iMessages are Apple’s proprietary messaging system that allows iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to send messages, photos, videos and more to each other. iMessages are encrypted end-to-end, meaning not even Apple can access their content. When an iMessage is deleted, it’s meant to be gone for good – or is it?
Can you recover deleted iMessages?
The short answer is no, you cannot recover deleted iMessages under normal circumstances. When you delete an iMessage on your iPhone, iPad or Mac, it is permanently deleted from Apple’s servers and no longer accessible. However, there are a few scenarios where you may be able to recover deleted iMessages:
- If you have an iCloud or iTunes backup that contains the deleted messages, you can restore from this backup to get the messages back.
- If the iMessage was deleted recently, it may still be present in the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder on iOS devices. This holds deleted messages for up to 30 days.
- On a Mac,recently deleted iMessages may be found in the Trash folder for up to 30 days.
- If the iMessages were synced to another device where they have not been deleted, they will still be accessible on that device.
So in summary – if you acted quickly, or had backups or another synced device, you may be able to recover recently deleted iMessages. But if too much time has passed, they are likely gone for good.
What happens when you delete an iMessage?
When you delete an iMessage, a few things happen behind the scenes:
- The message is immediately removed from your local device storage (iPhone, iPad, Mac).
- Your device sends a signal to Apple’s servers flagging the message as deleted.
- Apple’s servers permanently wipe the encrypted iMessage content.
- The message is deleted from iCloud backups and no longer counted against your iCloud storage quota.
- Any linked images, videos or audio attachments are also deleted.
Essentially, deleting an iMessage wipes it cleanly from Apple’s ecosystem so it cannot be recovered. The only way to get it back is if you have a secondary backup or copy on another device.
What about the recipient’s copy of the iMessage?
When you delete an iMessage you sent, it only deletes your copy of the message. The recipient will still have the original message on their device and in their iCloud backup until they also delete it.
So if you delete an iMessage you regret sending, the recipient may still have a copy. You’ll need to ask them to also delete the message on their end.
Can Apple employees see deleted iMessages?
No, Apple employees cannot retrieve or view deleted iMessage content. Here’s why:
- iMessage content is protected by end-to-end encryption. Apple does not have the encryption keys to decrypt message data.
- When an iMessage is deleted, the encrypted content is permanently wiped from Apple’s servers.
- Apple has stated many times that it cannot access users’ iMessage content under any circumstances.
The only scenario in which Apple could retrieve deleted iMessages is with the original sender or recipient’s express consent and assistance to restore from a backup.
Can law enforcement recover deleted iMessages?
In general, no. Due to iMessage’s strong encryption, even law enforcement cannot force Apple to hand over deleted iMessage content. However, there are a few scenarios where deleted iMessages could be recovered:
- If the messages were backed up to iCloud and law enforcement obtains a warrant for the iCloud account, they could recover from backup.
- If the messages were deleted recently and still present on the device, forensic tools could recover them in some cases.
- If the message exists on the recipient’s device and law enforcement seizes it.
However, law enforcement cannot force Apple directly to retrieve deleted messages from their servers. The encryption keys just don’t exist anywhere for decrypted data recovery.
Can iPhone hacking tools recover deleted iMessages?
There are third-party iPhone hacking tools and services that claim they can sometimes recover deleted iMessages from a locked iPhone under specific circumstances, such as:
- The iPhone is jailbroken, allowing deep access to the file system.
- The messages were very recently deleted so traces still exist.
- The iPhone has not been restored from a backup, which would wipe deleted files.
However, these tools cannot break iMessage end-to-end encryption. At best, they could only recover deleted encrypted data, not the decrypted readable messages.
Should you worry about deleted iMessages being seen?
In most cases, no. When you permanently delete an iMessage, it is almost certainly gone for good barring unusual circumstances.
Here are a few tips to make sure your deleted iMessages cannot be recovered:
- Don’t sync your iPhone to any laptop or computer that would store a backup of your data.
- Turn off iCloud backups so copies aren’t stored there either.
- Immediately delete the iMessage on all your synced devices so there are no secondary copies.
As long as you quickly delete the iMessage across all devices, there should be virtually zero risk of it being recovered by anyone, including Apple, law enforcement and hackers.
Can you delete iMessages from someone else’s phone?
No, there is no way to remotely delete an iMessage from someone else’s device without having physical access to that device.
On your own phone, you can only delete the copy of the iMessage stored locally. You cannot remove the message from the recipient’s phone without touching their device.
The exception is if you use a remote phone wiping feature like Find My iPhone. This would delete everything on their phone, not just specific message threads.
Summary and Conclusion
- Deleted iMessages cannot be recovered by Apple, law enforcement or anyone else under normal circumstances.
- End-to-end encryption means not even Apple has the keys to decrypt deleted iMessages.
- You only delete your local copy of the iMessage, not the recipient’s copy.
- To ensure permanent deletion, quickly delete the message across all synced devices.
- Remote deletion of iMessages on someone else’s device is not possible without a full device wipe.
So in conclusion, yes iMessages can be permanently deleted and made inaccessible even to Apple itself. However, you need to act quickly and systematically to delete all copies across linked devices and backups to ensure complete deletion. With proper care, your deleted iMessages should remain securely erased.