The Sneaky Trick to Retrieve Deleted Messages on iPhone (iOS 16)

With iOS 16, there's a new easy way to recover deleted texts on an iPhone, plus four other options if you have older software.

Did you accidentally delete a text message and now you need to get it back? Fortunately, there are several methods to get back deleted text messages, so no need to worry! We'll go over how to retrieve deleted messages using the new iOS 16 method, plus a few other tips and tricks to recover deleted text messages on an iPhone if you have older software. 

What to Know: 

  • To retrieve recently deleted text messages in iOS 16, open the Messages app, tap Edit, tap Show Recently Deleted, select the conversation you want to restore, and tap Recover. 
  • If you don't have iOS 16, you can recover recently deleted messages by using iCloud Recovery, restoring a previous backup from your computer, contacting your carrier, or through third-party apps.

Which Method Is Best for You?

How to Recover Deleted Messages on iPhone in the Messages App (iOS 16)

With iOS 16, Apple gave us an ultra-simple way to recover our recently deleted messages! The catch is that you will need to have updated to iOS 16 prior to deleting the text messages you want to recover. With iOS 16, you can recover your deleted text messages 30 days after you erased them (up to 40 days max, depending on the whim of the Apple algorithms). Here's how to find deleted messages on your iPhone and easily recover them in the Messages app: 

  1. Open the Messages app and tap Edit in the top left corner.

  2. From the menu that appears, tap Show Recently Deleted.

  3. You'll see a list of all conversations deleted within the last 30 days, with the number of days remaining listed on the left. Select at least one conversation you want to recover. 

  4. Tap Recover to retrieve the deleted conversations. You cannot recover individual texts in a conversation, so this will restore all texts within the conversation.

  5. Tap Recover Messages to restore your deleted messages.

  6. Tap Done in the top right corner to return to your main messages screen.

Now you should see the deleted messages on your iPhone Messages app main screen!

Related: How to Unsend iMessage After You’ve Sent It (iOS 16)

How to Recover Deleted Text Messages on iPhone with iCloud Recovery

If you don't have iOS 16 software, iCloud backups are a great way to recover deleted text messages from an iPhone. While it is not as simple as the iOS 16 method, if you regularly back up your iPhone to iCloud, you should be able to use this method to get deleted messages back. If you're not already, you should definitely be doing regular iCloud backups to ensure you're saving your important data!

First, Check Your Last iCloud Backup

In order to recover deleted texts on the iPhone, you'll need to ensure that the most recent successful backup occurred prior to the deletion of the messages. If this is the case, you can use the last successful backup to restore deleted text messages. Here's how to check your recent iCloud backup so you know the best way to recover your iPhone deleted messages:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap your Apple ID profile at the top.

  2. Tap iCloud to navigate to your recent iCloud backups.

  3. Scroll down if needed and tap on iCloud Backup.

  4. Now check to see if the time of your last successful backup was before or after you deleted the texts on your iPhone.

If the iCloud backup predates the time that you deleted messages on the iPhone, you're in luck! Continue to the steps below to restore the deleted messages using the iCloud backup.

Note: If the date of the last successful backup is after the messages were deleted from your iPhone, try using the computer backup method next. I don't recommend using the iCloud Recovery option if you're trying to restore an earlier iCloud backup than the most recent. Because the focus of this feature is for people with new iPhones, you may only see the option to restore your most recent iCloud backup when you're setting your iPhone back up.

    Restore Deleted Messages on iPhone with iCloud Backup

    Now you'll need to erase your iPhone and restore it with the backup that occurred before the deletion to get back the deleted messages. Here's how to recover deleted text messages on your iPhone:

    1. Open the Settings app, then scroll down and tap on General.

    2. Scroll all the way down and select Transfer or Reset iPhone.

    3. Select Erase All Content and Settings. Note: most of your settings will be safe when you restore your iCloud backup, but you may have to log back in on some of your apps.

