Are you having problems sending messages using your iPhone, iPad or Mac? In this feature we will look at causes of iMessage failures and some troubleshooting tips to help you fix it when iMessages stops working for you.

iMessage - accessed through the Messages app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac - is Apple's messaging service, which enables users to send messages to friends on iPhones, iPads and Macs for free. iMessages are indicated by a blue bubble, while normal text messages (which you might have to pay to send depending on the terms of your contract) are green.

From time to time iMessage stops working - that's probably the reason why you are reading this article. There could be a number of reasons why iMessage won’t work, it could be an issue with Apple's iMessage server, it might be a problem with the iMessage software, or your settings could need adjusting. We will run through all the possible reasons why iMessage isn't working in this features, including some simple fixes if iMessage stops working on your iPad, iPhone or Mac.

Here are our quick fixes for common Messages problems.

You may also like to read: How to send and receive text messages on Mac and How to use Messages on the iPhone.

Basic troubleshooting steps

Before we move on to specific problems, let's work through nine simple troubleshooting steps that will solve the most common problems with iMessage. 

Check to see if Apple's iMessage server is down

The first possibility is that the server that iMessage is run from is down - which could mean that iMessage isn't working for anyone. This is rare, but it does happen occasionally. On 15 February 2017, for example, there were widespread problems with iMessage and it appears that the system was down entirely.

You can check if any of Apple's online services are experiencing outages by checking Apple's System Status page.

The Apple System Status site should give you the most up-to-date information about the status of iMessage, as well as iCloud, the App Store, Apple Music and all other Apple-powered services.

On this webpage Apple gives you a heads up about any services with planned maintenance work, along with a report of any recently resolved issues in any of its services.

If Apple’s System Status site suggests that all is well, the outage could be localised, or it could be that the website only checks the service status every 5/10/30 mins and is yet to be updated.  

As an alternative to Apple's page, you could try Down Detector (search for iMessage), which offers not only the current status of all Apple services but a number of services, from Steam to PSN and even individual games.

Down Detector provides a graph detailing outage reports from the past 24 hours, and even an outage map to see whether you’re in an affected area.

You could also search for the word iMessage and related terms on Twitter; if lots of people are talking about the problem then it's clearly not just you.

If iMessage is down then you should still be able to communicate with your friends via normal texts; you'll automatically be pushed into green-bubble texts instead of blue-bubble iMessages. To force this to happen follow this tutorial: How to send a text when your friend isn't getting your iMessages.

Make sure you've got a data connection  

Messages needs a data connection to work, so you need to make sure you have 3G or 4G available, or that you have a good WiFi signal. Without WiFi or data your iMessage won’t send.

Check that you can access the web by performing a quick search in Safari. If you see no results you have identified the root of your problem.

If you don’t have a good 3G or 4G connection you could try turning Airport mode on and off to see if you can improve your reception. Swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone or iPad screen, and select and deselect Airplane mode.

It may be that the cellular connection is great, but you might not have enough data. Is there a chance that you have used all your data up for this month? Is this a new iPhone and is there a chance that you don’t have data included on your contract. Contact your Network provider to check. (Read about how to save data on your iPhone here.)

Alternatively you could try and get on a nearby WiFi network, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and have a look to see if there is a free Wi-Fi network nearby.

If your WiFi connection seems to be at fault then turn off WiFi and use 3G/4G.

If none of those tips work you may need to reset your network settings. Tap Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings and see if this fixes the problem.

If you still don't get a data connection, and there is no WiFi available, you should be able to press and hold on the undelivered message and choose to 'Send as text message' from the options that come up. A text message should get through even over a GPRS connection.

That last tip will only work with an iPhone though. For more information on how to do this read: How to send a text when your friend isn't getting your iMessages.

Make sure Messages is set up correctly

Check you're set to send and receive iMessages by going to Settings > Messages and checking that iMessage is turned on.

Check your phone is set up correctly to receive iMessages: Go to Settings > Messages and check the addresses and mobile number you have listed in Send & Receive.

You could troubleshoot by turning off your mobile number or email address in the list of places where you can Send & Receive from. We suggest trying the process of elimination to see if iMessage works with just your mobile number or just an email address.

Also check there is a tick beside your phone number in the Start New Conversations From section if you are using an iPhone.

iMessage not working: Settings

Turn it off and on again and restart Messages

As with all good troubleshooting articles one essential piece of advice is to turn it off and on again. You could start off by restarting the Messages app by double pressing the Home button and swiping up on the app before relaunching Messages. If the app was hanging this may well fix the problem.

If things still aren’t working you could reboot iMessage by going to Settings > Messages and turning off iMessage, then turn off your iPhone by pressing the on/off switch, Slide to power off, and then wait for your iPhone to start up again. Once you have rebooted, return to Settings > Messages and turn iMessages back on.

Sign out of your Apple ID and then sign in again. You can do this from Settings > Messages then tap on Send & Receive and at the top of the page tap on your Apple ID and choose Sign Out. Then sign in again and see if that fixed it.

Delete some messages

iMessages can be pretty weighty, especially if you send a lot of photos and videos. If your Messages app has a lot of content it might slow down a bit. It seems that some people have fixed iMessage problems by deleting some old Messages.

