5 Methods to Retrieve Deleted Text Messages from an iPhone

We’ve all been there – accidentally deleting a text message thread that held important information or nostalgic value. As our text messages contain meaningful conversations and information, losing them can be frustrating.

The good news is – with the right tools and techniques, recovering deleted iPhone text messages is possible in many cases. This blog post will comprehensively guide you through various methods to retrieve deleted SMS/iMessages on your iPhone.

Understanding iPhone’s Message Storage

Before looking at the recovery methods, it’s important to understand how iPhones store text messages.

iPhone uses an SQLite database to save your conversations which is tied to your Apple ID. When you delete a message thread, it is simply marked as free space for overwrite – but remains recoverable until replaced by new data.

So if no new data has been added after deletion, there is a good chance the messages still reside in the database and can be retrieved by data recovery apps. However, if the space has been overwritten, it becomes near impossible to get those messages back.

The key is to act fast before permanent data loss. Avoid adding new messages/data and use recovery methods as soon as possible after deletion.

Method 1: Recover from Recently Deleted

Fortunately, iOS offers a built-in ‘Recently Deleted’ feature that allows quick access of deleted content – ideal for fast accidental message deletions.

Here are the steps to recover deleted iPhone messages using Recently Deleted:

  1. Open the Messages app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap ‘Edit’ in the top right corner of your message list screen.
  3. Scroll down and tap ‘Show Recently Deleted’. This will display your recently deleted message threads.
  4. Browse and find the text conversation you want to retrieve.
  5. Tap the blue ‘Recover’ button next to the thread.
  6. Finally, tap ‘Recover Messages’ to restore to your main view.

The Recently Deleted folder maintains data for up to 30 days. So you can use this method to recover recently deleted text messages on iPhone without any third party software.

Note that this will only work if the messages haven’t been overwritten by new data yet.

Method 2: Restore from iCloud Backup

If your messages don’t show up in Recently Deleted, the next resort is to restore from an iCloud backup containing the lost SMS data.

Here are the prerequisites and steps for iCloud restore method:


  • You must have enabled iCloud backup previously with Messages option turned on.
  • The backup should be fairly recent – containing the now deleted messages.


  1. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups.
  2. Tap on your desired backup > Restore. This will overwrite current data so ensure data sync first.
  3. Sign in to iCloud and complete prompts to restore your device data along with text messages from backup.
  4. Once restore completes, your iPhone should have the deleted messages back in the Messages app.

If you don’t have a suitable iCloud backup, try one of the next methods.

Method 3: Restore from iTunes/Finder Backup

Another way is to use either iTunes (Windows) or Finder (Mac) to restore an iPhone from a saved computer backup.

Here are the steps:

  1. Connect your iPhone to computer and launch iTunes / Finder.
  2. Under device preferences, click Restore [device name].
  3. Disable iCloud sync when prompted to prevent overwriting cloud data.
  4. In the popup prompt, select the backup you want to restore from.
  5. Allow the restore process to complete. It may take awhile depending on size.
  6. Finally, open Messages app to check for returned deleted texts post restore.

Things to note – this method will wipe your current iPhone data. So ensure you have a computer backup that actually contains the deleted messages before proceeding.

Method 4: Using Third-Party Recovery Tools

When all else fails, powerful third party iOS data recovery software provide an alternate avenue to rescue lost text messages. They work by performing deep scan of iPhone data extractable from backups and live device.

Some top rated and widely used message recovery apps include:

  • PhoneRescue iOS Recovery Tool (for Windows & Mac): Reliable recovery rate and easy interface to scan and restore multiple data types including SMS and iMessages.
  • EaseUS MobiSaver (for Windows & Mac): Known for seamlessly restoring individual texts or full message threads from iCloud/iTunes backup files.
  • iMyFone iBypasser (for Windows & Mac): Capable extractor for retrieving deleted iPhone texts, WhatApp messages, and WeChat data.
  • Dr.Fone – Data Recovery (for Windows & Mac): User-friendly data recovery suite specialized in restoring all iOS/iCloud content including messages.

Despite the convenience, third party software does have its limitations:

  • Requires computer and cables for iPhone connection.
  • Advanced tools may have learning curve and take longer.
  • Does not work if message data is fully overwritten.
  • Free trials often lack full feature access.

So weigh your options – in severe cases of unrecoverable data loss, investing in advanced recovery software may be the only choice.

Method 5: Check Other Synced Devices

This method relies on iPhone’s sync features rather than direct recovery. If you had text message history syncing enabled with other Apple devices (like iPad or Mac), then deleted iPhone SMS may still be accessible there.

Here’s how to check those devices:

  1. On your secondary iDevice/Mac, open the Messages app.
  2. Navigate to the desired text conversation that’s missing on your iPhone.
  3. Use copy/paste tools to transfer any critical text content that survived.

Since synced devices display the same messages, this method is hit or miss depending on sync settings and time of last backup.

But it’s still worth checking as text data may reside in unsuspecting places like old laptops or iPads.

How Do I Retrieve Deleted Text Messages on iPhone?

The easiest way to recover recently deleted texts on an iPhone is to use the built-in Recently Deleted folder in the Messages app. You have up to 30 days to rescue deleted texts before they are permanently erased.

To use Recently Deleted:

  1. Open the Messages app and tap on the “Edit” button in the top right corner.
  2. Scroll down and select “Show Recently Deleted.” This will display conversations that have been recently deleted.
  3. Tap on the blue “Recover” button next to any thread you want to restore.
  4. Finally, tap “Recover Messages” to move the texts back into your main Messages view.

