How to Recover Deleted iMessages on a MacBook: Best Methods

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recover imessages from macHave you mistakenly deleted a message or an entire conversation from the Messages app on your Mac? Don’t worry just yet; we’ve all been there. The good news is that there are a few effective data recovery methods that can help you recover deleted iMessages on Mac.

Read on to learn about how to manually find the messages database on your computer and get a step closer to restoring the needed messages.
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Mac’s Messages App Explained

Messages is a built-in app that comes with every Mac. To use it, all you need to do is sign in with your Apple ID. This allows you to access the history of all your iMessages and keep track of them in real time from any connected Apple device.

When synced, you’ll be able to open and send new messages from your Mac and they’ll automatically come up on your iPhone or iPad.

Important: If you use Messages in iCloud and delete a message or a whole conversation on either of the connected devices, it’ll also get automatically deleted from everywhere else.

Where Are iMessages Stored on Mac?

So where should you look for your messages on Mac? The first place that you should check is, of course, the Messages app. You can find it by going to Launchpad and typing in Messages in the search bar at the top.
messages app on mac

How to Find Deleted iMessages on a Mac

Just to be clear — no, you can’t access the deleted iMessages from the Trash folder on your Mac. That would be nice if it was possible, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way with messages.

If you noticed that some or all of the messages disappeared from the Messages app, you can use finder to get the deleted iMessages.

Follow these steps to access the iMessage archive on your Mac and check whether they are still physically present on the drive:

  1. Open Finder and click Go from the menu at the top.
  2. Choose Go to Folder from the drop-down menu.
  3. In the search field, type in ~/Library and click Go.
    use finder to open library on mac
  4. Click the Messages folder to open it.
  5. To view your iMessage history, open the chat.db file (it’s best to use the TextEdit app).
    messages folder in library on mac
  6. To view the pictures and videos that have been sent using Messages, open the Attachments folder.

Note: It’s almost impossible to read the messages from the chat.db file since it’s meant specifically for the use of the Messages app.

If you’ve noticed that your older messages started to disappear, it’s best to check your Message settings. It’s possible that you chose to keep your messages only for 30 days (if that’s the case, then they will automatically get removed after that time has passed).

To check your message settings, open the Messages app and click Messages > Preferences from the top menu. You’ll see the selected option near Keep messages. To change it, click the arrows for a drop-down menu to appear and click Forever.
keep messages settings mac

3 Methods to Recover Deleted iMessages on a Mac

No luck finding the deleted messages on your Mac? Don’t lose hope just yet. There are a few data recovery methods that may help you restore the accidentally deleted iMessage conversation.

Method 1: Use Data Recovery Software

Using data recovery software is the quickest and easiest way to restore iMessages on Mac. For this job, we’ve tested the Disk Drill app and it has performed the task successfully.

Important: Stop using your Mac as soon as you realize that you’ve mistakenly deleted an important message. This will ensure that it doesn’t get overwritten with other data and increases your chances of recovery.

Follow these steps to retrieve deleted iMessages from your Mac using Disk Drill:

  1. Download Disk Drill and follow the onscreen instructions to install the app.
  2. Choose your drive from the list of available storage devices.
  3. Click the Search for lost data button.
    disk drill drive mac
  4. Click Review found items to preview the files while the app is still performing the scan or wait for it to finish.
    review found data on disk drill on mac
  5. Navigate the app to find the Messages folder (go to Existing files > Macintosh HD > Users > Library > Messages).
  6. Click the box near the Messages folder to select it, and then click Recover.
    recover messages using disk drill on mac
  7. Choose a destination for the recovered messages and click OK.

Method 2: Check Your Other iOS Devices

If you’ve recently deleted an important message from the Messages app on your computer, it’s possible that the other devices that use your Apple ID and are synced haven’t noticed this change just yet, and you’ll be able to still find it there.

Important: As soon as you realize that you’ve deleted a message on your Mac by mistake, immediately turn off WiFi and mobile data on your iPhone or iPad.

Since time is of the essence in such a situation, the best option for you would be to locate the needed message on your device and simply copy and paste it into Notes (or any other word app), send it to someone, or take a screenshot.

Method 3: Use a Time Machine Backup

Time Machine is a built-in app that comes with every Mac and was designed specifically for backing up data. If you’ve been using it and have configured this tool to make regular backups of your Mac, you should be able to quickly find the needed backup version and restore deleted iMessages on your Mac.

This data recovery method is especially effective in case you wish to recover old iMessages on a MacBook.

Note: Time Machine is not able to restore separate messages or conversations. With this tool, you can recover only the entire database of your messages from a specific backup version. Also, to avoid overwriting your current messages, it is best to back them up before moving forward.

Follow these steps to recover deleted text messages on Mac via Time Machine:

  1. Connect the drive containing your backup to your Mac.
  2. Click the Time Machine icon at the menu on the top of the screen and then click Enter Time Machine.
    how to launch Time Machine from top menu on Mac
  3. Use the timeline on the right to choose the needed backup version.
  4. Go to Library > Messages.
  5. Click the chat.db file to select it and click the Restore button.


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Romana Levko is a professional content writer with a strong interest in tech-related topics. Her main focus is on data recovery, Apple products, and cybersecurity. She spends her free time tinkering with her Mac and burning through her favorite music albums.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.