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How to recover old text messages on iPhone

Alex Griffith Updated on Apr 10, 2023 10:07 AM

While All Messages list on your iPhone's Messages app keeps all your sending and receiving texts, it doesn't mean you won't face any problems. You may be affected by an issue where an old message conversation disappeared suddenly for no reason, or you accidentally deleted an iMessage thread and now don't have a clue about how to get it back.

Losing old SMS messages and iMessages on iPhone can be a nightmare, especially when you have precious memory or valuable information on there. Worse still, there isn't a "Recently Deleted' folder, just like photos has implemented on the device, available for you to restore texts from.

Thankfully, though, this problem is not the end of the world. The following are some possible solutions that you can use to try and retrieve old text messages and iMessages. You can directly move to "4. How can you recover old text messages and iMessages if you don't have iPhone backup with iCloud?" part to scan and recover old messages deleted from iPhone storage if backup is absent.

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How to recover old text messages on iPhone

Before you try any of the solutions herein on how to retrieve the old texts, do the following:

  • Contact your phone service provider to determine whether it provides you with a copy of text messages. Some companies keep text message logs in their systems during a specified time period before purging. You may easily access these text records by logging into your account online. Have it a try!
  • If only your old text messages disappeared from iPhone but not the newer ones, make sure you don't change an expiration time to "30 Days" or "1 Year" which automatically deletes old messages after the period. Open Settings, scroll down to Messages and tap it, then tap Keep Messages under MESSAGE HISTORY. Confirm that you set the option to "Forever."
  • Restart your iPhone. Sometimes it works and restores your old iMessages and text messages because it always wipes away the mirror software glitch.

1. Retrieve old texts using Messages in iCloud

Well, if you're lucky, this is a super simple way to get back your old messages. If you have another iDevice using the same Apple ID, check it and see if your old iMessages and SMS messages still lie on there.

Turning on Messages in Cloud option helps you sync your texts across all of your devices. At the same time, you can remove old message threads from iPhone, but keep the full history on your other devices as long as you turn off the feature on those devices before deleting the old message.

To recover old text threads from your another Apple device to iPhone:

1. Open the Settings app on that device, iPad for example.  

2. Tap Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store.

3. Tap iCloud.

4. Scroll down to Messages and toggle the switch to ON.

5. Wait for the sync to run. Uploading your old texts to iCloud takes a few time to complete, so you have to stay signed-in to your iCloud account the whole time.

6. Repeat the same steps to turn off Messages in iCloud on your iPhone. When a notification pops up, select Disable and Download Messages.

transferring the old iMessages and text messages from iCloud to iPhone

7. Turn the switch to ON position again.

Leave your iPhone plugged in to power and connected to Wi-Fi. All messages should be back and appeared on the Messages app soon.

This method may not work for everyone, but if it does, you will have saved a lot of time.

2. How to restore old text messages from iCloud backup

The next thing you can try is restoring messages from iCloud backup of your iPhone. Before do this, you will want to have a look to see if you have an old backup that includes the messages since you can't access the backup.

Open Settings app, go to Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store > iCloud > Manage Storage. Tap Backups, then select This iPhone. Check the date and size of your last backup. If it's created before the old text messages lost, restoring it should recover them.

Warning: You will have to perform a factory reset on the iPhone, which gives you a clean slate to begin again. And restoring the device from iCloud backup will overwrite everything newer than the backup, so you'll have to decide whether those old message conversations are important enough for you.

Here're the steps on how to wipe and reset your iPhone to factory settings and then restore from iCloud backup to get old text messages that were deleted.

1. Open Settings app.

2. Tap General.

3. Scroll to the bottom and select Reset.

4. Select Erase All Content and Settings.

5. Confirm the action by logging with your Apple ID. A few minutes later, you will be greeted with a HELLO screen prompting you to set it up as a new device.

6. Go through the usual setup of your language, Wi-Fi network, and passcode.

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

8. When ask you to sign in to iCloud, type in with your Apple ID and password.

9. Proceed to Choose backup screen, then choose the backup you want to restore from in iCloud.

3. How do I access the old backup and extract just the text messages in iCloud?

Recovering old iMessages and SMS messages from iCloud is far from perfect. You need to factory reset your device and revert it back to the date when the backup was created. So, is there any way to access the backup and just pull up just the old texts from there without erasing your current data and settings on the iPhone?

