If you need to free up space on your Android’s SD card, deleting old text messages is a quick and easy way to do so. Text messages can take up a surprising amount of storage space, especially if you’ve never cleaned them out before. Fortunately, deleting these messages from your SD card only takes a few taps.
Why Delete Messages from the SD Card?
There are a few key reasons you may want to delete messages stored on your device’s external SD card:
- Free up storage space – Text messages, especially those with media attachments like photos or videos, can consume a lot of storage over time. Deleting old messages can quickly free up space for new apps, photos, videos, and more.
- Privacy/security – If your phone is lost or stolen, you may not want sensitive text history being accessible on the SD card. Deleting messages helps protect your privacy.
- Reduce clutter – If you have years of old texts, cleaning them out can make finding important recent messages much easier.
- Improve performance – Large amounts of messages and attachments can sometimes slow down your device. Deleting them reduces app data and can potentially speed things up.
Locate Your Messaging App Data
The first step is to locate where your messaging app data is stored on your Android’s SD card. Here’s how for the most common messaging apps:
Messages App (AOSP/Stock)
For Android’s default Messages app, text messages are usually stored in the following location on your SD card:
On Samsung Galaxy phones, the Samsung Messages app stores texts at:
For Google’s Messages app, look in this folder on your SD card:
Third-Party Apps Like Textra
For third party messaging apps like Textra, the location will vary but is usually somewhere like:
Delete Message Database Files
Once you’ve located your messaging app’s database file stored on the SD card, deleting messages is simple:
- Copy the messages database file to your computer or another location as a backup. This ensures you have a copy if needed.
- Delete the database file from your SD card.
- Open your messaging app and verify old messages are gone.
And that’s all there is to it! Once deleted from the SD card, your message history will only show recent texts stored on internal storage. The process is the same no matter which messaging app you use.
Alternative: Delete Conversations
Rather than deleting the entire message database, you can also delete specific conversations to free up space:
- Open your messaging app.
- Long press on a conversation thread to delete.
- Tap “Delete conversation” and confirm.
- Repeat for any thread you want removed.
This will remove the selected threads including all messages, attachments, videos, etc. while keeping the rest of your texts intact. Useful for getting rid of old conversations you no longer need.
Other Messaging Storage Locations
While the above locations are the most common, here are a few other places messaging app data may be stored on an SD card:
It’s worth a quick search to see if any large databases exist in these locations as well.
Try a Storage Analyzer App
Another handy way to track down messaging databases on your SD card is to use a storage analyzer app like SD Maid or DiskUsage. These apps visualize your storage usage and make it easy to spot and delete large files you don’t need.
Steps to use a storage analyzer app to delete message data:
- Install SD Maid or DiskUsage from the Play Store.
- Open the app and grant required permissions.
- Scan storage to visualize usage blocks by folder and file size.
- Look for any large databases related to messaging apps.
- Tap the file(s) and select “Delete” to remove.
Prevent Messaging Data Saving to SD Card
If you don’t want messaging data routinely saved to your SD card, there are a few options to prevent it:
- Adjust app settings – Many messaging apps have a setting to save data only to internal storage. Look in the app’s Settings/Storage menu.
- Remove SD card permissions – Go to Settings > Apps & notifications > App permissions > Storage and revoke the SD card permissions for messaging apps.
- Use internal storage only – Set your SD card to portable storage rather than integrated adoptable storage.
Adjusting these settings prevents messaging databases from being written to external storage automatically.
What About iPhones?
On an iPhone, messages are stored in an SQL database at /var/mobile/Library/SMS/sms.db. To delete messages on an iPhone:
- Create an unencrypted iTunes backup of your device.
- Restore the iPhone to factory settings.
- Restore from the backup you just created.
This will wipe the sms.db database and restore a clean backup with only recent messages. iTunes backups do not retain older deleted messages.
Delete Apple iCloud Message History
To delete older iMessages stored in Apple’s iCloud:
- Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud.
- Tap “Manage Storage”.
- Select “Messages” from the list.
- Tap “Delete” to remove attachments and older messages.
This will free up iCloud storage by removing older iMessage history and attachments. Useful if you need more iCloud space.
View Chat History on Your Carrier
Even after deleting messages from your phone and backups, your SMS text history may still be retained by your cell phone carrier. Here’s how to check:
- AT&T – Login to your AT&T account online and go to Profile > Device Details > View Text Usage Details
- Verizon – Login to My Verizon account and go to Services > Device Details > View Text Usage Details
- T-Mobile – Login to My T-Mobile account and go to Profile > View usage & details > View text usage
- Sprint – Login to Sprint account and go to Usage > Text Usage Details
Contact your carrier’s customer service if you need message history deleted from their systems. Retention periods vary.
Delete Messages on Android and iPhone: Summary
Here are some key takeaways for deleting text messages from your SD card or iOS device:
- Locate the messaging database file on Android SD card and delete it
- Alternatively, delete specific conversations within the messaging app
- On iPhone, wipe database by restoring a clean iTunes backup
- Adjust app settings and permissions to prevent writing messages to SD card
- Use storage analyzer apps to easily find and delete large databases
- Carriers may still retain message history for some time after deletion
Following the steps outlined in this guide will allow you to reclaim storage space and improve your messaging app performance by cleaning out old text history you no longer need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will deleting the database from my SD card also delete the messages from my phone’s internal storage?
No, deleting the database file from your SD card will only erase messages that have been saved externally. Any texts stored internally on your phone storage will remain intact.
Is there a way to delete all my text messages at once, including internal storage?
Yes, the easiest way is to perform a factory reset on your Android phone. This will wipe the internal message database along with everything else on the phone. Just be sure to backup anything important first.
Can I selectively delete certain conversations rather than all my messages at once?
Yes, within your messaging app you can long press on individual conversations and delete them. This removes that thread while keeping other messages stored internally.
What gets removed when I delete a conversation thread?
Deleting a conversation removes the entire thread including all messages (SMS/MMS), attachments, videos, photos, audio, and any media sent within that chat.
Will deleting messages also delete them from my messaging app’s cloud backup?
It depends. If you delete conversations selectively, they will typically still exist in the cloud backup. But if you factory reset or wipe the local database, that will also remove messages from tied cloud accounts after you restore and sync.
What is the easiest way to find large messaging databases on my SD card?
Using a storage analyzer app like SD Maid or DiskUsage makes finding and deleting large databases much simpler. The visualized usage maps make it easy to spot the biggest files taking up space.
Clearing out your texting history from time to time is a simple way to free up storage space and reduce clutter in your messaging apps. Following the steps in this guide, you’ll be able to locate messaging database files on your Android’s SD card or iPhone and selectively remove conversations and texts you no longer need. Just be cautious not to delete anything you may still want to access. Backups are recommended before doing any sort of mass deletion, just in case you need to retrieve something later on. With a little housekeeping, you’ll enjoy messaging apps that are speedy, uncluttered, and full of just the recent conversations you really use.