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How to retrieve deleted messages on iPhone

Get those important chats back.

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Ever been on a deleting spree to clear up your smartphone — but gone a bit too far? Amongst all the chit-chat and spam offers, you might have accidentally wiped an important address or a treasured text. But don’t worry. We’ll teach you a few clever ways to retrieve deleted messages on your iPhone.

Restore messages from your Recently Deleted folder

Before we look at the methods involving cloud backups and third-party software, just make sure to check the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder in your iPhone’s Messages app. This is a feature that was introduced with iOS 16 and it’s super easy to find:

  1. Open the Messages app.

  2. Tap on ‘Edit’ in the top-left of your screen.

  3. Select the ‘Show Recently Deleted’ option from the drop-down.

  4. You’ll see a list of messages deleted in the last 30 days. Tap on the message you want to restore.

  5. Press ‘Recover’ in the bottom-right of your screen to move the message back into your main list of messages.

The only drawback with this method is that it won’t display any messages you deleted more than 30 days ago. So don’t hang around!

Recover deleted messages on iPhone from iCloud backup

Apple’s iCloud storage service can be a real lifesaver when it comes to recovering your iPhone’s data. If you want to retrieve messages that you deleted more than 30 days ago, then an iCloud backup can help you get them back. This is assuming that you use iCloud…

You'll need to be careful when following these steps, though. That’s because you'll have to restore your iPhone to an iCloud backup from before the time you deleted the message(s). So, you'll lose anything since that backup.

Here's how to recover texts using an iCloud backup:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap on your name right at the top.

  2. Tap on 'iCloud', then select 'Manage Account Storage'.

  3. Choose the 'Backups' option about halfway down your screen.

  4. Select your device to see when it was last backed up before you deleted the messages.

  5. Go back to the main Settings menu and tap on 'General’.

  6. Scroll down and select 'Transfer or Reset iPhone', then tap on 'Erase All Content and Settings'.

  7. Your iPhone will restart, and the setup process will begin. You'll need to choose to ‘Restore from an iCloud backup’.

  8. Make sure to pick the backup dated prior to when you deleted your message(s).

Restore deleted texts from iTunes/Finder backup

If you have a Mac, you can use it to back up your iPhone via the Finder. You can also do this if you've got iTunes on a PC or Mac running macOS Mojave or earlier.

This is like the previous iCloud method, which means that you'll have to use a backup that was made prior to when you deleted the message(s) you want to recover. You'll then need to reset your iPhone and restore using that backup. So, please make sure to save and export any recent files first — as you'll lose everything from after that backup.

Here's how to retrieve deleted texts from a Finder or iTunes backup:

  1. Connect your iPhone to the Mac or PC storing the backup(s).

  2. Open the Finder if you're using Mac, or iTunes if you're on a PC.

  3. Select your iPhone from the menu bar on the left if you're using Finder. Or if you're on iTunes, just click on the iPhone icon in the top-left corner.

  4. Select 'Restore Backup' (you'll see this option under the 'General' tab if you're using Finder).

After a few minutes, your iPhone will replace its current data with all the data you previously backed up. You’ll then just need to head to the Messages app, where you’ll see your old deleted texts. But remember, this will only work if you haven't backed up your iPhone since deleting those messages.

Retrieve deleted iPhone messages using iCloud Merge

Want to restore your messages from iCloud without having to completely reset your iPhone? Yeah, that'd be great! iCloud Merge will let you do this, although it doesn't always work. That’s because iCloud won't back up SMS messages in certain regions.

You just might be lucky though, so give these steps a go:

  1. Log into your iCloud account on a web browser.

  2. Click on the 'Text Messages' icon (if you can't see this, then just move onto our next method).

  3. Look through the list of messages to find the ones you want to retrieve.

  4. Open the Settings app on your iPhone, tap on your name at the top, then select 'iCloud'.

  5. Toggle off the 'Messages' option.

  6. In the pop-up window that appears, tap on 'Keep On My iPhone'.

  7. After that, toggle 'Messages' back on again and then tap 'Merge'.

Give it a few minutes, and your deleted texts should reappear in the Messages app. Nice.

Restore deleted messages using third-party software

Want to retrieve deleted text messages from your iPhone without a backup? Well fortunately, there’s third-party software that can help you recover deleted iPhone messages — all without needing a backup. They don't always work and you'll usually have to pay for most of these. But they might be worth a go if you're trying to restore some really important messages.

How do they work, though? Without getting too technical, deleted messages will often still be saved in your iPhone's flash storage until they're overwritten by new data. And some of this software — like the popular PhoneRescue — can tap into where they're located and restore them.

Retrieve messages by contacting your network provider

As a last resort, you could try contacting your mobile phone network provider. It's possible that they've kept a record of some text messages you've recently sent. But bear in mind that this will only work for SMS text messages and it’s not how to recover deleted iMessages. Those are encrypted on your iPhone, so your carrier won’t be able to retrieve those.

To do this, you'll probably have to go through a lot of checks to prove your identity and such. And remember, your provider won't be storing your SMS messages forever (if at all). So, this might only work if you're trying to recover messages lost in the last few weeks.

FAQs

Can you retrieve deleted text messages on iPhone?

Yes, absolutely. There’s a good chance of getting those important texts you deleted back on your iPhone. The quickest way is to check the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder in your Messages app. But you can also restore messages using an old iCloud backup or even some third-party software.

How do I retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages on my iPhone?

Loads of us will use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues instead of sending iMessages or SMS texts. But just like with those, we might also accidentally delete important WhatsApp messages that we’ll want to recover later.

Here’s how to retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages on iPhone with iCloud:

  1. Make sure you have the latest chat backup on iCloud (check this in your WhatsApp settings).

  2. If you've got a recent backup, uninstall WhatsApp and reinstall it from the App Store.

  3. Open the app and complete the login process by verifying your phone number.

  4. You'll be prompted to restore your chats from an iCloud backup. Tap on 'Restore Chat History' to recover your deleted WhatsApp messages.

Wondering how to retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages on your iPhone without a backup? You’ll have to use a specialist data recovery tool like PhoneRescue or Disk Drill instead.

Any more questions?

We hope our methods helped you recover deleted text messages on your iPhone. For extra iPhone tips and tricks, check out more of our TechTalk articles. Like how to change the Bluetooth name on your iPhone, or how to delete contacts on an iPhone for a good old spring-clean.

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