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How to recover deleted iMessages on iPhone with or without backup

iOS 16 adds new feature to allow finding iMessages and SMS texts deleted within the last 40 days. You can also try to restore backup to get your iMessages back. Here's how to do.

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Alex Griffith Updated on Dec 2, 2022 10:34 AM

Summary: Beginning with iOS 16 and iPadOS 16.1, Apple iPhone and iPad both have Recently Deleted folder built-in as part of the Messages app, from where users can retrieve deleted iMessages, messages, and conversations for up to 40 days. You can also use iCloud to restore a backup to recover your iPhone iMessages; or retrieve deleted iMessage conversions on iPhone by restoring from backups saved on computer using Finder or iTunes.

If nothing else seems to work, you may use a 3rd party tool, iPhone Data Recovery for example. It carries a deep and thorough scan capability of the phone memory to find and recover deleted SMS texts, iMessages without backup for you.

You can retrieve iMessages and texts from Recently Deleted folder, iCloud, iTunes backup or iPhone memory.

Tapped "Delete" button on an iMessage bubble or an entire conversation and instantly regretted it? You're not alone. Whether you recently mass deleted iMessage conversations to clear up space, or you got rid of spam messages from the list on your iPhone, you might accidentally deleted iMessages you want to save.

Don't worry, though. It's possible to recover deleted iMessages from backup if you have your iPhone set to back up in iTunes/ Finder, or iCloud, but you will revert the device to factory settings as part of the necessary iMessages recovery process. In iOS 16 or later, you can even restore your iMessages from a Recently Deleted folder—a part of the Messages app that comes build in by default—if you realize your mistake quickly. Here's how.

Table of Contents

The following instructions work the same whether you're retrieving iMessages (blue bubble conversations) or recovering deleted text messages (green bubble conversations) on iPhone.

How to see deleted iMessages in Recently Deleted (iOS 16 or later)

The Messages app received major update in iOS 16 by integrating with a new Recently Deleted folder to make it more friendly and convenient. It now gives you ability to restored iMessages deleted from iPhone accidentally in the past 30 to 40 days. During the grace period, you can go into the folder and view all the deleted iMessage conversations and easily retrieve the ones you want. They will return to place in your iPhone Messages app as they were previously.

Recently Deleted album works well in retrieving all your text, video, picture, sound included in the conversation. But once the days have elapsed, a recently deleted iMessage is erased permanently from your iPhone. To recover it, you should use Apple's other tools such as iCloud, iTunes, Finder, which we'll show you how to recover deleted iMessage from a backup with later in this article.

Note: if you turn on Messages in iCloud and delete a conversation or a single iMessage, it will be removed across all your devices, not just the iPhone.

1. Open Messages app on your iPhone.

2. Tap Edit in the upper left corner to go back to Messages page.

3. Select Recently Deleted.

Messages app with iOS 16 or later has a built-in Recently Deleted, tap on it.

4. View and select the conversations with the messages you want to return to your iPhone.

Get back iMessages from Recently Deleted on iPhone.

5. In the lower right corner, tap Recover. If you want to retrieve all of your iMessages and text messages from there, tap Recover All instead.

6. Tap Recover Messages to get them back.

Requirements

  • You accidentally deleted iMessages within the last 30 to 40 days.
  • You don't clear recently deleted iMessages in the album on your iPhone.

Tip: Just as Messages app, Apple also offers a folder with same name for Photos app to save and retrieve recently deleted photos on iPhone in case you change your mind.

Recover from iCloud backup

Built into iPhone, iCloud offers a number of features including device track (Find My) and messages sync across all your devices. Another useful feature is its ability to use iCloud backup to recover the deleted iMessages and other data, including texts, photos, notes, if you've set the iPhone backed up before.

The only drawback about retrieving deleted iMessages with iCloud is that it requires to reset the iPhone back to its factory settings first—which erases all your current data in the process, and then revert to a condition when the backup was made. Here's how.

Check iCloud before retrieving your iMessages with a recent backup

Open Settings on your iPhone.

Tap your name at the top of the page, and then click iCloud. It shows you a list of apps using iCloud—you can tap "Show All" to expand the list. Make sure you've toggled the "Sync this iPhone" switch to the right side to turn on Messages in iCloud.

Go to "iCloud" on your iPhone to view your backups.

Tap iCloud Backup and now you can see the last time your iPhone was successfully backed up. If the time when you deleted the iMessage is later than that of the Last successful Backup, you should be able to undelete your iPhone iMessages.

Check the timestamp to ensure that your iPhone has been backed up to iCloud before.

Reset iPhone to restore an iCloud backup

Go back to Settings, and tap General > Transfer or Reset iPhone.

Tap Transfer or Reset iPhone.

Tap Erase All Content and Settings.

Select "Erase All Content and Settings" when you're ready to reset the phone.

In "Erase This iPhone" page, tap Continue.

Tap on "Continue" to remove all your personal apps and data.

Enter your passcode to sign out iCloud and remove Find My. It will begin deleting all your existing content on your iPhone, such as photos, text messages, media files, apps, and resetting it to its factory settings.

Once the reset process is complete, you should get a welcome screen with setup assistant. Let it walk you through the necessary setup steps, and when it arrives in App & Data screen, select Restore from iCloud Backup.

Tap on "Restore from iCloud Backup" to retrieve the iMessages.

