How to Backup Text Messages on iPhone in 2021: iCloud, Apple Music & Third-Party

Our SMS messages mean a lot to us. We send thousands every year, and the thought of losing them is inconceivable. To ensure that never happens, we're going to break down how to backup text messages on iPhone and iOS devices with iCloud, Apple Music and third-party apps.

Dan Ginn
By Dan Ginn (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-09-26T20:03:18+00:00

Take a moment to think about how many messages you send each year. It’s certainly in the hundreds and could easily be in the thousands. Now imagine losing them all, including the important ones. It’s a terrible thought, right? Don’t worry, because after reading this article, you’ll know how to backup text messages on iPhone devices.

Key Takeaways:

  • Backing up your text messages is a great way to retrieve old conversations.
  • You can backup your SMS messages in just a few steps with iCloud or Apple Music (iTunes).
  • There are third-party applications available if you don’t want to use Apple’s services.

Many people feel invincible when it comes to their tech. However, the reality is that anyone can lose their iPhone or get it stolen, not to mention there’s the chance it may break and no longer work.

There’s no reason for you to lose everything because backing up your iPhone is simple. It’s also handy for when you upgrade your device, as it allows you to seamlessly transfer your files and data to your new iPhone. There are a few ways you can backup iPhone text messages. Some of them are recommended directly by Apple, but we will also cover some third-party options.

  • 08/03/2021

    Cloudwards rewrote this article, added third-party app suggestions for iPhone backup. 

  • Make sure your messages are toggled “on” in your iCloud settings, which will make sure your texts will be backed up. See our full steps below.

  • You can backup your iPhone with other third-party cloud services. We recommend checking out IDrive, Acronis and Jottacloud.

  • It’s possible to recover deleted messages through the use of third-party apps. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the market that can guarantee a full restore of all of your deleted messages. That’s why it’s a much better option to do a backup on a regular basis.

How to Backup Text Messages on iPhone & iOS Devices

There are three easy ways to backup your iPhone messages: using iCloud, iTunes (now known as Apple Music) and third-party backup apps. We will provide step-by-step instructions for each option, below.

Option 1: Use iCloud Backup for iPhone Text Messages

iCloud is the most accessible way for iPhone users to backup and save text messages. It’s preinstalled on all Apple devices and offers 5GB of free storage (which won’t be enough if you’re a heavy user). The best part is it only takes a few steps and a couple of minutes to backup all of your messages in iCloud.

  1. Locate iCloud in Settings

    To get the ball rolling, you need to head to the iCloud settings. To do this, tap “settings.” At the top of the settings section, you’ll see your name. Tap it and then select “iCloud.”

    select icloud in settings
  2. Find Which Apps Are Using iCloud

    When you’re in the iCloud settings, you’ll see a list of apps using it. Here you can select which apps you want to backup. Scroll down until you find “messages.”

    app using icloud
  3. Make Sure “Messages” Is Toggled On

    Next to each app, you’ll see a toggle button. If “messages” isn’t already on, you’ll need to toggle it to start saving future messages. Note that unless you’ve previously backed up your iOS device, any messages sent before choosing to back them up won’t be available.

    toggle on messages

Option 2: Use Apple Music (iTunes) to Backup iPhone Text Messages

Prior to 2019, Mac users could backup their iPhone through iTunes. However, since Apple separated iTunes into Music, Podcasts and Apple TV, the backup process is done through Apple Music. 

Windows users can still download iTunes onto their computer, following the same process.

  1. Open Apple Music and Locate Your iPhone

    Connect your iPhone to your computer with a USB cable (users with a thunderbolt connection will need to use an adaptor). Once you’re connected, open “Apple Music.” On the left side of the app, you’ll see “devices.” Underneath the devices, select your iPhone name.

  2. Select Sync Settings

    In the top-right corner of the next page, you’ll see “sync settings.” Right-click it to get to the backup section of Apple Music.

