How to Retrieve Old Text Messages From the Digital Grave

Not all texts are gone forever. If you act fast, you can still retrieve those deleted texts with these various methods.

Updated March 12, 2024
woman wearing sunglasses and looking at her mobile phone

Nothing makes us panic more than realizing we deleted an important text message. Whether the text thread was work-related or super sentimental, fret not. We'll show you some surefire ways to retrieve your deleted text messages on both an iPhone and Android. Plus, get to know all the tips on how to protect yourself from losing those texts in the first place.

Are Deleted Texts Gone Forever?

When you delete texts on your phone, they don't immediately disintegrate into a plume of smoke. Instead, that nugget of information is tagged in the device's memory, and the phone's operating system can then write new information over that same storage space. This is great news if you act quickly when trying to recover deleted text messages. In most cases, your deleted messages are saved for 30 days.

Fast Fact

According to Britannica, the first-ever text message was sent in 1992. If you sent a text in the 90s, chances are you won't be able to pull it out of the ether even with these surefire methods. 

How to Retrieve Deleted Text Messages 

looking intently at phone and posing in office with white cup

Because your devices and apps are connected, there are a few different methods to retrieve deleted texts. It's all about your backup aka your wingman — in this case, it's someone or something that'll help out in times of technological need. However, the specific steps you'll need to recover deleted texts all depend on what type of phone you have.

How to Recover Texts from Your iPhone 

Apple saves a lot of things, even when you don't think they are. If it's within 30 days, you can check for your deleted messages right from your iPhone. 

  1. Open the Messages app.
  2. In the Messages conversation list, tap Edit in the top-left corner, then tap Show Recently Deleted
  3. Or tap Filters in the top-left corner, then tap Recently Deleted.
  4. Select the messages you want to restore, then tap Recover and your messages should be back!
Need to Know

You can save messages in the iCloud if you have that function turned on. Since the cloud stores more messages and for longer, recovering them from the cloud is a much easier process. 

How to Restore Texts from a Wireless Backup

Many phones have wireless backup capabilities, either through a built-in service or a third-party app. If you're currently using a wireless backup service, you may be in luck!  If the most recent backup was made before you accidentally deleted the texts, you can restore that backup to your phone, and voila! Your text messages will reappear. 

How to Restore Texts from a Computer Backup

Software like iTunes, Samsung Smart Switch, or LG Bridge creates a backup of your phone that ends up stored on your computer. You can restore that backup to your phone, and the text messages will be restored as well.

Related: 6 Most Valuable Antique and Vintage Phones

How to Restore Deleted Text Messages Without a Backup

Mature woman texting on her mobile phone

If you're trying to recover text messages and don't have a backup, you'll have to get creative. Clocks ticking, though — the sooner you act, the better your chances are at finding those texts. 

Check With the Recipient or Sender

While not the best option in some cases, you can ask the person you were texting with to send screenshots. Depending on what information you need, this might be even easier than going through your backup. 

Contact the Cellular Provider

It may be possible to retrieve text messages from your wireless provider — though we stress the word "may." The process can be a bit tricky (read: not doable) and may come with a fee. If you absolutely need to try, here are a few details on how some providers store their texts. 

  • AT&T keeps text messages on their servers for up to 90 days depending on storage usage.
  • Verizon holds deleted text messages for 10 days. They also require a court subpoena to release deleted texts.
  • T-Mobile and Boost Mobile do not store text messages.

Pay for Third-Party Software

Searching for apps that can recover deleted text messages will turn up enough results to make your head spin. FonePaw and Dr. Fone may be able to help. 

  • FonePaw: FonePaw is a data recovery application that recovers deleted texts, photos, and emails from Androids. The starting price, depending on your device, is $39.97. 
  • Dr. Fone: Dr. Fone has a free, but limited service option. To retrieve more of what you need, prices start at $59.95. 

How to Prevent Losing Text Messages

While preventative methods might not help your panic spiral right now, it's still good to know so there won't be a next time. 

iPhone Backup Options

There are two options for creating backups of your phone that include text messages — iCloud and iTunes.

  • iCloud: If iCloud backup is enabled, the iPhone will automatically backup data when it's connected to WiFi and a power source. Check out the iCloud Support page to learn how to turn on iCloud Backup. 
  • iTunes: Used for both Mac and PC, iTunes automatically saves your info whenever it's connected or only when you decide to create a backup.

Android Backup Options

Similar to iPhones, Android phones have two ways to create backups. It's always better to use the backup assistant made by your phone's manufacturer.

  • Download a backup assistant app —  There are also apps specifically designed to backup text messages. Read up on reviews and costs so you can make the best-informed decision on which one is right for you.  
  • Create a backup on a computer — Two options from leading Android manufacturers are Samsung Smart Switch and LG Bridge. These applications are available for both PC and Mac and take you step-by-step through the backup process to make sure everything is secure.

Windows Phone Backup Options

Windows phones have backup options built into the system software. There are also third-party apps that can be used to create backups.

  • Use Windows 10 Mobile backup options — Windows 10 Mobile has multiple backup options for backing up phone data wirelessly. Select Settings > Backup to access data backup options.
  • Create a backup on a computer — The Samsung Smart Switch app also allows users to back up Windows phones. Smart Switch is available for PC and Mac.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense 

The best way to keep text messages and other important data safe is to regularly back up your phone. And we get it — it's annoying and time-consuming, but at least you know your sweet texts with your loved one will be saved forever. If your fingers twitched and you deleted important texts, there's a chance it's still saved on your device but hiding out of view. The sooner you look for it, the better your chances of recovery are. In this case, haste saves (inadvertent) waste.

How to Retrieve Old Text Messages From the Digital Grave