How to Search Messages on iPhone & iPad (iOS 15)

We will teach you how to search iMessages in the Message app and messages in Facebook and WhatsApp to find old messages!

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

Are you wondering how to search text messages on your iPhone or iPad to find a specific conversation? We can help! We'll cover how to search through your messages on the iPhone and iPad using the Messages app, search Facebook messages, and search WhatsApp chat. Fortunately, most messaging apps make your text conversations searchable. Let's dive in!

What’s in This Article?

How to Find Deleted Messages on iPhone and iPad

Many people want to know how to find old text messages on iPhone and iPad that have been deleted. Unlike Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the Messages app doesn't allow you to archive iMessages. This means if you want to clear out old messages, you have to delete them, and once an iMessage is deleted, it can't be searched. 

So even though you can search text messages on your iPhone, you can only search for the ones that haven't been deleted. The same can be said of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, but you have the option to archive messages, so they'll always be searchable. For this reason, it's important not to delete any text message threads you think you might need to come back to in the future. 

How to Search Texts on iPhone & iPad in the Messages App

You can search your iMessages directly in the Messages app. This is the easiest way to do it, although I'll cover one other search method. The screenshots are taken on iPhone, but the process is the same on iPad. Here's how to search in text messages:

  1. Open the Messages app.

    Open the Messages app - iphone search text messages
     
  2. Pull down on the screen to reveal the search bar.

    Pull down on the screen - search messages iphone
     
  3. Type the name of the person, topic, or keyword that you are looking for.

    Type the keyword - how to search on iphone
     
  4. You’ll see the relevant thread(s). You can tap See All if you want to see more threads or tap the conversation to open it.

    See the relevant thread - search texts iphone
     
  5. You will see your search term within that message.

    You will see your search term - how to get old messages on iphone

In older iOS versions, the search function was inadequate, but it has been upgraded and now allows you to search multiple relevant conversations. However, you can also search the Messages app without ever opening the app itself by using your iPhone's search function.

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How to Search Text Messages on iPhone and iPad Using Today View

Next, I’ll teach you ​​how to search through iMessages using Today View, so that you don’t have to open the Messages app.

  1. Open the Today View on your iPhone or iPad by swiping to the right from your first Home screen.

    Open the Today View - can you search text messages on iphone
     
  2. At the very top is the Search bar; if you scroll down, it will disappear. Just scroll back to the top, and you'll see it. Tap the Search bar and type either the person or phrase that you’re looking for.

    At the very top is the Search bar - how to get old text messages	in your text history
     
  3. Swipe up until you see the Conversations section and tap the text you are looking for. 

    Conversations section - search my messages
     
  4. If you don't see it, see if there's a Messages section containing the text.

    Messages section - text message history
     
  5. If you still don’t see it, scroll to the very bottom and check under Search in Apps and tap Search Messages.

    Search in Apps section - message history iphone
     
  6. You'll be taken to your Messages app, where you may see conversations and links with your search term. You can tap See All to see more results in the respective category.

    You'll be taken to your Messages app.
     
  7. Tap the correct thread.

    Tap the correct thread - search in imessage
     
  8. You will be brought to your search term within that message.

    You will be brought to your search term within that message.

Pro Tip: A nice feature of iMessages search is the ability to go directly to the phrase you're looking for within the conversation. To learn more about your iPhone, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

Now you know how to search messages on your iPhone! Keep in mind that you can only look through present messages, which means if you've deleted a message, it will not show up when you search. If you are wondering how to search for messages in other apps, we will break down how to search for messages in Facebook and WhatsApp next!

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How Far Back Can Text Messages Be Retrieved

Many people want to find out how to find old messages on iPhone, but they aren’t sure how old is too old. There are several factors to consider here. As I already mentioned, you can only search old text messages that haven’t been deleted yet, since Messages doesn’t let you archive texts. But even if you don’t actively delete messages, your iPhone may be deleting them for you. To check this:

  1. Open Settings.

    Open Settings.
     
  2. Tap Messages

    Tap Messages - can you search messages on iphone
     
  3. Under Message History, tap Keep Messages.

    Tap Keep Messages - text history iphone
     
  4. Here you can pick between 30 days, 1 year, and Forever. Keep in mind that if you select Forever, you may fill up your storage with old texts.

    Here you can pick between 30 days, 1 year, and Forever.

Some people ask if you can search iMessages by date? Unfortunately, there is no good way to do this on iPhone or iPad at the moment. But your messages should be listed in order by date sent or received so that can help you narrow down your search.

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How to Search Facebook Messenger Conversations on iPhone & iPad

A Facebook conversation search is easy and can be done within the Facebook Messenger app in a few easy steps:

  1. Open the Facebook Messenger app.

    Open the Facebook Messenger app.
     
  2. Tap the Search field at the top of the app. Please note that the Facebook app is redesigned frequently and may look a little different on your phone. 

    Tap the Search field at the top of your display.
     
  3. Type in your search term, you'll see several categories where the search term appears. The categories include Messages (conversations with your contacts), Discover (groups and pages on Facebook), More on Instagram (relevant Instagram accounts that you may or may not follow), and More People (people who are not your contacts.)

    Type in your search term
     
  4. Tap See More under Messages.

    Tap See More under Messages.
     
  5. Facebook Messenger will list conversations with the matched search term and how many times it was mentioned. Tap the one you want to see.

    Facebook Messenger will list conversations with the matched search term and how many times it was mentioned.
     
  6. You’ll see the various sentences where the matched search term was mentioned.

    You’ll see the various sentences where the matched search term was mentioned.
     
  7. Tap on the relevant one, and you'll be brought to your search term within that message; the search term will be highlighted.

    Tap on the relevant one.

Just like with iMessage, if you click on a result, it will take you directly into that part of the message. Facebook Messenger search does a great job of looking through message threads from all time, including individual and group conversations and messages that were archived.

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How to Search WhatsApp Messages on iPhone & iPad

WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps on the iPhone. WhatsApp is generally considered to have the best search on the iPhone by reviewers, and like Facebook, it highlights the term you're looking for, so it's easy to find in the thread. As with the other two messaging apps we've mentioned, if you've deleted the message, it won't be available for search. However, if you archived the message, the search will work.

  1. Open WhatsApp and log in if you are prompted.

    Open WhatsApp and log in if you are prompted.
     
  2. Go to the Chats tab, unless you are already there.

    Go to the Chats tab, unless you are already there.
     
  3. Locate the Search bar at the top of the screen.

    Locate the Search bar at the top of the screen.
     
  4. Type the phrase, words, event, or person you’re searching for. Messages that match will appear with the search terms highlighted in bold. Tap the relevant message.

    Type the phrase, words, event, or person you’re searching for.
     
  5. You will be taken to the message within the thread and the term will still be highlighted.

    If you click on a result, it will take you to that message within the thread.

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That’s it! You should now be comfortable searching for messages in the Messages, Facebook, and WhatsApp apps! No one wants to search through dozens (if not hundreds) of messages looking for a specific conversation on their Apple device. Fortunately, most messaging apps make your text conversations searchable. Next, learn how to sync messages from iPhone to Mac & iPad.

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Author Details

Abbey Dufoe's picture

Author Details

Abbey Dufoe

Abbey Dufoe is a freelance writer and a web producer at a nonprofit based in Princeton, NJ. She's always itching for the newest iOS gadget (current favorite - the Apple Watch). She tweets and blogs about the earth and the Internet on Twitter at @abbeydufoe and at abbeydufoe.com.