Sign into to iCloud with your Apple ID and password, and then select the most relevant backup from the available iCloud backups. Wait for the iPhone to retrieve your deleted iMessages. All your other data files, such as contacts, notes, reminders in the backup will be back, too.

Requirements

  • You have made backup of the iPhone before you accidentally deleted iMessages conversations you wish to retrieve.
  • You need to erase the phone completely and reset it to factory defaults before using a iCloud backup.

Also see: Text Messages disappeared from iPhone

Use Finder or iTunes backup

On a Mac with Mojave 10.14 or older, or on a Windows computer, your backups are made in iTunes; for Catalina 10.15 or later, they're created by Finder instead. Follow these steps to retrieve iMessages deleted on iPhone with iTunes or Finder if you have backed up your device to your Mac or PC.

1. Plug your iPhone into your Mac or PC and launch Finder or iTunes if it doesn't open automatically. If it asks to Trust This Computer, tap Trust on your phone screen. 

2. On your Mac, click the phone name under Location on the sidebar of Finder. On your PC machine, click on the icon of your phone at the top of the iTunes screen, and then choose Summary tab.

3. Click Restore Backup.

You might need to click the This Computer on iTunes or Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac on Finder if the button doesn't work when you click it.

You can retrieve your old iMessages that you backed up in iTunes or Finder.

4. Pick the recent backup that includes the iMessages you deleted, and click Restore. iTunes or Finder will take a while to restore the iPhone, and your old iMessages should reappear soon in the messaging list.

Requirements

  • Access to your iTunes backup to restore iPhone only when you backed up your iMessages and text messages onto a Mac or PC in advanced.
  • The process will reset your iPhone to restore the deleted iMessages, but erase everything from after the backup.

Use the third-party software if there isn't backup available

If neither of Recently Deleted folder on iPhone or backup helps you get deleted iMessages back, consider using a third-party iMessages retrieve software app. iPhone Data Recovery tops our ranking thanks to its intuitive interface and great features.

It's available on both macOS and Windows, offering you an efficient way to scan the iPhone or iPad memory to retrieve the deleted files, such as photos, texts, iMessages, call history, contacts, notes. It also has options to just extract files you want from an iTunes or iCloud backup without resetting your phone that Apple does. Besides this, the program comes with several cool features, including the ability to fix the iOS & iPadOS and a backup feature to save your iPhone data to your computer in case accidental deletions. 

Download Now!

for Windows | for MacOS

Step 1: Run iPhone Data Recovery

Run the software on your computer, and connect the iPhone.

get back deleted iMessages without backup

As you don't have any backup in iCloud or iTunes for your old iMessages, here select "Recover from iOS Device" to start.

Step 2: Scan the iPhone

Once connected, click "Start Scan" on the program window. It will take a few minutes to complete the scan process.

Step 3: View the iMessages list

In the results list, you can click the "Messages" and "Messages Attachments" in the menu on left side, then you can preview all found existing and deleted text messages and iMessages on the right side section.

view the texts and iMessage threads in the results  list

Step 4: Retrieve lost iMessages and save to computer

Select the iMessages you want to retrieve from the list by checking the box, and hit "Recover" button on the lower right corner of the program window. Specify a location where the conversations are stored, and you're good to go.

save your files

That's how you can retrieve deleted iMessages without backup. You may find other types of data in the scan results and get them back. Want to know if your iTunes backs up your old iMessages? Run its "Recover from iTunes Backup File" mode in the main interface.

Requirements

  • The deleted iMessage threads are not be overwritten by new data you add to your iPhone. Instead, they are actually still there in the internal storage.
  • No backup required.

FAQs

Can I retrieve a deleted iMessage from phone carrier?

No. Depending on your country and region, some phone carriers have the options to keep a record of your call logs and text messages for a specific period of time, but the backup doesn't contain iMessages — it's Apple's own end-to-end encrypted instant messaging service that can only be sent from one Apple device to another.

How to recover old iMessages on iPhone

The first thing you should do is go to Recently Deleted folder. It saves your texts and iMessages for up to 40 days before deleting them forever.

  • Open the Messages app.
  • Tap Edit, and find Recently Deleted folder, tap it.
  • Tap on the message conversations you'd like to retrieve.
  • Tap Recover on the bottom right of the screen.
  • Select Recover Messages.

Is it possible to retrieve permanently deleted iMessages on iPhone?

Yes, it's possible, but you need to have a backup of your iPhone on the computer or in the iCloud before the iMessages were erased. To restore them:

  • First, use the "Transfer or Settings iPhone" feature in Settings to reset your iPhone.
  • Set up your iPhone until you see App & Data screen.
  • Choose "Restore from iCloud Backup" or "Restore from Mac or PC."
  • Access to your backups and choose the one to recover from.

If you can't retrieve deleted iMessages using a backup from iCloud or computer, you may try a dedicated file retrieve tool like iPhone Data Recovery to help you scan and find iMessages from device storage.

Why did my iMessages disappear from iPhone?

The Message History feature can automatically delete SMS texts and iMessages in your Messages app to free up storage space on your iPhone. You may go to Settings > Messages > Keep Messages, and set the time to Forever.

How can I remove an iMessage accidentally sent from thread?

To unsend an iMessage that you sent mistakenly:

  • Open the Messages app, tap a conversation.
  • Touch and hold the iMessage you want to delete from everyone's threads.
  • Tap Undo Send.

Make sure you're using iMessage with iOS 16, iPadOS 16.1, macOS Ventura, or later.

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