    4. In the confirmation menu that pops up, tap Erase Now. If you have older software, it's important that you do not choose Backup Then Erase, or you will lose the previous backup and won't be able to recover the deleted text messages.
    5. Now your iPhone has been totally erased and will begin as though it’s a new device. Follow the on-screen instructions until you come to the Apps & Data page.
    6. On the Apps & Data page, choose Restore from iCloud Backup. Enter any passwords asked for from iCloud Backup, then sign in to iCloud.
    7. Proceed to Choose backup, then choose from a list of available backups in iCloud. There may be older backups to choose from other than the one you verified before starting (this is not guaranteed). Choose the most recent one that predates the deletion of the text messages. Keep in mind that the older the backup, the more likely it is that it will not contain other important data that you've added to your iPhone since that backup was made.

    You may have to sign back in to all of your accounts after the iPhone is restored. Once this process is complete, check to see if you have recovered the deleted text messages on your iPhone. If not, give the next section a try!

    Restore from Your Computer to Retrieve Deleted Text Messages on iPhone

    If you don't have iOS 16 and the previous iCloud method for recovering deleted text messages didn’t work, there's another way to get back deleted messages using your computer. You should be able to access any saved messages via iTunes, as long as you have been doing regular backups to your computer. If you have, follow the steps below to recover deleted texts on an iPhone.

    If you do have iOS 16 installed, but are trying to restore messages after they were erased from the Recently Deleted folder, the answer is a bit trickier. The first requirement is that you'll need to have been doing regular backups to your computer. Then, whether you accidentally erased your deleted texts from the Recently Deleted folder or it was automatically deleted from the Recently Deleted folder after 30 days, you can recover the deleted texts by restoring an older backup that happened before you initially deleted the messages the first time. 

    Important: It's possible that you have disabled this feature of the PC / Mac syncing process, so if you don’t have access to your text messages here, that could be why. You may want to update these settings so that going forward it's easier to recover deleted text messages on an iPhone.

    First, Disable Find My iPhone

    The first thing you need to do is disable the Find My iPhone feature. You cannot restore a Finder or iTunes backup while Find My iPhone is enabled, since this is meant to prevent someone from restoring a stolen iPhone with their own backup. To disable this iPhone setting: Open the Settings app on your iPhone and tap on your name at the top. Then tap Find My, select Find My iPhone, and tap the Find My iPhone toggle to turn it off. You'll need to enter your Apple ID and password.

    Next, connect your iPhone with the computer you usually sync it with. If you have macOS Catalina or later installed, you will restore from Finder using the steps below. If you are running an older version of macOS or have a PC, skip to the next section restore from iTunes.

    Restore Your iPhone from Finder (macOS Catalina or later) to Recover Deleted Messages

    Here's how to retrieve deleted text messages by restoring an iPhone backup from Finder:

    1. If prompted, tap Trust to allow your iPhone to trust and connect with this computer.
    2. When your iPhone is connected to your Mac, it should appear in Finder under Locations. Click on it.

    3. Click Manage Backups and a list of backups on your computer will appear. If you do not see any available backups, unfortunately you won't be able to restore your iPhone from your computer, but keep reading for more ideas.

    4. If you do see previous backups, check the list to make sure the most recent backup was made before you deleted those text messages, but after you sent them. If so, click OK.

    5. Now you're ready to restore. Click Restore iPhone.

    This process takes some time, especially if the backup is large. As long as your backup was made after the text messages were sent and before they were deleted, this should recover them for you. Just follow the prompts, and the iPhone will restore to its backed-up state.

    Restore Your iPhone with iTunes to Recover Deleted Text Messages (PC or macOS Mojave & earlier)

    If you have a PC or are using macOS Mojave or earlier on your Mac, you can try this method to get back deleted text messages on your iPhone. However, if you have synced with this PC or Mac since deleting your text messages, this process will not work, as iTunes only saves your most recent backup data for a restore. Assuming you have not synced with iTunes since you deleted your text messages, this method should restore your missing messages back to your Messages app!