That's where iPhone Data Recovery comes in. It's a simple and easy-to-use program specifically designed for Apple users to recover messages and other types of data. It lets you access your iCloud and iTunes (Finder) backup to see if it has the missing files you want, preview them and then export and save onto your computer. Best of all, it won't touch anything on your iPhone.

The program also can recover from your iDevice (iPhone, iPad, and iPod) by scanning its internal memory for delete-but-not-overwrite files.

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To retrieve just old messages you seek from iCloud backup, do the following:

1. Download and install iPhone Data Recovery on your computer.

2. Open the application, click the third tab labeled "Recover from iCloud".

3. Sign into your iCloud account with Apple ID and password. The program won't save any of your information.

4. Once logged in, uncheck other types of items, click the blue iCloud Backup, followed by Start.

5. The program will start searching for backup(s) you created in iCloud server and finally list them on the window, like the image below.

Check the date of backup and select the one that contains your old text messages, then click "Download" button. Download backup file from iCloud may take a few minutes, depending the size of the backup and the speed of your internet connection.

6. When it's done, click the "Messages" category located on the left menu. You can preview any backed up message conversation by click the specific name before the phone number.

7. Select the messages that you want to get back, click "Recover" button on the lower right side of the program window. All select texts will be exported and saved onto your computer in CSV and HTML file.

4. How do I recover old text messages and iMessages if I don't have iPhone backup with iCloud?

If nothing else works so far — no records in phone carrier, nothing found in other devices, no iCloud backup available, you might need to try fully scanning your iPhone internal memory for deleted text messages that months/years old and restoring the one you want back. The program we will used is still the one we mentioned in Part 3 above — iPhone Data Recovery. Download link below:

Download Now!

for Windows | for MacOS

1. To retrieve old text messages from iPhone memory, connect your device to computer with a help of Lightning cable and launch the program. You will get a main screen shown below.

2. Click "Start Scan" to take a deep scan on the device. Be patient, as the whole process might take a while. Once the scan is end, you will get an overview window, indicating how many of data files it found.

3. you can click on the "Messages" category on the left-hand side, and see a preview of specific text conversation on the right.

4. Go ahead and select the desired old messages from the list, and click "Recover" to save them on your computer.

You can also recover your message attachments like link, video, photo under "Messages Attachments" category on the left side menu.

Video Guide:

5. Recover old texts from iTunes backup

Old iMessages and SMS messages are not found in the iPhone's storage? You may also check your computer and see if you've get backup with iTunes and Finder (macOS 10.15 or newer) application. Should you created backup prior to deleting the old text threads, it's possible to retrieve the messages by restoring your iPhone.

Be mindful that this method also wipes out your existing data on the iPhone, including text messages.

1. Launch iTunes and connect your device to the computer. If you're running a Mac with Catalina 10.15 version or above, open Finder app.

2. When you see the device icon appear in the top left corner, click it. In Finder, select your device name under Location on the left side menu.

3. Under Summary (or General tab in Finder), select Restore Backup.

4. Choose a backup you want to retrieve the messages from.

5. Click Restore.

Back Up old messages on computer

Hopefully one of the methods listed has retrieved old text messages on iPhone. Remember, though, that you should always back up your phone to make sure your messages threads and other files don't vanish anymore.

While you can use the back up the device to cloud or on computer the Apple way, here we introduce the iOS Data Backup & Restore feature integrated in iPhone Data Recovery (see Part 3 and Part 4 in this article) to help you handle this task. With it, you can select just the types of data you need to back up, and restore it whenever you need. Here's how to do.

1. Connect your iPhone to computer and launch iPhone Data Recovery software.

2. Click More Tools at the lower left side.

3. In the next opening window, select iOS Data Backup & Restore tab

4. Click Standard backup. Or select Encrypted backup if you want to keep the data secure.

5. Check the boxes next to data types you want to back up.

6. Click Next to initial the backup process.

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