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How do I make sure my iPhone messages are permanently deleted?

Why You Might Want to Permanently Delete iPhone Messages

There are a few reasons why you might want to make sure your iPhone messages are permanently deleted:

  • Privacy – You don’t want sensitive conversations to be recoverable if your phone gets lost or stolen.
  • Security – Deleted messages can’t be hacked or accessed by others if your phone is compromised.
  • Free up space – Large attachments and message histories take up storage space on your phone.
  • Move on – You want to remove all traces of a relationship or conversation that’s over.

Whatever your reason, there are steps you can take to make sure your iPhone messages are gone for good.

How iPhone Message Deletion Normally Works

When you delete a message or conversation thread on your iPhone, it may seem like it’s gone forever. But that’s not quite the case.

Here’s what really happens when you delete iPhone messages:

  • The message is removed from your message list/history.
  • The message remains in your iCloud backup and local iPhone storage.
  • After 30 days, the message is deleted from iCloud backup.
  • Messages remain in your local iPhone storage until overwritten by new data.

So deleted messages can stick around for a while in your iCloud backup and local storage. If you want them gone for good, you need to take a few extra steps.

How to Permanently Delete iPhone Messages

Here are the methods to ensure your iPhone messages are permanently deleted:

Delete from iCloud Backup

If you have iCloud Backup enabled, your messages get backed up to iCloud daily when your phone is plugged in, on WiFi, and has over 20% battery. Here’s how to delete messages from iCloud:

  1. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups > [Your Device]
  2. Tap on Messages to see how much storage your messages are taking up.
  3. Tap Edit and select messages/conversations you want to remove.
  4. Tap Delete to remove them from your backup.

This will ensure they are not included in any future iCloud backups.

Disable iCloud Backup

If you want to stop storing your messages in iCloud altogether:

  1. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud
  2. Toggle off iCloud Backup

Your messages will no longer be copied to iCloud, but remain stored locally on your device.

Delete from Local iPhone Storage

Even with iCloud Backup disabled, your messages are still stored locally on your device. To remove:

  1. Open the Messages app
  2. Tap and hold on a conversation to delete
  3. Tap More > Delete All

This will free up local iPhone storage, but messages could still be recovered with data recovery software.

Do iPhone Factory Reset

Doing a factory reset of your iPhone will wipe all data and settings, including all message history.

Warning: This will delete all data and apps from your phone.

To factory reset:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Reset
  2. Tap Erase All Content and Settings
  3. Enter your passcode if prompted
  4. Confirm the reset

Once completed, all messages will no longer be stored locally. However, messages may still exist in an iCloud backup.

Delete iCloud Backup

To ensure no trace of messages remain in iCloud:

  1. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Manage Storage > Backups
  2. Select your backup > Delete Backup

This will remove the backup containing your messages from iCloud.

Other Tips for Permanently Deleting iPhone Messages

Here are some other tips to ensure your messages can’t be recovered:

  • Disable notifications history in Settings > Notifications > Show Previews > Never. That way message content won’t appear in notifications.
  • Turn off Messages in iCloud syncing in Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > Disable Messages.
  • Avoid third party apps like WhatsApp that may keep their own backups.
  • Delete messages from any paired devices like watches or computers.

Can Deleted iPhone Messages Be Recovered?

If you follow all the steps above, it becomes very difficult for deleted iPhone messages to be recovered. However, forensics experts may still be able to extract traces of data using specialized tools.

But for the average user, the above steps will provide peace of mind that your messages are completely removed from Apple’s servers and iPhone storage.


While the normal iPhone message deletion process keeps copies in the cloud and local storage, you can take steps to permanently erase messages for good. This includes removing messages from iCloud backup, disabling iCloud backup, deleting local storage, factory resetting your device, and deleting the iCloud backup. With care taken to fully remove all traces of messages, you can ensure they are gone for good.