    1. Connect your iPhone with the computer you usually sync it with and iTunes will open automatically. If not, just click the program and open it up.
    2. Click the phone icon next to the drop-down menu in the top-left part of the screen. If it's not there, then your iPhone probably isn't connected to your computer.

    3. Make sure you're on the Summary page.

      how to restore iphone from itunes
    4. To get back the data backed up from your iPhone, including your deleted text messages, you will need to click Restore Backup
    5. If this option is grayed out, you may need to change your backup preferences (on the left-hand side of this screen) from iCloud to This Computer. You can always change this back after you have restored your iPhone.

      restore iphone from backup

    This process can take a while if you have a lot of data stored on your phone or Mac. Hopefully, you now have access to the deleted messages, but if not, continue reading for more tips to troubleshoot deleted text messages.

    Other Options: Contact Your Carrier or Use Third-Party Apps

    Contact Your Carrier to Recover Deleted Texts

    In some instances, you can recover deleted text messages by contacting your cellular service provider. They will occasionally have access to a backup if it has not yet been overwritten or updated. When you call, you will need to ask for technical support and then ask to speak to a representative, as there probably won’t be accurate menu prompts to take you to the right department. While the representative may or may not be able to help, they may offer suggestions that you have not yet tried. For example, Verizon may be able to give you access to their retrieval software so you can recover your deleted texts. In some cases, carriers are limited in how they can help due to specific state laws. Because of this, I recommend trying the methods above before resorting to contacting your carrier. 

    Use Third-Party Apps to Recover Deleted Text Messages

    We recommend this only as a last resort for retrieving deleted messages on your iPhone. There are some third-party apps out there that will help you recover deleted files and text messages from your iPhone, but they can be sketchy. Make sure you read the reviews carefully to help you evaluate the legitimacy of any app you are thinking of using. If you really are in a bind, there are a few that have some good reviews and are popular online. PhoneRescue by iMobie has a platform for both iPhone and Android devices and WonderShare Dr.Fone for iOS also has a free trial and a paid version available online. Again, there are no guarantees that your privacy will be protected, so even trusted sources online should be carefully considered before you jump right in out of desperation.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Can I retrieve deleted text messages? Yes! You can easily retrieve deleted text messages on your iPhone for free, it just depends which method is the best for you. If you have iOS 16, you can recover deleted text messages by accessing a secret Recently Deleted messages folder in the Messages app. If you don't have iOS 16 installed, you can still use iCloud Recovery or restore your deleted texts from one of your computer backups. 
    • How do I recover deleted text messages on my iPhone for free? If you have iOS 16 installed, the easiest method is to open the Messages app, tap Edit, select Show Recently Deleted, select the conversations you want to restore, and tap Recover.
    • How can I recover deleted messages on iPhone without backup? If you have iOS 16 installed, you can recover deleted texts from a folder in the Messages app, even without an iCloud or computer backup. You can also try calling your carrier to see if they can help. 
    • How do I find deleted messages on my iPhone without iCloud? Without iCloud, you can still recover recently deleted text messages from a computer backup. If you have iOS 16 installed, you can also recover deleted texts from the Recently Deleted folder in the Messages app. Another option is to try calling your carrier to see if they can help recover your deleted iMessages.
    • Can I undelete a text message? Yes! If iOS 16 is installed, open the Messages app, tap Edit, tap Show Recently Deleted, select the conversation you want to restore, and tap Recover. However, using this method, you can only recover conversations, not individual texts within a conversation. 

    Now that you've learned how to recover deleted messages on iPhone in a number of ways, let us know which one works for you! If you've tried an app for recovering deleted text messages, we'd love to hear about your experience with that, as well.

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    Author Details

    Becca Ludlum's picture

    Author Details

    Becca Ludlum

    Becca is a blogger, freelance writer, and iDevice addict. She lives in the middle of the Arizona desert with her husband and two boys, and can't imagine life getting any better. Read about her crazy life at MyCrazyGoodLife.com, or connect with her on twitter @BeccaLudlum