To delete messages you can swipe from right to left on a message in the Messages list and choose delete. Or you can tap the Edit button in the top left-hand corner and delete messages that way. There is also a new delete messages automatically after 30 days option in Settings > Messages. Look for Message History and select from Keep Messages Forever, 1 year, or 30 days. Before you decide to delete messages after 30 days be sure you aren’t about to lose some important messages! (We have this feature about how to retrieve deleted text messages)

While you are here, you can also change your settings so that you send low res images. Go to Settings > Messages and toggle Low-Quality Image Mode On.

Check iOS is up to date

If your software isn't up to date there may be a bug stopping it from working properly. To check if an updated version of iOS is available (and download and install it if so), go to Settings > General > Software Update.

For more detail on the updating process and the issues it may entail, see How to update iOS.

Check Network settings

Make sure it’s not a problem with your Network settings.

Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. You’ll have to add your passwords again after you do this.

Try turning off Wi-Fi Assist. Wi-Fi Assist will switch to a cellular signal when it is stronger than your local WiFi network. Turning it off has worked for some people. Go to Settings > Mobile Data and scroll down to WiFi Assist and switch it off if it’s on.

Check Time Zone settings

Go to Settings > General > Date & Time and make sure that your time zone is set automatically. Set Automatically to ON. Doing this has apparently fixed iMessage problems for some users.

Reset all Settings

As a last resort, you could do a general Reset… In Settings go to General > Reset.

If you are still having problems then it’s probably time to get an appointment with a genius at the Apple Store, here's how.

Below we look at some specific problems with iMessages - let us know if you experience any issues with the service, or if you discover a fix of your own.

Problem: Your friend isn’t receiving your iMessages

It sounds like your friend may not have an Apple device. iMessages can only be received on Apple devices and you won't be able to send an iMessage to a friend who doesn't have an Apple device to receive them on.

If you know your friend has an Apple device (an iPhone, iPad, or Mac) they should be able to receive iMessages but they may not have iMessage activated. You can easily tell if your friend is not registered for iMessage if when you send a message it is green rather than blue.

Tell your friend to set up iMessage on their device by going to Settings > Messages and turning on iMessage. If they don't have an iPhone they can add an email address to be reached at (this doesn't mean that the message will appear in their email it's just an identifier for them).

Note, Apple says it may take up to 24 hours for iMessage to register.

If you know your friend had an iPhone but has stopped receiving your iMessages then it may be that they no longer have the iPhone. When you move from an iPhone to another smartphone you need to deregister from iMessage or messages sent by your iPhone owning friends will no longer be delivered to you because they could be stuck in Apple's iMessage servers. The next case study explains how to fix this...

Problem: You or your friend don't have an iPhone any more

Before switching to a new smartphone you should first deactivate iMessage on your iPhone, otherwise you may end up missing messages from your iPhone equipped friends.

Before moving to a new handset, this is the procedure you need to follow:

  • Go to Settings > Messages
  • Switch off iMessage using the slider

After turning off iMessage, the text messages you send on an iPhone will be green rather than blue.

If you forgot to do this before getting rid of your old iPhone, you can still deactivate iMessage, if you got an alternative smartphone and forgot to deactivate iMessage on your old iPhone first, there is a web tool that makes it possible to deregister from iMessage. You can find it here. Just input your mobile number there, and then enter the six-digit confirmation code that is sent via SMS (presumably not via iMessage!).

How to get iMessages if you don't have an iPhone

Perhaps you still want to use iMessage but you no longer have an iPhone. You can choose to continue to receive iMessages on your Mac or iPad, but beware that these messages will not appear on your non-Apple phone.

Those messages will be sent using an ID that is not your mobile number - likely your iCloud email address.

It's easy to check what ID your messages will be sent to, on a Mac, go to System Preferences > iCloud. Log in and click on the Contact tab. Check which IDs are listed (and ensure that your phone number is not listed there). Make sure your friends have those details.

Check your settings on your iPad by going to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive.

You can read more about getting and sending text messages from your Mac here.

Problem - the new Effects in Messages in iOS 10 aren't working

If the problem is that some of the new effects available in Messages in iOS 10 aren’t being received by your recipient try the following:

Check that your recipient has installed iOS 10.

Your effects won’t work if they are not sent as an iMessage - if your friend doesn’t have an iPhone iPad or Mac they won’t see them.

Some effect also won't work if you have Reduced Motion turned on your phone (you may have changed the setting to save battery power as per the advice in this feature).

Go to General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion > Off.

Problem: You can't send a group iMessage

If you're having trouble sending messages to groups of people, one reason for this could be that one of your contacts no longer has an iPhone.

When you send a group message in iMessage all your contacts will show up as blue, until you add someone who doesn't have iMessage, then they will all turn green as the iMessage group will not be supported.

If you had a group iMessage and one of your contacts stopped using their iPhone this would break the group iMessage.

To find out if this is the case, start a new group message rather than continuing with the old one.

Problem: You've lost iMessages

If you've accidentally deleted important messages, or if you have updated your iPhone and realised that some messages have disappeared, don't worry: you may be able to get them back.

Read this for the solution: How to retrieve deleted text messages.

Problem: You've lost iMessages

Problem: You've lost iMessages

If you've accidentally deleted important messages, or if you've updated your iPhone and realised that some messages have disappeared, don't worry: you may be able to get them back.

Read this for the solution: How to retrieve deleted text messages.