But don’t stress out, we are going to show you several methods with which you can recover deleted iPhone messages. Please, read on!
Important: Finding it challenging to grasp all the methods detailed in this article? No need to worry. The table below effectively illustrates common scenarios of iPhone text message loss, coupled with direct links to methods that can assist you in each specific situation.
Accidentally deleted a bunch of text messages less than 30 days ago and only now realized their significance?
Deleted an important conversation over 30-40 days ago and just now noticed?
Removed some text messages from your iPhone, but were unaware that it wasn’t running iOS 16.X or later?
Attempted to clear space on your phone by deleting a conversation, but lack any recent backups for restoration?
Experienced iPhone text message deletion or corruption due to a virus or malware infection?
Updated your iPhone to the latest iOS version, only to find some text messages missing post-update?
Inadvertently turned off the iCloud backup feature on your iPhone and didn’t realize it until after losing some text messages?
The Best 6 Methods to Recover Deleted Messages on iPhone
No matter what the reason is behind your lost data, your primary concern at this point is to retrieve deleted text messages on your iPhone. We are going to demonstrate six methods with which you can attempt a recovery. Hopefully, one of them will get your messages back so you can view them.
Method 1: Recover Recently Deleted Messages from the Messages App
With the release of iOS and iPadOS 16, Apple finally introduced the option to recover recently deleted messages directly from the Messages app. Here’s how it works:
- Open the messages Messages app.
- Tap the Edit button.
- Select the Show Recently Deleted option.
- Select the conversations with the messages you want to restore.
- Tap Recover and confirm your decision to recover the selected message or messages.
The deleted message/messages should now be recovered and listed alongside other messages.
Important: To use this method, you need to have iOS 16, iPadOS 16.1, or later otherwise the recovery option won’t be available. Additionally, this method can be used to recover only messages that you deleted within the last 30 to 40 days.
Method 2: Use Your iCloud Backup to Recover Deleted Text Messages
Many iPhone users take advantage of Apple’s iCloud to back up their devices. If you are one of them, you can use the backup to recover deleted iPhone messages. But there is a catch. During the process, you will be resetting your iPhone to its original factory settings. This might result in other issues that you would rather avoid. If that’s the case, skip this method and read on to find other recovery options.
First, check to see if you have a backup and when it was created by going to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups.
Tap on the iPhone listed under backups to see the size and data of the latest backup. Once you verify that you want to use that backup for the restore, continue with the following steps.
- Go to Settings > General > Reset.
- Tap Erase All Content and Settings.
- On the Apps & Data screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
- Sign in with your Apple ID.
- Proceed to Choose backup and select from a list of available backups in iCloud.
Method 3: Selectively Retrieve Deleted Text Messages from a Backup
Depending on your geographical jurisdiction, text messages may be saved to iCloud in the same way as photos or calendar entries. This feature enables you to recover deleted iPhone messages from any device that allows you to log into iCloud.com.
PRO Tip: To verify that you can use this recovery method, go to: Settings > [your name] > iCloud and see if Messages is turned on. If it is, you can proceed with this recovery technique by performing the following steps.
- Open Settings.
- Tap your name and choose iCloud.
- Turn off Text Messages and select Keep on My iPhone.
- Turn Text Messages back on and then select the Merge option.
- Wait for the deleted text messages to be merged with the data on your iPhone.
Turning Text Messages off and on and then merging forces the messages stored in iCloud to be downloaded to your iPhone. It’s a nice trick if it works for you and certainly worth a try. This method does not reset your iPhone as is done in the first technique covered in this article, so is considerably less intrusive.
Method 4: Retrieve Deleted Text Messages on iPhone from a Finder Backup
The third method we will look at requires that you are backing up your iPhone to your Mac. The following procedure demonstrates how to use this recovery method.
- Open Finder on Macs running macOS Catalina 10.15 or later. On earlier Macs, open iTunes.
- Connect your iPhone to the computer with a USB cable.
- Select the device when it appears in the Finder window.
- Select Restore Backup.
- Pick the backup you want to use for the restore.
- Click Restore and wait for the process to complete. You may need to enter a password for an encrypted backup.
- Keep the device connected after the restart and let it sync with your computer. It can be disconnected once syncing is complete.
If you want more info on this type of recovery, check out this Apple support page.
Method 5: Use Data Recovery Software to Recover Deleted Text Messages on iPhone
Data recovery software may be able to recover deleted texts on iPhone if you act quickly. Deleted text messages are not immediately physically removed from your iPhone’s storage. The messages are made inaccessible and their storage space is marked for potential reuse.
Until the messages are overwritten by new data, iPhone recovery software can get them back. So you need to stop using your iPhone until you have performed the recovery. Making a call is probably safe, but don’t do anything that might result in data being saved, like adding a new contact or taking a photo.
There are plenty of options when it comes to data recovery software. Most of them work similarly by scanning a storage device and repairing the broken logical links that make the lost data inaccessible. The differences show up in their user interfaces, ease of use, and recovery capabilities. Some solutions are far superior to others and give you a much better chance of successfully recovering your lost data. If you’d like to learn more about iPhone data recovery software we invite you to check out our guide on the subject.
Over time we have tested many data recovery applications with widely varying degrees of success. One we keep coming back to is Disk Drill. We like it for the following reasons.
- 🖼️ The tool features an intuitive and user-friendly interface that makes it easy for any user to recover their data.
- 🖱️ Recovery is done with a few simple clicks.
