What's the best way to transfer the texts, SMS messages, iMessages and so on from my old iPhone to the new one I've just bought?

It's useful to know how to transfer text messages from one iPhone to another. The obvious application is when setting up a new iPhone: each new copy of the Messages app is empty of all your old conversations, which can be important for work or hold sentimental value. But it can be a valuable backup too: often the best method is to back up the texts to iCloud or a Mac first, which can be a useful safeguard if you need a record of the messages in the future.

Whatever your reasons for copying, backing up or otherwise transferring your text messages, they're important, and you don't want to lose them. This article looks at the best ways to transfer SMS and iMessage texts from one iPhone to another using iCloud Backup, or backing up text messages to a Mac using an app called PhoneView.

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Updated 21 November with iOS and macOS updates.

How to transfer text messages from one iPhone to another: Back up to iCloud

Text messages are contained within the iCloud backup, so you can use iCloud backup to transfer and restore all your text messages from one iPhone to another.

The only caveat is that messages form part of the wider backup and restore, so you'll have to restore device settings and app data at the same time (which removes any new messages from your iPhone). So this technique is best to use when you're setting up a new iPhone.

This Apple Support document lists all the items that are backed up and restored by iCloud.

Follow these steps to back up and restore Messages (and other app data) from one iPhone to another:

1. Connect the old iPhone to a power source and turn on Wi-Fi.

2. On the old iPhone - assuming you're running iOS 8 or later - tap Settings > iCloud > Backup. The Backup switch is near the bottom of the large group of controls. (On iOS 7 or earlier, you should tap Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.)

3. Make sure iCloud Backup is turned on.

How to transfer text messages from one iPhone to another

4. Tap Back Up Now, and wait for the backup process to complete. You'll need to remain connected to Wi-Fi for the entirety of this process.

5. Turn on your new iPhone. If you haven't done so already, you'll need to go through the setup process. When asked, tap Restore from iCloud Backup and Next. If you've already been through the setup process, you'll need to reset your iPhone. Tap on Settings > General > Reset and > Erase All Content and Settings.

6. Enter your Apple ID and Password.

Your new iPhone now displays all your messages from the old iPhone, along with all your other apps, photos, emails and other app data.

See also: How to move from an old iPhone to a new iPhone | How to transfer music from one iPhone to another | How to transfer contacts, music and photos from Windows Phone to iPhone | How to move from Android to iPhone | How to move from BlackBerry to iPhone

How to transfer SMS and iMessages texts from one iPhone to another: Back up to Mac

If you want to transfer text messages from one iPhone to another without using a backup and restore process, then you'll need a third-party app. A few apps allow you to access and save the data from an iPhone, but we're going to use PhoneView.

How to transfer text messages from one iPhone to another: PhoneView

Here's how to use PhoneView to access the messages on your iPhone:

1. Install the Phone View app.

2. Open and click OK to the 'PhoneView would like to access your contacts' window.

3. Connect your iPhone to your Mac using the USB cable.

4. Click Archive in the PhoneView alert window that appears.

5. Click Messages in the Sidebar and OK to the Now Loading Phone Data window. It takes a few minutes for the iPhone data to load into the PhoneView program (a blue progress bar at the bottom of the sidebar on the left shows how to data load is going).

6. The names of people you have had conversations appears in the middle column. Select a person to view the text messages you have shared with them.

7. You can drag the name of a person directly to the desktop to save that conversation as a PDF file.

8. To extract all of your messages select All and click Copy From iPhone. Choose a location and click Save.

You can change the type of file PhoneView saves from PDF File to a text file, tab delimited file, CSV or XML (this makes it easy to import into a spreadsheet such as Numbers or Excel).

How to transfer text messages from one iPhone to another: PhoneView

What you can't do, unfortunately, is copy these messages back into the Messages app. You can, however, copy them to a compatible app on the iPhone (iBooks works, but we prefer an app like GoodReader for viewing PDF files). You can email them to yourself or use iTunes File Sharing to copy the files across.

Read next: How to send and receive text messages on Mac

How to get text messages off iPhone on to computer

If you're on a Microsoft Windows PC, you can also download your texts (and much more) to your computer.

Similarly to the Mac guide, you'll need a third-party program. In this instance we chose to use CopyTrans. The software is free to download and has a great user interface that's easy to work with. Once you download the CopyTrans Control Center you'll need to install CopyTrans Contacts; this software will enable you to extract your text messages from your iPhone.

How to get text messages off iPhone on to computer - CopyTrans

Before proceeding, you'll need to ensure you've got iTunes or the appropriate Apple drivers installed. Thankfully CopyTrans have a download for that too!

Once you've got the program installed, you can plug in your iPhone to your computer, where you'll be asked to Trust your computer on your iPhone's screen. 

After waiting a few minutes, you should see CopyTrans loading your messages. Depending on the amount of texts and images (including ones from third-party applications such as Viber and WhatsApp), it might take some time for CopyTrans to pick-up all the details.

How to get text messages off iPhone on to computer - SMS

After it has loaded you'll see a list of contacts. From here, simply select the conversations you wish to backup or export and hit the 'Export Selected' button and you'll be presented with various ways of exporting your messages.

After selecting your method, in our case we chose to extract it to a Word document, you'll be prompted to save it to a certain location.

Once saved, make sure the backup and copy has successfully transferred over. Interestingly enough we found text, images and even Emojis (converted) to correctly transfer over to our Word document.

How to get text messages off iPhone on to computer - Word Document