How can I access old iMessages?

If you need to access old iMessages that are no longer on your iPhone, there are a few different options available. Here are quick answers to some common questions about retrieving old iMessages:

Can I view deleted iMessages?

Unfortunately, once an iMessage is deleted from your iPhone, it is gone for good and there is no way to recover it directly from the device. However, there are a couple potential workarounds:

iCloud backup

If you have iCloud backups enabled, you may be able to recover deleted iMessages from a previous backup. Just be aware the iCloud backup would need to have occurred before the messages were deleted.

Third party apps

Some third party apps claim they can recover deleted iMessages, even without a backup. However, their effectiveness can vary.

How do I view old iMessages on my Mac?

If you’ve been using iMessage on your iPhone, all of your iMessage conversations are synced to your Mac using your Apple ID. To view them on a Mac:

  1. Open the Messages app on your Mac
  2. Click “Messages” in the top left corner
  3. Select the “Accounts” option
  4. Click on your Apple ID account

This will show all synced messaged from your iPhone. You can scroll up to view older message history.

How do I transfer iMessages from iPhone to Android?

Since Android does not support iMessage, your messages cannot be directly transferred when switching from iPhone to Android. But there are a few workarounds:

SMS/MMS messages

When switching to Android, your regular SMS/MMS messages will automatically transfer over during the setup process. However, any iMessages will not make it.


You may be able to access old iMessages by restoring an iPhone backup to a temporary iOS device, then transferring that data to your new Android phone.

Third party apps

Some apps claim to be able to transfer iMessages to Android. They work by syncing your iMessage history to the cloud and then accessing it from your Android device.

Can I export my iMessages to my computer?

There are a couple ways to export iMessages from your iPhone to view on a computer:

iCloud Drive

You can configure your iPhone to automatically sync iMessages to iCloud Drive. Once synced, you can access the archived messages on or with the iCloud app on a Mac/PC.

Third party apps

Some third party apps will backup your iMessages to the cloud or your computer. This allows accessing them when needed on another device.

Manual export

You can manually export chat histories for individual conversations from within the Info screen on iOS. The exported file can then be transferred and viewed on a computer.

What gets synced with iMessage in iCloud?

When you have iMessage in iCloud enabled, the following data from your conversations gets synced across your devices:

  • Text messages
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Message effects like bubbles, full-screen animations, etc.
  • Deleted messages (until removed from Recently Deleted)

As long as you are signed into your Apple ID, you will see message history synced in iMessage across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Does restoring from an iCloud backup bring back deleted iMessages?

Whether restoring from an iCloud backup will recover deleted iMessages depends on when the backup occurred:

  • If backup was before message deletion: iMessages will be restored
  • If backup was after message deletion: iMessages will remain deleted

So if you need those deleted messages back, the iCloud backup would need to have happened prior to when the messages were originally deleted.

Can I print my iMessages?

While there is no built-in way to print directly from the Messages app, you can print iMessages in a couple indirect ways:


Take screenshots of the messages you want to print, then print the screenshots from your computer.

Export conversation

Export a conversation as a text file, email it to yourself, and then print the text file contents.

Sync messages to iCloud Drive, view them on, and use your browser’s print function.

Do deleted iMessages count against iCloud storage?

When you delete iMessages on your iPhone, they get marked for deletion but don’t actually get removed from iCloud storage right away. The messages go into a “Recently Deleted” state for up to 40 days, still taking up space during that time. After the 40 days is up, they will automatically be deleted from iCloud storage.

Manually deleting from iCloud

If you want to immediately free up iCloud storage space, you can manually delete conversations from or the iCloud app on Mac/PC. This will remove them right away rather than waiting the 40 days.

Can I recover permanently deleted iMessages?

If an iMessage has been permanently deleted beyond the “Recently Deleted” period, there is no way to retrieve them directly from iCloud. However, you may be able to recover permanently deleted iMessages from an iCloud backup:

  1. Restore your device from the iCloud backup made before the permanent message deletion.
  2. Your messages should reappear after the restore.
  3. You can then export or screenshot the recovered messages before deleting the backup.

How long are iMessages stored in iCloud?

iMessages are stored in iCloud until you manually delete them or turn off iCloud Messages. Specifically:

  • Active messages are retained indefinitely unless deleted.
  • Deleted messages move to Recently Deleted for 40 days.
  • After 40 days, deleted messages are permanently removed.
  • Disabling iCloud Messages deletes all stored messages immediately.

So your messages are kept for as long as you want, provided you don’t disable iCloud Messages or manually remove them. The exception is deleted messages get automatically cleared after 40 days.

Can I export my iMessages for legal purposes?

There are a couple ways to preserve iMessages as legal evidence:


You can take screenshots of relevant message conversations and preserve them as image files.

Extract text conversations

Use a third party app to extract the full text from conversations to PDF or other document file.

iCloud data

Work with law enforcement to request archived iMessage data directly from Apple’s iCloud servers.

Be sure to follow chain of custody procedures carefully for legal admissibility.

Do iMessages count against iCloud storage limits?

Yes, stored iMessages and attachments do count against your overall iCloud storage limits. Each iCloud account gets 5GB of free storage, but messages can quickly eat that up.

Multimedia attachments like photos and videos in iMessages are the biggest storage hogs. Text alone is much smaller.

If you exceed the free 5GB, you’ll need to purchase additional iCloud storage to keep syncing messages across devices.

Reducing iMessage storage

To reduce the iCloud space used by messages, you can delete older conversations or attachments you no longer need. You can also disable Messages from backing up to iCloud entirely.

What happens when you clear a conversation in Messages?

Clearing a conversation in the Messages app on iOS does not delete the actual messages. It simply removes the local copy on that device. Cleared conversations will reappear if iCloud Message syncing is enabled.

To permanently delete conversations from all synced devices, you need to remove messages in iCloud storage directly. This can be done in iCloud settings online or in the Mac Messages app.

Can I import iMessages from an Android phone?

Unfortunately there is no way to directly import message history from an Android device into the iPhone Messages app. Since they are different messaging platforms, the conversations do not sync over.

However, if the Android messages were SMS/MMS conversations with other non-Android users, you may be able to get partial message history by switching to an iPhone. Those standard messages should carry over during setup.


Retrieving old iMessages may require some creativity at times, but thankfully there are solutions for most situations. Whether you need to access deleted messages, view histories across devices, export conversations, or recover from backups, it is possible to get your iMessages when needed.

Just be sure to act quickly if you have deleted messages to recover, as they are permanently gone after 40 days. Enabling iCloud and iTunes backups provides an added safety net for important message archives.

With all we rely on messaging these days, being able to access those conversations can be critical. Thankfully Apple provides the tools to recover and preserve our iMessage chat history if we ever need to revisit conversations from the past.

Method Pros Cons
iCloud Backup Recovers deleted messages
Easy restore process
Only restores messages from before deletion
Need sufficient iCloud storage
Third party apps Access messages across devices
Recover some deleted data
Reliability varies
Potential security risks
Manual export Prints full conversation
Stores in other formats
Time consuming
Individual conversation basis
Mac Messages Built-in sync with iCloud
Easy search
Only syncs after enabling

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