How To Restore Deleted iPhone Messages

Image: Apple

It happens to the best of us. You’re going about your day, tapping through your smartphone while navigating around your little slice of the world. Before you know it, you realise that you’ve accidentally done something on your device you didn’t mean to do. So lets take a look at how to undo that big delete button.

Here’s the good news: You’ve already tried a lot of techniques, so I’ll be able to keep my suggestions short. The bad news? I’m not sure how much more magic you’ll be able to summon up to restore those missing iPhone messages.

Generally speaking, when you delete messages or conversations on your iPhone, that’s it. You won’t find a “recently deleted” section in iOS for messages, nor any kind of recycle bin with a big Apple logo stamped to the site. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

However, if you’ve synchronised your messages to iCloud — like most do — then your old history is probably still available on another one of your Apple devices, if applicable. Start on a MacBook, for example, make sure it’s not connected to the web, and you should be able to pull up the conversation (or message) and save it down as a PDF (via “printing” it), at the very least.

You can also view (and copy) your conversations directly from Finder if you navigate to this folder: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.iChat/Data/Library/Messages/Archive

While you can also try the “restore from an older backup” route, I’m not sure this technique would work, because it’s unclear just how Apple prioritised mismatches in iCloud data. For example, if the conversation you deleted was critical, and you roll back to a device backup from a time before the deletion, I’m not sure your device’s messages would override that which already exists in iCloud. If anything, your iCloud-synchronised messages would replace anything on your device.

If you’re on an iPad, you could use a (paid) program like iExplorer to export your messages before iCloud synchronizes your deletions.

Of course, this is all a moot point if you don’t sync your messages to iCloud. If that’s the case, restoring from an earlier backup should resurrect that which you deleted.

In a perfect world, Apple would let you decide what gets synchronised (and which direction it goes). Or, at the very least, give you a small window to undelete that which you accidentally trashed. I’d still stick with iCloud, even given your scenario, but be a lot more careful about swiping and tapping going forward. At least, until better solutions for restoring content arrive.


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