How to Recover Messages Through Library/Messages/Archives

  • You can only restore old conversations if Time Machine and iCloud Backup are turned on for your Messages.
  • Ensure you know where Time Machine is sending your backups—also, double-check if it’s running out of space.
Time Machine and Messages Logo: How to Recover Old Messages on Mac

Many iPhone users don’t know that they can recover old message archives through library/messages/archives on Finder even after deletion. I learned about it because I needed an old message attachment. I already erased my chat history, and I only took a chance on Time Machine backing up my Messages app. I luckily found all the backup versions I needed.

Tip icon Tip
Before you scroll to find out the steps you should follow, I’ll suggest the easiest way possible to recover your messages, either if they were deleted accidentally, due to device damage, or any other scenario. That being said, I usually use a reliable tool, namely iMyFone D-Back, because it can easily recover deleted messages, photos, videos, etc, even if you don’t have a backup, and the good thing is that it works with all iOS devices, so it’s worth a try.

How Do I Access My iMessage Archives?

  1. Open Finder, click Go in the menu bar > Go to Folder, or press the Command + Shift + G combination.
    Searching library/messages/archives on Finder
  2. Input ~/library/messages/ in the search bar. Finder will show several files and folders—just focus on Archives and Attachments because you’ll see your archived text messages here.
    library/messages/archives and library/messages/attachments
  3. You can also type ~/library/messages/archives or ~/library/messages/attachments to go straight to these folders.
  4. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, try ~/library/Containers. Time Machine might have been storing your messages here if you only set your preferred destination recently.
    library/messages/archives but through container

If your messages are not showing up, please follow the steps below and then try searching for them again:

1. Turn On iCloud for Messages on Your Mac

Firstly, you must turn on iCloud for Messages. Unless you do so, your iPhone will only store your SMS messages and iMessages locally on the Messages app. You can’t recover them after deletion.

  1. Open the Messages app, click Messages in the menu bar, and select Settings from the drop-down menu.
    Settings for Messages on Mac Menu Bar
  2. Go to the iMessage section and tick the checkbox beside Enable Messages in iCloud.
    iMessage Settings Enable iCloud on Mac
  3. Next, go to General. Click the drop-down menu beside Keep Messages and select Forever. You can also choose a shorter period, although you’ll make recovery harder in the future.
    Keep Message Forever in library/messages/archives

2. Turn On iCloud for Messages on Your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Launch Settings > [your Apple ID profile] > iCloud > Messages. If you don’t see the Messages section right away, tap Show All under Apps Using iCloud.
    Apps Using iCloud on Messages iPhone
  2. Toggle on the button beside Sync this iPhone.
    Sync this iPhone for Messages on Mac

3. Turn On Time Machine for Messages on Your Mac:

Secondly, you should enable Time Machine for Messages on your linked Apple devices. It stores your iPhone message history on your Mac. You’ll still have access to the Messages folder on the cloud even after deleting them on your iPhone.

  1. Open the Apple menu > System Settings > General > Time Machine.
    Time Machine General Settings
  2. Click Add Backup Disk and select your preferred destination.
    Enable Time Machine to Store Messages in library/messages/archives

You can set Time Machine to store your Messages folder on your hard drive or iCloud. For convenience, consider prioritizing the latter. It lets you access your archives folder across multiple Apple devices through library/messages/archives—meanwhile, external hard drives are only usable on your Mac.

Note icon NOTE
Having your iPhone constantly back up database files requires a lot of resources. Your mobile device might slow down gradually. Consider learning how to speed up Time Machine backups and keep your iPhone at optimum functionality.

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