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How to retrieve deleted messages on iPhone

AirPods next to an iPhone model.

If you’ve accidentally deleted messages on your iPhone and would love to retrieve them, this is for you!

You don’t have to be Einstein to understand the basic steps outlined in this guide. We curated the fastest methods so that you can easily choose from them.

A frequently asked question about deleted iPhone messages is, “Where do deleted text messages go on iPhone?” They simply disappear. The Messages app does not have a recycle bin that stores unwanted messages, so all deleted texts are erased from the phone.

Nevertheless, your iCloud backs up a lot of data. So, if you had once backed up your messages, they can be restored!

We also have a few tricks up our sleeves for those who have lost messages without backup.

Read on to find out!

How to recover deleted messages on iPhone from iCloud backup

iPhone 13 Pro Max Silicone Case
iPhone 13 Pro max Image source: Apple

This option would only work for iPhone users who made an iCloud backup on a previous date before the deleted texts. As long as there is a record of successful iCloud backup, your lost messages can be restored. But here’s a downside to this method.

When recovering deleted text messages, every other message, picture, or file you have received, created, or saved after that backup will be overwritten. This means once you restore deleted messages from a selected iCloud backup, information added to your iPhone after that backup would be lost.

You can avoid this by copying all newly received or created files onto an external storage device before restoring your lost data. That way, you won’t lose your new data after the old messages overwrite your phone.

That said, it is advisable to do regular iCloud backups. Regular backups go a long way in securing credible data on your iPhone. If you are the busy or forgetful type, you can set up the automatic iCloud backups so you won’t have to worry about the process.

To retrieve deleted text messages on your iPhone, you must first ensure that there was a successful iCloud backup before your lost text messages. After confirming this, proceed to use the selected backup to recover the missing messages.

For now, here’s how to check if you have a suitable iCloud backup.

On your menu, click to open the Settings app.

Go to the settings app to retrieve deleted messages on iPhone.Image source: Toby Grey for BGR

Tap on your Apple ID profile at the top of the page

Select the iCloud option.

Check for iCloud back up to retrieve deleted messages.Image source: Toby Grey for BGR

Scroll towards the iCloud Backup option and select it.

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Next, check the time or date of the backup listed there

Check for iCloud back up to retrieve deleted messages.Image source: Toby Grey for BGR

Note: The iCloud backup you need must be dated to a period before the deleted iPhone messages. If you have a predated backup before the deleted messages, lucky you. Proceed with the steps below to recover deleted text.

Nonetheless, we have an option for those whose iPhone backups are after the deleted messages.

Recover deleted iPhone messages with iCloud backup

Now, to recover the deleted message, you would need to overwrite your phone’s current data with the backup that was made before your messages were deleted. Carefully follow the steps below to do this.

Navigate to your phone’s Settings app

Go to the settings app to retrieve deleted messages on iPhone.Image source: Toby Grey for BGR

Tap on General.

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Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Reset icon.

Hit the reset button to retrieve deleted messages on your i[PhoneImage source: Toby Grey for BGR

Next, tap Erase All Content and Settings.

You may have to log back into some of your apps after restoring the backup.

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Next, choose Erase Now.

A confirmation pop-up message will be displayed on your screen. Do not choose the first option–Backup Then Erase. The first option would create a new backup that will overwrite the previous backup. That’s just you waving your deleted files goodbye.

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This option erases your current iPhone data to create space for the last iCloud backup. So, double-check if you have successfully copied your important current data to an external device.

At this point, your iPhone will be entirely erased and will reboot like a new phone. Proceed with the instructions on the screen till you arrive at the “Apps & Data page.”

On the Apps & Data screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.

Restore from iCloud backup to retrieve deleted messages on iPhoneImage source: Apple

Next, sign in to your iCloud with your ID details.

Thereafter, you must select an option from the available backups listed on the “Choose backup” page of your iCloud. You may even find older backups listed on that page. It is only wise to choose the most recent backup that was made around the date of your deleted messages.

Remember that the older the backup, the less likely it is to recover deleted files that were received at a later date.

Oftentimes, you may be prompted to update to a newer version of the software in this step. Proceed to update with the on-screen instructions.

In addition, your iPhone will prompt you to sign back in on some apps once you click Restore backup. You can either skip to do it later or do it right away.

Stay connected to a good Wi-Fi network and wait for the progress bar to complete the process. Depending on your network speed and the backup size, it may take a few minutes or close to an hour.

Afterward, check to see if your deleted iPhone text messages have been restored. You should also notice some of your old content, while the others will continue to restore in the background. Sometimes, the background restoration could take hours or even days!

For more information on how to restore your iCloud backup, visit the Apple website.

If you still cannot find any of those deleted messages, proceed with the next option.

How to retrieve deleted text messages on iPhone from your computer

This could work if you are still missing some deleted text messages, having gone through the iCloud backup option. Although similar to the option above, it will involve you accessing saved messages via local backups. However, this option would mostly work for those who do regular backups to their computer system.

Again, you are advised to periodically back up your iPhone to your computer even if your automatic iCloud is activated. This is particularly for those who have a lot of significant data to protect.

Note: You possibly have disabled the syncing process between your iPhone and Mac / PC. That could be a reason why you can’t access your text messages in this case. Update the settings to make it easier for you to recover deleted messages on your iPhone henceforth.