- 🗂️ Disk Drill supports many different file formats and types of storage devices.
- 💯 The tool always recovers our lost data.
- 🆓 Disk Drill’s developers ship the product with a bunch of free data protection tools.
- 📱 The data recovery algorithms supported by Disk Drill can scan both your iPhone’s internal storage and your iPhone backups.
When purchasing a Disk Drill license, you can apply the 🎁 coupon “DDMESSAGES” 🎁 to get Disk Drill PRO (Mac edition) with a 40% discount.
That’s why we will be using Disk Drill to demonstrate how to recover deleted messages on your iPhone. Use the following procedure:
- Download and install Disk Drill to your Mac.
- Connect your iPhone to the computer and launch Disk Drill.
- Select the iPhone from the list of available storage devices in the disk list.
- Click the Search for lost data button to begin scanning the iPhone for recoverable files.
- Preview the files that have been found and select the ones you want to recover.
- Choose a safe location for storing the recovered messages.
- Click the Recover button to complete the process.
If you have the free version of Disk Drill, you will be asked to upgrade to Disk Drill PRO.
Method 6: Contact Your Carrier and Ask for Help
If all the above options fail, you may be able to get some help from your cellular carrier. Some companies may save messages for a set amount of time and be able to help you recover your deleted iPhone messages. Use the following steps to try this method.
- Open Settings on your iPhone
- Go to General and tap About at the top.
- Scroll down to find your carrier.
- Visit the carrier’s website to find contact information.
- Get in touch with the carrier and ask if they can assist in recovering the deleted messages.
Reasons You Might Lose iPhone Text Messages
One of the tradeoffs we all make for the convenience our digital devices provide is the potential to unexpectedly lose data at the absolute worst moment. Losing text messages can happen even if you have the most expensive and cutting-edge iPhone for a variety of reasons that include:
- 😯 Human error – This is by far the most likely reason you can’t find that message you need. It’s very easy to inadvertently tap the wrong button and wind up deleting a whole bunch of messages. While it’s great to demonstrate your texting speed and multitask while walking down the street, these activities provide many opportunities for a mistake that can result in you having to retrieve deleted text messages on your iPhone.
- 👾 Virus or malware infection – Viruses and malware can cause data loss on all sorts of digital devices, including your iPhone. Malicious software can be introduced to your device by connecting it to an infected computer or directly from a malevolent email or text message. I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of strange text messages from unknown senders that include potentially dangerous links. Accidentally tapping on one might allow some malware to get into your iPhone.
- ⚙️ Faulty iOS upgrade – Apple tries its best to avoid introducing issues when it’s time for an iOS upgrade, but the company is not perfect. A faulty iOS upgrade can cause all kinds of problems with your iPhone, and lost text messages may be one of them. As a precaution, you should always perform a backup before you upgrade your iPhone.
If you have lost data from your Mac computer instead of your iPhone, we suggest you take a look at our informative page which will guide you through various recovery methods.
How to Stop Messages From Being Deleted in the Future
It’s great to have several recovery methods that can recover deleted messages on an iPhone. What’s even better is not having to deal with deleted messages in the first place.
Here are some preventative measures you can take to minimize the chance of losing important text messages.
- 🤔 Slow down! Accidentally tapping the delete button is much easier to do when you are in a hurry and trying to do multiple things at once. Take a few seconds to verify that you want to delete those messages before hitting the button. It may save you a lot of time later.
- 🔌 Don’t connect your iPhone to strange computers that may be infected with malware. If you connect your iPhone to your Mac, make sure your antivirus software is running and up to date.
- 💽 Back up your iPhone regularly and especially before iOS upgrades to protect your data.
- 😈 Be careful who you let use your iPhone. A malicious user can delete a lot of messages in a short amount of time, leaving you with a big problem to fix.
- 🔒 To safeguard your iPhone from unauthorized access and prevent accidental message deletions, set a passcode or use Touch ID/Face ID.
- 📵 Stick to the built-in Messages app for reliable backup and recovery options, avoiding third-party messaging apps that might not offer the same level of security.
- 👀 Regularly monitor your iPhone’s storage space. When low on storage, the device may automatically start deleting older messages. This can be checked under Settings > General > iPhone Storage.
- 📧 Consider enabling email archiving to automatically back up your important messages to your email account. This provides a safety net, allowing you to retrieve messages from your email archive even if they’re accidentally deleted from your iPhone.
These measures will help reduce the risk of losing text messages from your iPhone.
If you’re looking for more information on iPhone photo recovery, rather than text messages, we’ve got you covered in a different article. And for those interested in exploring the ‘other side of the spectrum,’ such as freeing up space, we have a guide on how to delete pictures from text messages.
As you can see, there are multiple methods by which you can recover deleted messages on an iPhone. Several of them require you to have backed up your messages, and it’s best practice to always back up your iPhone in some way. Using iCloud is the most convenient and doesn’t require you to connect your device to a computer.
Data recovery software can help get back lost messages that were not backed up. Just remember, the longer you wait to use recovery software, the lower the probability that you will be successful. Stop using the iPhone as soon as you discover you have lost important messages until after the recovery is complete.
Robert Agar is the Content Writer & Managing Editor for Handy Recovery. Robert brings over 30 years of experience in data storage, security, compliance, backup, and recovery to the HandyRecovery team. Several years ago, he turned his attention from hands-on technical roles to develop a career as a freelance writer concentrating on technology and its impact on society. Areas of focus include the cloud, data recovery, artificial intelligence, and industrial automation.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.