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How to enable iMessage on iOS, macOS, and Apple Watch

Flip a few switches and you're ready to chat.
August 23, 2022
Apple iMessages on iPhone stock photo 3
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

iMessage is Apple’s instant messaging platform, and if your family and friends are also iOS and macOS users, you can save a lot of money on SMS messages by chatting through iMessage. When you get a new Apple device, though, how do you enable iMessage? Let’s go through the procedure for an iOS device, a macOS computer, and an Apple Watch.

Read more: Why iMessage is such a big deal


To enable iMessage on an iOS device, go to Settings-->Messages. Toggle the switch to green to switch the platform on and log in with your iCloud account. On macOS, open the Messages app, sign in to your iCloud account, and enable Enable Messages in iCloud. On the Apple Watch, open the Watch app and go to Notifications-->Messages and select Mirror my iPhone.


Enabling iMessage on iOS

On iOS, the process is the same regardless of whether you have an iPhone or iPad. For this article, we will show the iPhone interface. First, open iOS settings and scroll down to Messages. Tap the right-facing arrow on the right of the screen.

ios settings messages

This will open up iMessage’s options. To enable the platform on your iOS device, scroll down to iMessage and toggle the switch to green. Now go through the rest of the page and decide on each option. One of the options will be whether or not you want to initiate iMessage conversations via your phone number or your iCloud email address.

switch on imessage

Finally, go back to your main Settings page and tap on your Apple ID at the top of the screen. Select iCloud, scroll down to Messages and toggle the switch to green. This will sync your iMessage activity to your iCloud account.

If you have another Apple device, you’ll immediately see your conversations appear there once you start using Messages. Even if you don’t have another Apple device, then this step is still important, as it backs everything up in case of a device failure.

imessage icloud

Now just open Messages, enter the phone number of the person you want to chat with, and you’re off to the races. Messages sync with your Contacts book, so it will mainly be a case of just starting to type in the person’s name and click on the right one.

Enabling iMessage on macOS

Enabling iMessage on macOS is arguably a lot easier with a lot fewer clicks. Go to your Applications folder and open Messages. You may also have Messages in the Dock.

macos messages

A log-in box will appear. Sign in with your iCloud account. If you have two-factor authentication enabled on your Apple account, you will need a code to proceed.

imessage mac login

Once you have logged in, click Preferences in the Messages menu.

imessage mac preferences

Ensure Enable Messages in iCloud is ticked, so you can sync your messaging history across devices. Also, tick where people can message you — your phone number, your iCloud email, or both.

imessage mac options3

Enabling iMessage on your Apple Watch

Enabling iMessage on an Apple Watch is the easiest of them all because all an Apple Watch does is mirror your iPhone. So assuming you have Messages set up on your iPhone, here’s what you need to do to get your Messages notifications sent to your Watch. Just make sure you know how to silence your Apple Watch if your phone notifications blow up since your wrist will also blow up.

Open the Watch app on your iPhone. If you don’t already have it, download and install the iOS Watch App and pair it with your iPhone. Then go to Notifications–>Messages.

messages apple watch

The options page will show two possibilities — Mirror my iPhone (which will just do what your iPhone is set to do) and Custom. If you choose Custom, you will now be able to fine-tune your Messages notifications just how you like them.

messages apple watch options

How to fix “iMessage needs to be enabled”

iMessage is a very stable platform, but it occasionally has a slight hiccup or two. If you’re having trouble figuring out why you can’t send or receive any messages, try the following suggestions.

  • Have you followed the procedures listed above to the letter? If not, go back and start again.
  • Disable and re-enable iMessage.
  • Check Apple’s system status page to see if iMessage is actually down at their end.
  • Sign out of your Apple ID in iCloud and sign back in again.
  • Restart your device.
  • Contact Apple Support and ask for help.

Read more: How to text with iMessage on Windows 10