Follow these simple steps to recover deleted messages on your iPhone from your computer.

First off, disable Find My iPhone.

We advise you to disable the Find My iPhone feature using your Apple ID before restoring lost messages. You may not be able to restore iTunes or Finder backup while Find My iPhone is enabled. This action prevents another user from overwriting your data by restoring their backup on your iPhone in case your iPhone gets stolen.

After that, carefully proceed with the steps below to use the Finder or iTunes backup options to recover deleted texts. Users with recent Mac computers from macOS 10.15 would do their backup with Finder. Those with older macOS computers should go through the iTunes backup.

Start by navigating to the Settings application

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Select your ID profile.

Select the “Find My” option

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Toggle off the “Find My iPhone” option.

You will be prompted to proceed with this by using your Apple ID password.

Disable find my iPhone to retrieve deleted messages on iPhone using your computerImage source: Toby Grey for BGR

After that, connect your iPhone to the computer you synced with or stored your backup on.

Restore your iPhone using Finder (macOS Catalina or later) to recover messages

Connect your device

To recover deleted messages on your iOS device using Finder, connect your device by confirming the Trust Name of your device prompt.

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Your iOS device should appear under Location on the Finder window. Move your cursor to that area and click on your device’s name.

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Manage Backup

Next to the Restore Backup option, select the Manage Backup option. A list of available backup options will be displayed on your screen. Choose the most recent and relevant available backup that was created before your iPhone messages were deleted.

This backup option must also fall in a period after your deleted messages were sent. This would help the backup narrow down the necessary data to provide during the restoring process.

Sadly, if you have no list of available backups, you won’t be able to recover deleted text messages from your computer. But, you may still find another trick that should work in the others we discussed below.

Click OK to confirm.

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Now, click Restore iPhone.

Like the iCloud recovery process, this will also require some time to complete, depending on the backup size. If you chose the right backup, this recovery process would definitely retrieve deleted text messages. Patiently follow the on-screen prompts until the process is completed.

If it is required, input your encrypted backup password and confirm it. Make sure your device is still connected after it restarts. You can only disconnect it after it has completed its sync with your Mac computer.

Using iTunes to Recover Deleted Text Messages (PC or macOS Mojave & earlier)

Users with the macOS Mojave or earlier models can try to recover deleted text messages with this option. Note that this option only works for those who have not synced their device with the PC since the text messages were lost.

This is because iTunes backup only works with the most recent data backup. Therefore, this process will only work if you last synced with your Mac or PC before your iPhone messages were deleted, provided there is no record after that.

Have a little faith if your device successfully synced with your computer after the lost messages occurred. Although you cannot use this option, we may still have a solution for you below.

To retrieve deleted text messages using iTunes backup, carefully read and follow the steps below.

Connect your iPhone.

Connect your iOS device with the Mac or computer you last synced it with.

Open your iTunes.

Usually, the iTunes app should open automatically, but if it doesn’t, give it a little tap.

Click the phone icon.

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On the top-left section of the screen, select the phone icon to proceed with this process. Your iPhone device is not connected if you cannot find the icon on the toolbar.

Click Summary.

The summary page should show you a section for backups.

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Click restore backup

Restore your backed-up data and deleted text messages by confirming the action on the summary page.

Change backup preference (optional)

If the restore option is not highlighted, change the preference from iCloud to This Computer.

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As usual, this recovery process would take some time, depending on your network speed and data size.

When the process ends, check to see if you can now access those deleted text messages. If you still can’t, take a deep breath. We might still have a solution below!

How to recover iPhone deleted texts using a phone service provider

Trying to use this method could be your saving grace. Unfortunately, it isn’t as guaranteed as the other steps above. This is because your messages are very private, and many tedious processes may be involved if it works.

Contact your cellular service provider and request technical support. They must have your deleted data stored somewhere on their server. We’ve seen many cases where law enforcement pulls up deleted records from cellular carriers, so why not give it a shot?

At least one of the carefully tested steps above should help solve your missing text issues.

Read our article on How to block no-caller ID on an iPhone.

FAQ

Can I get my texts from my cell phone carrier?

It depends. Normally, it would be difficult to retrieve deleted messages on your iPhone from your cell phone carrier. Your SMS messages are very private and, therefore, cannot be easily accessed by just anyone. Even top employees of cellular carrier establishments are not permitted to dive into the database in search of someone’s text messages. Although your carrier stores and keep a record of your messages on a server, they are mostly accessed only when needed by law enforcement.

Are deleted messages gone permanently?

Not exactly. To the average person, deleted text messages without records of successful backups simply mean the messages are inaccessible on normal occasions. However, law enforcement agencies or other powerful bodies can recover your deleted text messages if they wish.

Can I retrieve deleted text messages on an iPhone?

Yes, with several trusted methods, you can retrieve deleted messages on your iPhone. You can use the iCloud backup, Finder backups, or data recovery software options.

Can you recover deleted texts on an iPhone without a backup?

Possible, but not always. One of the most convenient methods is to use data recovery software. You would have to look for trusted data recovery software to download on your device and then connect your iPhone. Next, follow the on-screen prompts to scan for recoverable files and select the files you wish to retrieve if found.

Toby Grey contributes as a How To expert for BGR. Typing away like a keyboard super hero, he covers just about anything you can think of. If Toby isn't writing, he's probably reading a book or playing video games.