We receive a lot of important information through text. Whether it’s a date you need to set or important work-related info, you might find yourself wanting to save a text message. Modern smartphones all offer a way to back up your core data and transfer it to another device. However, transfers sometimes don’t include your text messages unless you save them ahead of time or are transferring across the same mobile operating system.
Rather than keeping a special text message as a screenshot, there are more direct ways to save them on your computer or through iExplorer if you have an Apple phone.
The steps are slightly different if you have an Android phone. You can save your text messages to your backup account to access it forever.
How to save text messages in iOS
If you’re running a PC or a Mac with OS Mojave or earlier, you can use iTunes to create a backup of your iPhone, which will capture all your text messages at the time of the backup. We’ll go over what to do if you’re on a Mac running OS Catalina in a bit. While you can make and save backups using iCloud, it’ll be easier to get to your texts (and other data) in the future using iTunes. You can download the latest version here. If you really prefer not to use iTunes, then you can skip the next two steps and go directly to the section on “Using just iExplorer.”
Step 1A (PC or Mac OS Mojave and earlier): Making backups and saving texts using iTunes
Making an iOS backup will save most of the data stored on your device, including iMessages, SMS messages, and MMS messages. If you haven’t already, make a habit out of creating regular backups.
- Begin by launching iTunes. Then, connect your iOS device to your computer.
- In iTunes, select your iOS device by clicking the corresponding icon in the top-left corner of the window.
- Go to the Summary tab — you should see a section labeled Backups on the right-hand side. Under Manually Back Up and Restore, choose Back Up Now. Once the backup process is done, the Latest Backups sections should be updated to show your most recent backup. Alternatively, you can go to Preferences > Devices (Mac) or Edit > Preferences > Devices (Windows) to confirm that the backup was successful.
Step 1B: Making backups on Mac OS Catalina
If you’ve upgraded to the latest Mac OS, OS Catalina, then you’ll find that iTunes no longer exists. Don’t be fooled by the app titled Music that bears the same music note logo, because you can no longer back up your iPhone using that app. Instead, you’ll need to plug in your iPhone to your Mac via USB, follow the prompts on your phone to Trust This Computer and then navigate to your Mac’s Finder.
You’ll see under Locations in Finder that your iPhone is mounted like an external drive. After selecting Trust you’ll be presented with a layout very similar to the old iPhone layout within iTunes.
Here you can select Back Up Now and that will create a backup just like you would through iTunes.
Step 2: Accessing your backed-up messages using iExplorer
Your messages are now saved, but that’s only the first part of the process. If you want to be able to access them on your computer whenever you want, then you need some more software. Enter iExplorer, a premium program for MacOS and Windows that can, among other things, sift through your iTunes backups and retrieve your various messages. It’s $40 for one license of the basic version, but you can also use the demo version for a limited time.
- Download iExplorer and follow the steps to install it. Mac users will need to be running OS X 10.9 or higher, while Windows users need Windows 7 or above as well as iTunes. Afterward, launch iExplorer.
- In iExplorer, find the section labeled Browse iTunes Backups (it is still called this even if running OS Catalina) in the left-hand column, and pick the backup you want to pull messages from. Within that backup, select Messages.
- iExplorer will bring up your text messages, with a conversation list located on the left. Pick a conversation to see your messages on the right, including any images and videos attached to them. You can also sort the conversation list by name, date, and number of messages.
- Once you’ve selected a conversation, you can export them as a PDF, TXT, or CSV file. You can also choose to only export the images or attachments.
Using just iExplorer
While iExplorer can pull texts from an iTunes backup, it can also pull texts directly from your iOS device. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to avoid iTunes as much as possible.
- Start by downloading and installing iExplorer. Afterward, launch the program and it should open on the Device Overview screen.
- Next, connect your iPhone or iPad. In the left-hand column, click your device’s name. On the Device Overview screen on the right, click Data > Messages. Keep in mind that if you’ve never made a backup on your computer, you’ll only see an option to Load Backup Data. You need to make a backup within iExplorer first before it can access your messages, so click it to begin the process. Once done, continue to the next step.
- iExplorer will load all of the messages currently on your iOS device. The left-hand column will have a conversation list, and clicking any of the conversations will bring them into view in the right-hand column. You can sort conversations by name, date, or number of messages, as well as filter conversations to show only images, videos, or attachments.
- You can export entire conversations, including attached media and documents, using the export options below the open conversation. They can be exported as a PDF, TXT, or CSV file.
How to save text messages in Android
Using SMS Backup & Restore
We showed you how to back up your Android smartphone but SMS Backup & Restore is a free app that does what the name implies. It can back up your text messages and save them locally on your Android device, export them to a computer, or upload them to an online storage service such as Google Drive. It’s made to fulfill the needs of people who want to save their messages to multiple places quickly. Your Android device needs to be running Android 4.0.3 or higher.
Step 1: Start by downloading and installing the app to your Android device. Launch it, and it takes you to the main menu.
Step 2: Tap Set up a backup to begin creating a new backup. From here, you can choose what information you want to save, which text conversations, and where to store the backups. There are currently options for saving your texts directly to your phone, Google Drive, or Dropbox. You can also save the emojis attached to the texts and name the backup files, so they’re easy to identify.
Step 3: If you’re not as concerned with manually sorting through text conversations, you also have the option to automate the process. In the app, go to settings by selecting the hamburger menu in the top left corner and follow the prompts.
Viewing, restoring, and migrating texts
Step 1: To find your saved messages, open your main menu and select View Backups. This option will show your messages in XML format. The View Backups feature will also allow you to reorganize messages within your local folders.
Step 2: You can relocate your old texts to a new phone in one graceful movement with the SMS Backup and Restore. The most common time people use this feature is when setting up a new phone. Before you start, though, always remember to back up all your texts. Without a backup, you could lose some of your most recent messaging histories, which is no fun for anyone.