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How to recover deleted text messages on your Android phone

Where did your messages go? Get them back!
By
December 3, 2022
Google Messages SMS stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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

More: The 10 best SMS and texting apps for Android

QUICK ANSWER

Deleted messages are pretty hard to recover on Android once they've been trashed, but there are some methods you can try. Data recovery software is the best bet, but it can be expensive and complex. Additionally, you can check carrier SMS apps, which often sync and save backups. You can also proactively back up your text messages to the cloud.


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Note: These instructions were put together using a Pixel 7 Pro running Android 13. Remember that steps might differ depending on the device and software you use. 

A little about how deletion and storage works

MicroSD card slot stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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

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

Your device will 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, you should stop using your phone if you need to recover that text message, because it may get permanently wiped out after some time.

Carriers often have all your texts stored

Sprint Verizon T Mobile and Verizon carriers stock photo text messages
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

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. 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 helped users facing legal complications, as messages can serve as evidence in a court of law. You, or the court, could probably request deleted messages if they’re essential. This won’t help most of us, so let’s move on to what you can do to obtain results.

Also: The best phone plans for every type of user

Some carriers offer their own messaging apps, and they can back up information to the cloud. Verizon Messages, for example, can back up your messages and even sync them across devices. It even offers a web app and desktop software to enjoy your texts from anywhere. There’s also AT&T Messages Backup & Sync. If you ever delete an SMS and use one of these services, checking your backups and messaging apps on other devices might be worth a shot.

Use data recovery software

Typing Writing Coding Keyboard

So it’s all lost, and you want to recover your messages. It may be possible to obtain them using data recovery software to scan your phone for deleted content and retrieve whatever may still exist.

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

After you have the software, the process is pretty straightforward. Just install the program on your PC and run it. You might need to plug the device into the computer, or some programs take advantage of an app. Full instructions will come with the software. The app will present you with everything you can recover after a scan.

It’s also important to note these software solutions don’t only work for deleted messages. They can help retrieve photos, videos, documents, and other data.

Download data recovery software:

Make sure this doesn’t happen again

Google Pixel 5 using in hand 3 1
David Imel / Android Authority

You just realized this whole recovering deleted text messages isn’t exactly straightforward. And it shouldn’t be… you just got rid of the darn thing! You’re lucky computing devices work a certain way. Regardless, the best way to solve something is to prevent it. Many apps can help you back up your text messages and other content. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Archive messages instead of deleting them

Google Messages SMS stock photo 6
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

You don’t need to delete text messages to clean up your SMS inbox. Google Messages makes it easy to archive threads. You can later restore them, or they can be brought back whenever the same conversation continues. Getting into the habit of archiving SMS messages might be a good idea instead of deleting them.

How to archive texts in Google Messages:

  1. Launch the Google Messages app.
  2. Press and hold on to a thread.
  3. Tap on the Archive button (box with an arrow pointing down).
  4. You can now press the three-line menu button and access Archived to see your stored messages.
  5. To recover the archived message, press and hold on to the thread, then press the Unarchive button (box with an arrow pointing up).

Google Drive

Google Drive logo on smartphone stock photo 1 - backup text messages
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Google Drive is an excellent cloud service that can do more than store your documents and random files. You can back up your text messages to it. It’s part of the stock Android backup service, so we can enjoy this without downloading any applications or signing up for additional services. Regularly backing up your texts is also helpful when you want to transfer your texts to a new phone.

How to backup your text messages to Google Drive:

  1. Go into your Android phone’s Settings app.
  2. Select Google.
  3. Tap on Backup
  4. Toggle Backup by Google One on.
  5. Hit Backup now.

Third-party apps

Google Play Store on smartphone stock photo 1 - Download text messages backup apps
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

There are plenty of third-party apps to help you back up your SMS messages. You can find multiple of them in our dedicated post.

Here: These are the 10 best Android backup apps


FAQs

It’s very easy to accidentally delete SMS messages, because there’s no turning back once they’re gone. Like with all other data, though, the OS doesn’t delete the information immediately. It will be stored somewhere in the hard drive until rewritten.

Most backup apps and services allow you to store your text messages easily. You can actually use Google Drive to do this!

Data recovery services are your best bet to recover any file that wasn’t backed up elsewhere. That said, it isn’t foolproof. Some data may be deleted permanently sooner than expected. Either that or it may have already been replaced by other data.

Google Messages (and other SMS apps) allows you to archive messages. You can do this to get old texts out of the way without actually deleting them. Archiving messages is like storing them in a separate folder.


If you’re trying to keep more of your apps, photos, music, and other files backed up, look at our guide on backing up your Android phone. And, if you’re unfortunate to the point that your phone is broken, check out our guide on extracting files from a broken phone.