Unlike love and marriage, text messages are forever. Well, maybe not forever, but they’re harder to get rid of than you might think.

Text messages can go missing for any number of reasons, including mistaken deletion, faulty iOS upgrade, jailbreak fail, or other unfortunate circumstance. Take heart — you can, at least in some instances, restore lost text messages to your iPhone. How is this possible? The iPhone saves all text message, MMS, and iMessage data in a SQLite database, an open-source, back-end utility built into all mobile phones, most computers, and bundled into many popular apps.

When you delete a message, the space merely gets transformed from Allocated to Unallocated, while the message data still remains there to be overwritten eventually by new messages flowing in over time. Before new data overwrites old, you can recover those messages. The first thing to do is to stop messaging temporarily until you retrieve your lost messages.

Depending on how you back up your iPhone — with iCloud or directly on and to your computer — there are various ways to recover lost texts. You can even recover them after a factory reset. Third-party apps can also help, under certain conditions. We’ll walk you through the various ways to recover text messages using iOS 13. This should work on all handsets that support the latest iOS.

Restoring texts from an iCloud backup

If you already have iCloud Backup enabled, and your iPhone backs up on schedule, then your deleted texts should be available. The service backs up messages sent via iMessage, SMS, and MMS, but it requires the same SIM card as when you made the backup.

  • Go to Settings > Name>  iCloud > iCloud Backup.
  • Make sure iCloud Backup is enabled.
  • Erase your iPhone by going into Settings > General > Reset.
  • Choose Erase All Content and Settings.
  • You’ll be asked if you want to restore your iPhone from an iCloud Backup.
  • Choose Restore from iCloud Backup.
  • Once your backup is restored, you should be able to access any texts that were on your phone when you first backed up.
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Restoring texts from your Mac (with macOS 10.15 Catalina)

If you back up on your computer, you may have a series of backups already saved. To get started, first disable Find My iPhone on your handset. Tap Settings > Your Name > Find My > Find My iPhone and switch the toggle off. Be prepared to type in your Apple ID password for it to turn off Find My iPhone. Now do the following.

  • Connect your phone to your computer via USB.
  • Open the Finder by double-clicking on your hard drive icon.
  • Under the Locations sidebar, look for your iPhone and click on it.
  • Click Manage Backups to view all the saved backups and choose which one you want to restore your messages. The backup should predate when you deleted the messages.
  • Click Restore iPhone.

Consult your service provider

If that fails, contact your ISP. It’s possible your provider may store a backup of messages sent and received from your handset if it has not yet been overwritten, and if so, you can likely arrange to access them. Customer service or tech support are the best departments to try. It’s possible they can help, but there’s no guarantee. Do this before trying a third-party app.

Restoring texts with a third-party app

As a last resort, you can try a number of reputable third-party apps that allow you to retrieve lost text messages from your iPhone. Just plug your iPhone into your computer, launch the app, and follow the on-screen directions. These apps tend to function similarly and can recover many file types from texts to call history. Below are a few we’ve discovered that can help you get a handle on this task.

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iMobie PhoneRescue

iMobie Phone rescue

PhoneRescue can recover messages and many other file types like contacts, call history, message attachments, voicemail, calendar, reminders, notes, and more. It allows you to recover data from your iCloud account, in addition to Finder and device backups. The app also has a number of repair tools that let you recover your device when it crashes. A one-year subscription costs $50.

iMobie

Wondershare Dr.Fone

Dr.Fone

This recovery tool is compatible with the latest iOS devices, and you can install the program on both Mac and Windows computers. The software facilitates the recovery of lost text messages, as well as photos, videos, and even data from third-party apps such as WhatsApp. Licenses are available for $70 per user per month.

Wondershare

Tenorshare Ultdata

Tenorshare Ultdata

Tenorshare recovers both messages and media covering dozens of file types including WhatsApp, SMS, contacts, and photos. With three recovery modes, you can preview exactly what gets restored ahead of time. It supports the newest phone models and the latest iOS version. A one-year license costs $60.

Tenorshare

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