How to Enable iMessage on an iPhone, iPad & Mac (iMessage vs SMS)

Do you want to know how to enable iMessage on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer? If you're wondering how to save data, just turn on iMessage on your Apple devices, including your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Receiving iPhone messages on your Mac is certainly a perk of being a part of the Apple ecosystem, but if you’re not a fan, we’ll cover how to turn iMessage off on your Mac, too. We'll also answer the  iMessage vs SMS question, "what is iMessage, and what is the difference between an SMS (text message) and iMessage?" And finally, how to turn off Read receipts for text messages. If you follow these steps and get an iMessage waiting for activation error notification, we have a troubleshooting guide to get your iMessages activated and working. As a final note, if you came to this article because an iMessage was not delivered, or was sent as a text message instead, we have the answer to how to know if someone blocked your number.

Related: How to Search Your iPad & iPhone Messages: iMessage, Facebook & WhatsApp

Table of Contents

What's the Difference Between an iMessage and Text Message?

How to Turn on iMessage on an iPhone or iPad

How to Turn Off Read Receipts

How to Set Up iMessages on a Mac

How to Disable iMessages on a Mac

What's the Difference Between an iMessage and SMS (Text Message)?

  • Text messages are sent through your cellular data provider (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc), but iMessages are automatically routed through Apple’s servers, saving you data if you’re on Wi-Fi.
  • If you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi, the message will count towards your monthly data plan. But if you are connected to Wi-Fi, the iMessage will be sent freely and won't count towards your data plan.
  • Since you can send iMessages using Wi-Fi alone, you can also send iMessages from your iPad or Mac computer.
  • You can visually recognize the difference between an SMS (text message) and iMessage by the color of the message bubble. iMessages send as blue while text messages send as green.

The caveat: the person you’re speaking to must also have an iPhone in order for iMessage to work. If they don’t, the message will send as a text message.

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How to Activate iMessage on Your iPhone or iPad

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Messages.
  3. Toggle on iMessage.


How to Check Your Wi-Fi Connection

It’s also a good idea to check your Wi-Fi connection. Remember that iMessages sent over Wi-Fi don’t cost a thing, but the Messages app will use your data plan if it needs to. To check your Wi-Fi after or before turning on iMessage,

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi.
  3. Make sure Wi-Fi is toggled on at the top, and a connection is checked off, meaning you’re using it.


You’re ready to begin sending iMessages to other friends on their iPhone, iPad, or Mac. You’ll know you’ve successfully sent an iMessage if your outgoing message is blue.

How to Turn Off Read Receipts

When turned on, Read receipts lets the person who sent you an iMessage know when you have seen it. Some people like having this on because it lets others know that they aren’t not replying, they just haven’t checked their messages in a while. However, a lot of people find this feature annoying. Luckily, you can easily turn Read receipts off. To do this:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Messages.
  3. Find Send Read Receipts and toggle it off.

    iphone messages apphow to turn off read receipts

That’s it! Conversely, if you'd like to turn Read receipts on, simply toggle Send Read Reciepts to the on position.

How to Activate iMessage on a Mac

Last but not least, you can get your iPhone messages on your Mac, thanks to iMessage. Skip to how to turn iMessages on Mac off if you’re having the opposite problem. Otherwise, here's how to enable iMessage on your Mac:

  1. You must be connected to Wi-Fi for iMessages to work on your Mac. Open the Messages app on your Mac.​

    mac messages app
  2. If you're not already signed in, a window will pop up so you can sign in with your Apple ID and password.

    sign in with your apple id and password
  3. We have an article to help you out if you forgot your Apple ID password or Apple ID.
  4. Now you're ready to start sending iMessages from your Mac.

How to Turn Off iMessages on a Mac

  1. With the Messages app open, at the very top menu bar, click Messages.
  2. Choose Preferences from the drop-down list.

    set up imessage on mac
  3. Click Accounts.
  4. Find your Apple ID on the list with the iMessage icon. Click on it.
  5. Uncheck Enable this account or select Sign Out.

    turn off imessage mac
  6. Doing so will log you out of iMessages. Close the app, and you’re done; you will no longer receive iMessage notifications on your Mac.

Top Image Credit: Wayne0216 / Shutterstock

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Author Details

Conner Carey's picture

Author Details

Conner Carey

Conner Carey's writing can be found at She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.