How to retrieve deleted text messages on iPhone

By April 3, 2017iOS

Tip 1 of 5: What to do if you’ve deleted or lost important text messages

Many of us have text messages going back a decade, amongst them might be gems from family who have passed away, long lost friends, or important information that you never know when you might need again.

It’s comforting to know they are there and that should you need to access them again, a quick search on your iPhone should bring them up.

However, just suppose that you have to delete some files on your iPhone to make space. When you look at what apps are taking up the most space you might notice that Messages is getting a little large. It’s hardly surprising as people often send photos and videos by text.

Deleting some messages might seem like a good way to free up space. There is even an option in Messages to automatically delete messages after an amount of time – you’ll find the option in Settings >Messages > Keep Messages. By default this will be set to Forever, but if makes sense to switch it to 1 Year if you need some space freed up… Except then those messages you meant to keep hold of for eternity will be lost.

Or will they?

Once you delete that message of your iPhone, it pretty much disappears. However, there are ways to get your deleted messages back.

Here are four ways to retrieve deleted texts on iPhone, over the following slides we cover the following:

How to recover deleted texts from your phone provider
How to retrieve deleted text messages via iCloud
How to get back deleted SMS messages from an iTunes backup
How to retrieve lost text messages using a third-party app.

Do let us know in the comments below if you are aware of any better ways of recovering deleted text messages on iPhone, and read on to find out the four methods we’ve found.

Step 2 of 5: Retrieve deleted texts from an iCloud backup

Unfortunately, iCloud doesn’t back up SMS in all territories, and for all phone operators. So the following may not work (which is a shame because this is the best backup you can have for your SMS messages). You’ll need only to go to step 2 to find out if it will work or not, however. And for many people this is quite the easiest way of recovering those lost messages.

1. Login to with your Apple ID and password

2. Click on Text Messages (if it isn’t there your messages haven’t been backed up) – so skip this slide…

3. If it is there search the messages to find the ones you need.

4. Now go to your iPhone and choose Settings, iCloud on your iPhone.

5. Turn off Text Messages (or ensure it is turned off). I know this sounds counter-intuitive but stay with me people.

6. You’ll see a pop-up. Select: ‘Keep on My iPhone’.

7. Now turn back on text messages.

8. Tap ‘Merge’, and wait. After a few minutes the deleted text messages should appear back on your iPhone.


Step 3 of 5: Retrieve deleted texts from an iTunes backup

This works only if you automatically back up text messages. Again this won’t always be the case, but even if you think you don’t back up your messages it is worth a few minutes of your time to try.

1. Connect your iPhone to the computer with which you sync it. iTunes should open (if not, open it up manually).

2. You should see your iPhone in a box, top righthand corner. Select it.

3. Now choose ‘Restore backup’.

4. All the data you previously backed up will now replace the data on your phone. It will take a few minutes. As long as you haven’t backed up subsequent to deleting those text messages, they should now appear in the normal messaging list on your phone handset.

For more detailed information about how to restore an iPhone visit: How to reset, factory-reset, restore or restart an iPhone


Step 4 of 5: Retrieve deleted texts by contacting your phone provider

If you’ve had no luck with the back ups, you’re next port of call is your phone provider.

Some – although not all – will keep a record of your text messages, and you are entitled to access them. It may even be as easy as logging in to your account online. For some it requires you to contact customer services. The answer may be no, but it costs nothing to ask, right?


Step 5 of 5: Retrieve deleted texts using a third-party app

If none of the options above has worked, it is time to go nuclear. Well, not nuclear exactly but it may cost you a couple of quid, and there is no guarantee it will work. (The sooner you do this the more likely it will work).

There are also a few third-party apps that have a good online reputation (some of which we’ve personally used): PhoneRescue by iMobie, WonderShare Dr.Fone for iOS and Tenorshare iPhone Data Recovery. Because even after you have ‘deleted’ messages they remain on your handset until overwritten, you should be able to recover deleted messages using these utilities (and others) – but there are no guarantees. The best advice if you are using one of these apps is to do so as quickly as possible after you realise you need to recover your deleted text messages. The longer you leave it the more likely it is you will have written over the required part of the memory.

Do let us know how you got on with trying any of these methods. And if you know of any better way of recovering deleted text messages, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.