If it’s been over 30 days or your texts no longer appear in Recently Deleted, don’t panic yet! You still have options:

  • Restore your iPhone from a previous iTunes or iCloud backup that contained the lost messages.
  • Use iPhone data recovery software like PhoneRescue or EaseUS MobiSaver to extract deleted texts from a backup or directly from your device.
  • Check any old iPads, iPods or Macs linked to your Apple ID to see if the messages still reside there due to syncing.

The key is to act quickly and avoid adding new data onto your iPhone until you can attempt recovery. Finally, make sure you have enabled regular iCloud and iTunes backups for all your devices to prevent text message loss down the road.

Are Deleted Text Messages Gone Forever?

No, deleted text messages are not necessarily gone forever. Here is a more in-depth explanation:

When you delete a text conversation on your iPhone, it simply gets marked as “free space” in the message database. The actual message data remains intact but hidden until that space gets written over by new incoming data.

This means there is often a window where deleted texts can still be recovered, as long as they have not already been overwritten. The duration of this window depends on factors like how much activity is happening on your phone and whether you’ve added any significant new data since deleting.

To maximize chances of text recovery, avoid using the iPhone too much right after accidental deletion. Then immediately attempt restoration via iPhone backup or data recovery software before the space gets reused.

Also know that some deleted texts may persist for longer durations across multiple access points if you had iCloud syncing enabled. Always check both iCloud and any synced devices to see if perhaps the messages still reside intact in those secondary locations.

While iOS does flag deleted texts for eventual overwrite, the actual message data sticks around for various periods depending on your usage and backup habits. Act swiftly and recovery is often possible.

How Come I Can’t See Recently Deleted Messages on iPhone?

There are a few reasons why recently deleted messages may not be appearing on your iPhone:

  1. You may be using an older iOS that does not support message recovery. The Recently Deleted folder only became available in iOS 16 or later. So if your iOS is older, update to the latest version.
  2. Your deleted messages are too old. iOS can only recover texts deleted within the last 30 days. Anything older has likely been permanently overwritten.
  3. You did not have iCloud Message sync enabled, so deleted texts did not get backed up. Enable iCloud messaging if you haven’t already under Settings.
  4. Your iPhone storage is completely full, so deleted texts got permanently erased earlier to free up space. Try clearing space if your phone has been constantly full.
  5. You accidentally tapped “Delete Message Forever” which permanently erases texts rather than standard deletion. There is no coming back from this deletion method.
  6. You restored or replaced your iPhone recently, which wiped all message history along with deletions. Next time, remember to backup first via iCloud or iTunes.

Essentially if 30 days have passed or data got overwritten, your deleted texts cannot be rescued. But enabling iCloud backup ensures they get stored there for future access if needed.

Preventative Measures

They say prevention is better than cure. While recovery is possible in many cases – there are also steps you can take to avoid text message loss in the future:

  • Set up regular iCloud and iTunes full device backups containing your message history.
  • Enable iCloud sync for Messages under iPhone Settings to backup conversations.
  • Export important SMS/iMessage threads to storage using apps like iExplorer or iBackup Viewer.
  • Be cautious before deleting any message threads and use Recently Deleted first.
  • Consider auto backup reminders so you never forget.

Making backups a habit drastically minimizes risk of data losses down the road.

Legal & Ethical Considerations

While recovering your own deleted texts is fine, it gets ethically questionable regarding other people’s data. Respect others privacy by avoiding tampering unless you have consent.

In some places, knowingly accessing someone else’s texts/data without permission breaks privacy laws. And advanced recovery methods may disturb evidence in ongoing investigations.

So ultimately, stick to retrieving your own messages or those you’re authorized for. Data recovery requires responsibility not to misuse.


As we rely so heavily on texting, it’s normal to panic after accidentally losing meaningful messages. Fortunately, this guide has outlined several practical methods to successfully retrieve deleted iPhone text conversations in various scenarios.

To recap, your options include the Messages app’s built-in Recently Deleted, restoring device/iCloud backups, leveraging iTunes/Finder sync, using data recovery software, and checking synced devices.

Ideally, enabling backup features prevents this issue entirely. But now you’re also equipped to rescue deleted texts if necessary. Just act swiftly before the data gets overwritten.

Also Read:

Retrieve Deleted Text Messages iPhone: FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked FAQs about retrieving deleted text messages on an iPhone:

How can I recover deleted text messages on my iPhone?

The easiest way is to use the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder in the Messages app. Go to Messages > Edit > Show Recently Deleted to access messages deleted up to 30 days ago and restore them. Alternatively, you can restore text messages from a previous iTunes or iCloud backup if available.

How long are deleted iPhone text messages stored for?

Deleted texts are stored in iPhone’s database for up to 30 days in the Recently Deleted folder before being permanently deleted. However, they could still be overwritten and erased sooner if new data fills up the storage space.

Can I recover permanently deleted text messages on iPhone?

If a text is overwritten by new data or wasn’t backed up, permanent recovery is nearly impossible through standard methods. However, advanced third party software sometimes can extract residue data fragments leftover even after permanent deletion.

Why can’t I see the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder in Messages?

The ‘Recently Deleted’ option only appears if you have actually deleted messages recently. It is also only available on iOS 16 and later. So update your software if you are on an older iOS version.

What is the best free software for recovering deleted iPhone text messages?

iSkysoft Toolbox and EaseUS MobiSaver both offer free trial versions that enable text message recovery on an iPhone without payment. They scan and match residual data from iTunes or iCloud backups to resurrect deleted texts.

Can someone else see my deleted text messages?

Not through your iPhone directly. However, deleted texts could persist for them in your shared iCloud storage if you still had their texts backed up in iCloud until overriden by new backups. To be safe, sign out of your iCloud account if it was ever shared.