Every second, 200,000 iMessages are sent by Apple users. That translates to 63 quadrillion messages every year, or 63 followed by fifteen zeros.
That's a lot of messages flying across the internet every day. You might only contribute a small part of those numbers but if you use iMessage, you've probably got a lot of memories stored on your iPhone and computer.
What would you do if you lost all those messages? If you don't have a archive of your texts, you're in danger of having that happen. Let's look at how you can download text messages from your iPhone to be sure all those memories are safe.
Options to Backup and Save Text Messages on Your iPhone
There are several ways to backup or archive iPhone messages, including:
- Taking screenshots of important messages
- iCloud backup
- iTunes backup
- Creating a searchable archive backup
Each of the four options has its advantages and disadvantages.
Archive Texts and iMessages with Screenshots
The first option is to take screenshots of any messages you want to have a copy of. This isn't a backup so much as it's a way to make a second copy that you can save.
There are two different methods for taking screenshots on the iPhone, depending on the model you have.
If your iPhone has a home button, press the on/off button (on the side or top) and the home button at the same time. Your phone will save a picture of whatever is on the screen so if you have the Messages app open, the text of your message will be in the picture.
If you have an iPhone X or newer that uses Face ID, press the side button and volume-up button at the same time to capture a screenshot.
This method is not an efficient way to save your texts since you need to take a screenshot of every conversation separately. And if a conversation is longer than one screen, you need to take a bunch of screenshots even to save the one thread.
Turn on iCloud Backup
The second option for backing up your iMessages is to use iCloud backup. iCloud is Apple's cloud-based storage for syncing things like your contacts, calendars, and settings. You can also use it to back up your iPhone.
To turn on iCloud backup, open the Settings app, tap on your name, tap on iCloud, and tap on iCloud Backup. You can also tap on Back Up Now if you want to back up your iPhone right away.
iCloud backup runs automatically in the background, keeping everything on your iPhone backed up to the cloud. There are a couple of drawbacks to this method though.
First, you may have to pay for more iCloud storage to be able to back up your phone. The free iCloud plan only includes 5GB of storage space. With most iPhones coming with at least 64GB of storage, it likely isn't enough space to save everything.
Second, this type of backup is an all-or-nothing option. If your phone has a problem and you need to restore it from the backup, it will get restored to whatever got saved with the last backup. You can't pick and choose what you restore so you can't pull out only the iMessages, for example.
iCloud backup also doesn't let you search your message history, organize them in any way, or save them to your computer.
Backup Your iPhone with iTunes
Using iTunes to back up your iPhone works similarly to iCloud backup. It saves everything on your phone at once and only lets you restore everything if you have a problem. Its biggest advantage over iCloud is that you most likely have plenty of storage on your computer so you don't have to pay extra to get enough space.
How to export text messages from iPhone with iTunes:
- Connect your iPhone to your Mac or PC with a Lightning cable.
- Open iTunes and click on the iPhone icon at the top of the window.
- Click the "Back Up Now" button in the center of the window to start the backup.
Once the backup finishes, you can disconnect your iPhone from your computer.
Changes in macOS 10.15 Catalina
The latest version of macOS, Catalina, has split iTunes into separate apps for Music, Podcasts, and TV/movies. If you're running Catalina, the process is similar but instead of backing up with iTunes, you do it from a Finder window.
How to save text messages from your iPhone to your computer in Catalina, follow these steps:
- Connect your iPhone to your Mac with a Lightning cable.
- Open a Finder window and click on the name of your iPhone in the sidebar.
- If you haven't connected your iPhone to your Mac before, click the Trust button in the Finder window.
- Tap Trust on your iPhone and enter your passcode to confirm.
- On the General tab, select the option to back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.
- Click the "Back Up Now" button at the bottom of the screen.
Once the backup is done, you can disconnect your iPhone from your computer.
Similar to iCloud, backing up with iTunes or the Finder doesn't let you view your messages that get saved in the backup or organize them in any way. They're saved as part of the entire contents of your phone.
Creating a Searchable Text Message Archive Backup with Keepster
If you're like most people, you want a backup that not only protects your memories from loss if something were to happen to your iPhone, you also want to be able to read through those messages to relive memories and find information that people have shared with you over the years.
Keepster will let you back up your iMessages into an archive that you can organize in a way that makes it easy for you to find all those funny, crazy, and helpful memories. It converts your iMessage history into a memory bank on your computer.
Getting Started with Keepster
The first step is to download the Keepster app and install it on your computer. Keepster supports both Mac and PC systems - both downloads are available from the same link.
Once you install the app, open Keepster and log into your Keepster account. After logging in, you need to back up your iPhone with iTunes or if you're using macOS Catalina, you'll do it with the Finder.
The first step is to grant Full Disk Access to Keepster. This is a security feature in macOS and granting access will let Keepster access your iMessages. When you open Keepster, click the blue button that says "Click here to open System Preferences".
The System Preferences window will open to the Full Disk Access page. Click the lock in the bottom left corner, enter your password, and click on the + button. Find Keepster in the application list, click on it, and click OK. When you get a prompt asking you to quit Keepster, click Later.
Go back to the Keepster window and click on the blue button that says "Click here to relaunch Keepster" under the Finish section. Keepster will restart and you're ready to do your first backup.
Running an iTunes Backup
If you haven't backed up your iPhone with iTunes before, you'll see a message that no iTunes backups were found and you can click the blue button that says "Click here to open iTunes".
Make sure your iPhone is connected to your computer with a Lightning cable before clicking the button. When you click the button, iTunes will open automatically. Click on the small iPhone image in the top-left corner and then click on the Back Up Now button on the next screen.
Once the iTunes backup is finished, you can unplug your iPhone from the computer. Everything you need is saved in the backup.
Creating Your Keepster Backup
Switch back to the Keepster app, click on the Home icon in the toolbar, and click on the Backups tab again. Click on the Create New Backup button at the bottom of the window.
Your latest iTunes backup will be listed on the next page and click on that to start the Keepster backup process.
The amount of time to run the backup will depend on how many messages you have to be backed up. If you have a lot of messages, it will take several minutes to back them all up but even a large iMessage library won't take long.
To see a step-by-step demonstration of this process, check out our getting started with Keepster video.
Once Keepster has backed up your messages, you can search them for anything you want, you can organize them into folders to make it easier to find what you want, and you can even get a memory book printed to have a permanent copy of your memories. Check out the rest of our how-to videos to see all the features in Keepster.
Your Messages Are Completely Private and Secure
When you use Keepster to back up your iMessage history, you don't have to worry about security or privacy. None of your messages get uploaded to Keepster's servers. Everything gets stored locally on your computer.
Nobody but you or anyone you allow access to your computer will be able to access your messages and read anything you've saved. You can read all the details about our data privacy on our website.
If you don't want anyone else that uses your computer to have access to your messages, log out of Keepster when you're done using the app. Once you're logged out, nobody else can see any of your data.
What Would You Do if You Lost Your Text Messages?
Most people have years' worth of memories stored in their iMessage history. Photos, funny chats, crazy stuff your friends did, and many other things are in there that you'll enjoy looking back on as time goes by. How would you feel if all those precious memories were lost forever because something happened to your iPhone?
If you backup iMessage to Keepster, you can rest easy that all those memories are backup up safely. Plus, you'll be able to search them, organize them, and even have books made from them so you can find those memories that much easier.