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How to recover deleted SMS messages on Android

You never get used to that gut-wrenching moment when one realizes a very important SMS message or thread has just been deleted. What do you do now? Let's show you how to recover it!
September 17, 2015

You never get used to that gut-wrenching moment when one realizes a very important SMS message or thread has just been deleted. What do you do now? Desperate users will go through anything to save those crucial messages if the trashed information is important enough. Recovering deleted messages is no easy feat, but jumping some hoops will definitely get you somewhere. There are some chances you can get those precious text messages back, and we can help you get to them!

Did you ever hear people say that files don’t necessarily disappear from your computer when you delete them? This is definitely true. All those files are hidden somewhere in the hard drive, waiting to be retrieved… or replaced. This is exactly what happens with Android phones as well. Everything we delete, including SMS messages, sticks around until enough time passes by and/or the space is needed to store other data.

A little about how deletion works

You may still be wondering how this is even possible. It’s actually not a very complicated concept once we understand how deletion works. In most cases, trashing a file (in this case an SMS or MMS message) doesn’t really erase it from the system; or at least it doesn’t do it right away.


Your device will simply mark this file as inactive. In other words, it is made invisible and replaceable. As you continue using your device and adding new files, these start replacing “deleted” content. In other words, it is best that you stop using your phone if you really need to recover that text message, because it may get permanently wiped out after some time.

Carriers often have all your texts stored

This is not necessarily a solution, but it is still information that may be helpful in some cases. As it turns out, many wireless providers store your text messaging records and other data for extended periods of time (here is a chart with carrier data retention periods). The only problem is they will likely not release that information to you simply because you accidentally deleted something.

However, some carriers may cooperate with the police if necessary. These companies have also been known to help users facing legal complications, as these messages could serve as evidence in a court of law. This won’t help most of us, though, so let’s move on to what you can do to actually obtain results.

4 Major carriers

Use data recovery software

So it’s all lost and you really, really want that text message. It may be possible to obtain it by using data recovery software, which can scan your phone for “deleted” content and retrieve whatever may still be in existence.

Doing a simple Google search will show you plenty of data recovery tools for Android devices. Some are free, some are not, but many of the paid ones still offer a free trial period. Some of the most popular ones are Android Data Recovery, Dr. Fone, Coolmuster Android SMS+Contacts Recovery and FonePaw Android Data Recovery.

After you have the software, the process is pretty straight forward. Just install the program on your PC and run it. The only trick is that you will need to turn USB Debugging on. This option is under Developer Tools, in your Android Settings app.

Each software has its own specific steps. Some will require you to use an Android app to load everything to the computer, while other services can have the PC software do all the heavy lifting. Just make sure you follow instructions for your specific program.

After you let the program do its thing, you should be presented with all the files you can recover.

Making sure this doesn’t happen again

You just realized this whole retrieving deleted text messages isn’t exactly an easy feat. And it shouldn’t really be… you just got rid of the darn thing! You just happen to be lucky computing devices work a certain way. Regardless, the best way to solve something is to prevent it. There’s many apps that can help you backup your text messages, as well as other content. Let’s take a look at some of them.

SMS Backup & Restore

This is among the most popular backup apps of its kind, with over 5 million downloads and a 4.5-star rating. And it’s no wonder the service managed to get such a good reputation – it is free to download and happens to have a pretty full set of features.


For starters, this application can store your text messages in XML format. It’s also very convenient that the software can save your data both locally and in the cloud. It supports Email, Google Drive and Dropbox (through an add-on app). To make matters even more exciting, users can even schedule automatic updates, making sure you don’t forget to store your SMS messages manually.

Easy Backup & Restore

Need something that covers a bit more than SMS messages? Easy Backup & Restore does very well for being a free app. This is a full-fledged backup solution that can store your SMS, MMS, call logs, calendar, bookmarks, dictionary contacts and apps.


It also happens to support SD cards, Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and even OneDrive. And yes, you can also schedule your automatic updates. And if you have root access, Easy Backup & Restore can also handle apps and app data.


Sadly, there’s not much else we can do, unless you want to pay very hefty amounts of cash to data specialists so they can take your phone into a lab and dissect it. These tips should keep you pretty well covered, though. Just be sure to be a bit more careful next time, and use the preventive applications we told you about!

Don’t head out just yet! Join the conversation and let us know if you have ever needed to recover a deleted message (or any other file). How did you solve this issue? Have you used any of the above-mentioned methods before?