Many messaging apps let you send disappearing messages, but Signal’s approach to the process is one of the best. It’s another great reason to start using the encrypted chat app if you’re looking for privacy-focused messaging — or if you’re an Elon Musk fan.
As the name implies, Signal’s disappearing messages self-destruct after a set amount of time. Deleted messages are permanently removed from the chat thread for both users in the conversation. That makes them a great option when you’re sending potentially sensitive information that you don’t want accessible for longer than necessary.
Obviously, disappearing messages can enhance your Signal conversation’s privacy and security, but there are limitations. Even though disappearing messages are deleted from both users’ message history, either user can still take a screenshot before they’re removed, or copy and paste their contents elsewhere. If your recipient is especially clever, they can use another device to take a photo of the disappearing material in question.
While you can block screenshots in Signal on your own device, there’s no way to prevent the recipient from saving a message before it’s deleted. Only send private information to contacts you trust.
That said, you can control how long a message remains in the chat before its deleted. The smaller the window of time, the less likely it is someone can successfully save it.
How to turn on disappearing messages in Signal
Signal messages do not disappear by default, but the feature can be turned on or off at any time for individual conversations using either of the two methods below. Note that disappearing messages only works for one-on-one conversations between users who are both using Signal; it’s unavailable in group chats, and it cannot be used if the other person is using a different SMS app.
Turn on disappearing messages from the quick menu:
- Open signal, then open a conversation or start a new one.
- Tap the three-dot button in the upper-right of the conversation.
- Tap “Disappearing Messages.”
- Select how long to display messages before they’re deleted. The quickest is 5 seconds, and the longest is 1 week.
Turn on disappearing messages from the conversation settings:
- Open a conversation then tap your contact’s name at the top of a conversation window.
- In the conversation menu, tap “Disappearing Messages” to turn it on (or off) for this conversation
- Use the menu to select the message deletion time limit.