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Text messages – we give little thought to where they’re stored, at least until we suddenly need to retrieve a message from months ago.

Text messages are stored on the messages app, usually from the most recent to the least. Text messages that have disappeared from your messages app can be accessed through a backup of your iPhone.

AdobeStock_547599132 women holding an iphone pro max texting

Read on to learn more about where text messages are stored, and how you can retrieve your recently deleted messages.

Where Are Text Messages Stored on iPhone?

Text messages are stored in the Messages app on iPhone. However, these messages are only stored in the Messages app for a certain time. Once this time frame passes, they’ll either be permanently deleted or moved to your iPhone backup.

If you have an iPhone, you’re probably familiar with the Messages app on your phone. Here, you can find your texts – received and sent.

However, iPhones can either delete or save messages forever after a certain time. What feature you have enabled on your phone determines where the messages get stored long-term.

The caveat is that if your phone doesn’t have enough storage space for a backup, the messages will eventually be lost – even if you have the option to “keep messages forever” enabled. Your phone needs storage space to function properly, and it will prioritize functionality over messages.

How often text messages get deleted depends on the options you have enabled on your iPhone. You can set up a scheduled deletion schedule or allow the phone to delete them to free up storage space. Once the messages are deleted, they’re no longer on your phone, at least not where they can be easily accessed.

What Happens to Text Messages That Have Disappeared?

So, what happens if you’ve told your phone to keep messages forever, and they’re no longer on your Messages app?

Over time, text messages are moved into your iPhone’s backups to create additional space on your phone. If this didn’t happen, your phone would rapidly become overloaded with texts.

You must complete backups as the user. During this time, you can hook up your phone to a computer or another backup device and upload all your information on your phone.

Backups are enormously useful because you can load your messages on your phone if it crashes. The backup includes all your information – messages, pictures, apps, etc. Learn more about backing up your iPhone from my article, where I lay out the steps to back up your data.

What about messages that have disappeared when you haven’t performed a backup?

If you haven’t performed a backup and your text messages have disappeared, this is usually an indication that your storage is too full. So your iPhone has needed to delete information that isn’t vital to the system’s functioning. Usually, messages are the first thing to go during this time.

Does Deleting Messages on iPhone Delete From iCloud?

So, where does iCloud fall in all this? After all, isn’t the point of iCloud to protect the information on your iPhone? iCloud is one of those background things we don’t think about most of the time, but it can be a lifesaver when retrieving messages and other data on your phone.

Deleting messages from your iPhone doesn’t automatically delete them from iCloud. Because iCloud is a backup, the messages remain there until you delete them manually. However, if you delete texts from iCloud, they will be removed from your phone.

Information from your iPhone is automatically loaded into the iCloud library until one of two things happens, as described below.

  • The iCloud library becomes full. When you purchase a new iPhone, you are given a certain amount of space in the iCloud library. Once this space is all used up, you must purchase more iCloud space for the phone to continue to back up this information.
  • You manually delete things from iCloud. Unless you command your phone to delete from the iCloud library, it holds on to information indefinitely.

Can I Retrieve Deleted iPhone Messages?

Your messages are stored in iCloud or on your iPhone backup if you’ve performed one. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can retrieve your deleted iPhone messages at all times.

You can retrieve deleted iPhone messages if they are stored in iCloud or if you’ve performed an iPhone backup. On the other hand, if you delete the messages without a backup stored somewhere, you won’t be able to get back the deleted messages in most cases.

Not having a backup can be quite unfortunate, particularly if you’ve overloaded your phone’s storage and had messages automatically deleted. It is also very easy not to realize that the phone was set to delete your messages over time.

Therefore, checking your storage and phone settings before messages and other important data are deleted is always a good idea.

However, if you have accidentally deleted your messages, iPhone has a feature to retrieve deleted messages if they haven’t been permanently deleted. Usually, this feature is available for about thirty days after deleting the messages.

Let’s look quickly at how you can do this.

  1. Access your Messages app. Recently deleted text messages are left in the recently deleted folder on your messages app.
  2. Tap edit. This option can be found in the top right-hand corner.
  3. Tap recently deleted. This folder shows all your recently deleted messages. From here, you can choose which messages to restore.

Remember that you’ll need iOS 16 or later for this recently deleted messages feature to be available.

How To Retrieve Deleted iPhone Messages

Okay, so you’re certain you have a backup of your iPhone messages either in iCloud or on an iPhone backup. Let’s talk about how you can access these messages.

One thing to note is that even though you’ll be able to retrieve the text messages, you won’t be able to load them back on your phone from a backup unless you restore your entire phone with the backup. This kind of restoration isn’t something you’ll want to do unless your phone gets damaged and you have no choice but to restore from another time.

Retrieving Deleted Messages From iCloud

To retrieve deleted messages from iCloud, you’ll need to reset your phone and load from a backup saved on iCloud when given the option. Once the backup is placed on your phone, you’ll be able to access any messages saved to iCloud.

Retrieving Deleted Messages From a Phone Backup

You’ll need to restore the phone from another time, as it works with an iCloud backup. The only difference is that instead of being saved as a virtual backup, all your information will be stored on another computer or device.

To load from this backup, sync your phone with the computer via USB. Then select the option to load one of your backups on your computer.

Final Thoughts

iPhone stores its text messages in the Messages app until it becomes too full or is set up to automatically delete unless you’ve selected the ‘keep messages forever’ option. You can access your deleted texts through an iPhone backup, an iCloud backup, or the recently deleted folder in your messages app (iOS 16 and above).