How to back up your iMessages (and why it’s essential)

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Never lose your old messages again.
Never lose your old messages again.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Why would you bother to back up your iMessages? After all, they’re all stored in iCloud these days, right? Well, yes your messages are all stored in iCloud, but they’re not backed up up there. They’re synced, which means that if you delete a message thread, it’s gone forever. The answer is to make a local backup, which requires a Mac. Which is ridiculous in 2019, but there you go.

Here’s how to back up your iMessages in case the worst happens.

Backup vs. Sync

In the “bad” old days, iMessages were backed up as a part of your regular, automatic daily backups. If you deleted an important message thread, you could restore it back from this backup. The method wasn’t easy — you’d have to erase your entire device, and restore it from the iCloud backup. It was like using a jackhammer to crack a walnut, but in an emergency, it worked.

Then iMessage moved to syncing in the cloud. This has many advantages — when you connect a new iPhone to your account, for example, it instantly has access to your entire iMessage history. Messages received on an older device are synced to new ones. But sync also means that if you delete a thread, then it is deleted everywhere. What you need is a local backup.

iMazing fixes everything

To do this, we’re going to use iMazing. iMazing is a Mac and PC app that lets your computer talk to your iPhone or iPad. It makes backups, and then gives you full access to those backups. This means that you can search and export your iMessages and WhatsApps, for example, as well as copying music to and from your iPad or iPhone, and a lot more. It really is an essential tool if you need to dig into your iDevices.

iMazing runs on your Mac, and can run backups of your iPhone automatically, over Wi-Fi. The first backup is best done over USB, for speed, but after that it just happens without you having to do anything. It’s like an automatic iCloud backup, only you have access to all your backup-up data, right there on your Mac, in an easy-to-browse app.

Back up your iMessages with iMazing

This part is easy. Just launch iMazing (there’s a free trial to check it out), connect your iPhone (or iPad) to your Mac via USB, and follow along with the guided set up. What you’ll have to do is:

Authorize your computer (And iMazing) to access your iPhone.
Authorize your computer (And iMazing) to access your iPhone.
Photo: iMazing

 

 

Choose your device in the sidebar and click ‘backup.’
Choose your device in the sidebar and click ‘backup.’
Photo: iMazing

 

Choose what you want to back up.
Choose what you want to back up.
Photo: iMazing

 

 

Prepare a delicious beverage and wait.
Prepare a delicious beverage and wait.
Photo: iMazing

How to browse and export iMessages

That’s it. Your iPhone is now backed up, and you can access and export your iMessages any time you like. If you checked automatic backups in your initial setup for iMazing backups, then you’re covered. If not, there’s an in-depth tutorial on the site.

You can’t restore your message threads to your iPhone, and carry on as if you had never deleted them. But you can easily search and browse those message inside iMazing, which is actually a superior experience. You can search them, for example, and you don’t have to wait for older messages to load from iCloud as you scroll back through time. You can also export everything and keep it in your favorite iPhone notes app if you like.

And of course, you now have a local backup of everything on your iPhone, which is great to have.