    Sync settings on apple music
  3. Backup All the Data on Your iPhone

    It’s a good idea to select “back up all the data on your iPhone to this Mac” just to be sure everything is safe. We also recommend ticking “encrypt local backup.” Not only does encryption make it harder for third parties to access your information, but it also allows you to backup health records and passwords. Once you’ve selected them both, tap “back up now” to backup your iPhone, including your texts.

    encrypt data on itunes

Option 3: Backup iPhone Text Messages With Third-Party Apps

Unfortunately, options are rather limited if you decide not to use iCloud as your preferred backup method. Although many of the best cloud storage services — such as IDrive (read our IDrive review) — are great solutions for backing up files like photos and videos, the providers don’t have inbuilt functionality to backup iPhone texts.

One app we recommend for iOS that allows you to backup your iPhone messages is SMS Export. Because of its simplicity, SMS Export is a popular choice and makes backing up all your messages straightforward. However, you can’t backup any media (photos and videos) sent inside of your messages, which makes the service a little limited.

Honestly, the third-party apps available don’t offer anything iCloud doesn’t. In fact, third-party apps offer less. We only recommend moving away from iCloud to backup iPhone messages if you really don’t want to use Apple’s own services. Otherwise, for efficiency in backup and recovery, iCloud is your best bet.

How to Transfer iPhone Messages to a New Device

If you did an iCloud backup (or iTunes backup with Apple Music) of your message history, restoring them to a new device is a breeze. When setting up your new iOS device, Apple automatically presents you the option to restore your files. After turning on your new device, you’ll reach a section titled “apps & data.” We’ll show you what to do from here.

  1. Restore iPhone Backup

    Once you’re in the “apps & data” section, you’ll see four options. Select “restore from iCloud backup” and then choose which backup you want to restore.

  2. Wait for the Restore to Complete

    Because you’re restoring all of your files, and not just SMS messages, restoring your data may take some time. How long depends on how many files and how much data you have. The good news is that Apple notifies you how long you can expect to wait. Once everything is restored and synced, you’ll be able to see your conversations in the “messages app.”

What If I Don’t Have Enough Storage Available in iCloud?

If you don’t have enough storage space to perform an iCloud backup for your messages, we have some solutions. Below are three ways to ensure you always have enough space to backup iPhone text messages and other files. 

Free Up iCloud Storage

The first and more affordable solution is to free up space within the amount of storage you already have. You can delete any files — including photos, videos and old backups — to allow more room to backup your messages. To find out exactly how to do it, check out our step-by-step guide for freeing up iCloud storage space.

Buy Additional iCloud Storage

If you don’t want to remove files you’ve already backed up, the next step is to purchase more storage. Apple offers a range of iCloud storage plans, all of which are relatively affordable. You can purchase 50GB of storage for $0.99 per month, 200GB for $2.99 per month and 2TB for $9.99 per month.

Use Another Backup Method

Although iCloud is the most accessible method of backing up your messages, it’s not the only option. We go into more detail in our best cloud backup for iPhone article, but IDrive tops the list because it is so feature-rich and easy to use.

However, there are alternative backup solutions that you can use through your computer. CopyTrans is a desktop backup service that allows you to export your messages, but this has to be done manually; you won’t be able to backup messages automatically, as you can with iCloud. CopyTrans is also only available on a Windows PC, so macOS users will need to turn elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to backup messages on your iPhone, you should have no problems keeping the messages that are important to you. Another benefit of using iCloud is that you can sync your messages across all of your devices, including iPads and Macs. 

If you haven’t made a backup, it’s a good idea to go do it. Sure, it’s not the most thrilling of activities, but it’s easy and gives you the peace of mind that you won’t lose your data.

In case you switch to a different phone, we also have a guide on how to backup text messages on Android.

How did you find our step-by-step guide? Is there something else you would like us to cover on the topic? Let us know in the comments, as we would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.