Many of us have text messages going back a decade, amongst them might be gems from family who have passed away, long lost friends, or important information that you never know when you might need again.

It's comforting to know they are there and that should you need to access them again, a quick search on your iPhone should bring them up.

However, let's suppose that you have to delete some files on your iPhone to make space. When you look at what apps are taking up the most space you might notice that Messages is getting a little large. It's hardly surprising as people often send photos, videos and audio messages via iMessage and text.

Deleting some messages might seem like a good way to free up space. There is even an option in Messages to automatically delete messages after an amount of time - you'll find the option in Settings >Messages > Keep Messages. By default this will be set to Forever, but if makes sense to switch it to 1 Year if you need some space freed up... Except then those messages you meant to keep hold of for eternity will be lost.

Or will they?

Once you delete that message of your iPhone, it pretty much disappears. However, there are ways to get your deleted messages back.

Here are five ways to retrieve deleted texts on iPhone, all of which are covered in detail below:

  • Retrieve from an iCloud backup
  • Retrieve from the iCloud website
  • Contact your phone provider
  • Retrieve from an iTunes backup
  • Retrieve using a third-party app

Do let us know in the comments below if you are aware of any better ways of recovering deleted text messages on iPhone, and read on to find out the four methods we've found.

Retrieve deleted texts from an iCloud backup

Retrieve deleted texts from an iCloud backup

If you have an iCloud backup of your iPhone from before the time you deleted the text messages you may be able to recover them. Check whether you have one by going to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage (under iCloud) have a look at your Backups to see if there is an old iPhone backup that could include the deleted text messages.

If over the years you have owned more than one iPhone or iPad you are more likely to have multiple iCloud back ups. Tap on the backup to see what date it was saved.

Once you have found an old backup you will need to completely restore your iPhone to factory settings before setting up your iPhone using the older back up. Remember you will lose any data you have added since the back up your are using to recover from so make sure you save copies of your photos and videos, and any other messages you don’t want to lose! (We did try using the backup to restore to an iPad thinking that we wouldn’t have to overwrite our iPhone, but unfortunately that didn’t recover the text messages.)

To restored the iPhone to factory settings, go to General > Reset and choose Erase All Content and Settings. This step takes a few minutes. Then the phone will burst into life again, taking you through the usual set up steps you would have seen when you last set up a new phone. When you get to the option to recover your device from an old back up make sure you chose the old back up of your iPhone.

It worked for us, hopefully it will for you. If you don’t have an old backup with the data you need - or you don’t want to overwrite the data added to your phone since the old back up try one of the following solutions.

Retrieve deleted texts from a backup without overwriting your iPhone

Retrieve deleted texts from a backup without overwriting your iPhone

If you aren't keen on overwriting the content of your phone with the old backup, you could try this.

Unfortunately, iCloud doesn't back up SMS in all territories or for all phone operators. So the following may not work. You'll need only to go to step 2 to find out if it will work or not, however. And for many people this is quite the easiest way of recovering those lost messages.

1. Login to with your Apple ID and password.

2. Click on Text Messages (if it isn't there your messages haven't been backed up here) - so skip this slide...

3. If it is there, search the messages to find the ones you need.

4. Now go to your iPhone and choose Settings, iCloud on your iPhone.

5. Turn off Text Messages (or ensure it is turned off). I know this sounds counter-intuitive but stay with me people.

6. You'll see a pop-up. Select: 'Keep on My iPhone'.

7. Now turn back on text messages.

8. Tap 'Merge', and wait. After a few minutes the deleted text messages should appear back on your iPhone.

Retrieve deleted texts from an iTunes backup

Retrieve deleted texts from an iTunes backup

If you haven't been backing up to iCloud but have backed up your phone to iTunes on your Mac or PC, you may be able to recover your text messages from that backup.

But even if you think you didn't back up your messages, it is worth a few minutes of your time to try.

Remember this method will also overwrite the data on your phone.

  1. Connect your iPhone to the computer you used to sync with. iTunes should open automatically - if not, open it up manually.
  2. You should see an iPhone icon appear in the top left-hand corner. Select it.
  3. Now choose 'Restore backup'.
  4. All the data you previously backed up will now replace the data on your phone. It will take a few minutes. As long as you haven't backed up subsequent to deleting those text messages, they should now appear in the normal messaging list on your phone handset.

For more detailed information about how to restore an iPhone visit: How to reset, factory-reset, restore or restart an iPhone

Retrieve deleted texts by contacting your phone provider

Retrieve deleted texts by contacting your phone provider

If you've had no luck with the back ups, you're next port of call is your phone provider.

Some - although not all - will keep a record of your text messages, and you are entitled to access them. It may even be as easy as logging in to your account online. For some it requires you to contact customer services. The answer may be no, but it costs nothing to ask, right?

Retrieve deleted texts using a third-party app

Retrieve deleted texts using a third-party app

If none of the options above has worked, it is time to go nuclear. Well, not nuclear exactly but it may cost you a couple of quid, and there is no guarantee it will work. (The sooner you do this the more likely it will work). 

There are also a few third-party apps that have a good online reputation (some of which we've personally used): PhoneRescue by iMobie, Enigma Recovery, WonderShare Dr.Fone for iOS and Tenorshare iPhone Data Recovery. Because even after you have 'deleted' messages they remain on your handset until overwritten, you should be able to recover deleted messages using these utilities (and others) - but there are no guarantees.

The best advice if you are using one of these apps is to do so as quickly as possible after you realise you need to recover your deleted text messages. The longer you leave it the more likely it is you will have written over the required part of the memory.

Do let us know how you got on with trying any of these methods. And if you know of any better way of recovering deleted text messages, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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