Clear iMessage Chat History in Mac OS X

Mar 5, 2012 - 23 Comments

iMessages for Mac

The Messages app for Mac keeps track of all chat history through iMessage and SMS, providing you with a lengthy record of conversations in an easily reviewable and scrollable chat log. Unlike iOS, there isn’t an in-app method to delete the chat history in OS X, and though you can close a window it doesn’t necessarily remove all data, logs, or associations with a specific chat.

Instead, if you wish to clear out the chat log history in Messages app, you will have to turn to the Finder or command line if you want to trash your message history on the Mac. This is not difficult, it’s just a matter of removing a few files as detailed below.

How to Remove All Chat History from Messages in OS X

This works in all versions of the Messages app for Mac, from the earliest versions to the newest:

  1. Quit out of Messages for Mac
  2. Hit Command+Shift+G to bring up the “Go To Folder” window
  3. Enter ~/Library/Messages/
  4. Select all files in the Messages directory and move to trash, files will be named chat.db, chat.db-shm, chat.db-wal, etc
  5. Empty the Trash and relaunch iMessages

Clear iMessage Chat History

When you relaunch the Messages app none of your previously existing conversations will contain any data. Keep in mind that the Attachments are stored in a separate folder and handled separately within ~/Library/Messages/Attachments/ which includes things like pictures, gifs, videos, text files, zips, audio clips, and whatever other attachments were sent through the messages app of OS X.

Mac Messages icon

Clearing iMessage Chat History on the Mac from the Command Line

You can also do this through the command line if you’re comfortable with using terminal and the rm command with a wildcard, which is generally considered advanced. To do that, quit out of iMessage and open Terminal, at the prompt type the following:

rm -r ~/Library/Messages/chat.*

Relaunch iMessages and to find an empty chat history.

Both of these tricks work as far back as the original iMessages for Mac beta, as well as all modern incarnations of the OS X Messages app, including in OS X Yosemite where Messages has direct tie-ins with the iOS messages app.

There may be an easier way to delete chat history from the Messages app of OS X, but at the moment there is no specific option in the preferences of the Mac app, so the above tricks will have to suffice.

Thanks for the tip Kevin!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

23 Comments

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  1. Michael says:

    This, of course, assumes that you can actually get iMessage to work in OS X. So far it only worked for me the first time I used it and even then it didn’t sync with my iPhone.

  2. John says:

    I hope the final version isn’t so buggy, and better yet, I hope it has an option to be silent when a device is active. The worst thing about iMessage for Mac is the constant alerts on all devices, even when they’re charging in another room.

  3. Kr00 says:

    I’m testing Mountain Lion and in the Messages app, when you hover over a conversation with the cursor, a cross appears, allowing you to delete the conversation. Doesn’t this delete the history as well?

    • Kevin says:

      @ Kr00 I don’t think so. I tried that as well for the longest time. It seems that the conversation is closed and deleted. However, when you contact that particular individual again, the conversation history returns. I bet it is a bug.

      On a side note – I also tired to go to “edit” and “clear transcript”. However, I ran into the same results (conversation history returned upon starting a new conversation with the same person).

      I believe this fix is a work-around for the bug.

  4. Marcus says:

    On my Mac, “Messages” also has a folder in Documents that keeps a record of all my chats. It’s unusual, because the folder is named “iChats” inside all my chats are arranged by dates.

  5. Marcus says:

    BTW, thanks for this tip !!!!

  6. Martin says:

    hi! i did the terminal thing, but now everytime i close the messages window, all my messages are deleted.. is there any way to fix this?? i tried uninstalling and reinstalling messages app but that didn’t work

  7. ebling says:

    Easier way to clear your chat history is to go to the iMessage menu > Edit > clear transcript.

    Or left click your avatar icon in the chat box, (make sure you select the avatar/icon and not the message) and you will also get the option to clear transcript.

    Hope this helps

  8. Leigh says:

    Thanks for the tip Marcus, this works for me.

  9. chipchip1971 says:

    Great advice! Worked for me. Love using iMessage on OSX Lion to communicate with my friends on iDevices, including sending and receiving pictures and files.

  10. Jose says:

    This works well, but I also had a subfolder in the ~/Library/Messages folder so I had to modify the command. I also had the ~/Documents/iChats folder which stored a history so I added that as well. My script looks like:

    rm -f -r ~/Library/Messages/*
    rm -f -r ~/Documents/iChats/*

  11. Mona says:

    If you delete an iMessage chat on the IPhone, will automatically delete from all other devices?

  12. Perline says:

    I managed to delete off all the data. u got to delete the history in the ichat folder as well as in the messages folder.

  13. hema says:

    I deleted all the history as well as cleared the conversation on my mac and all other devices yet still every time i open the chat all the messages are still there

  14. Pennyworth says:

    Works fine, thanks a lot!

  15. Calculon says:

    To delete the Messages cache:

    1. Quit Messages application.

    2. On the Desktop, hold option key and in the Go menu you’ll see Library.

    3. Inside the Library, delete the Messages folder.

  16. silent simpleton says:

    there is a much easier way now.

    you just type “ichat” in your finder and it’ll show you every transcription with every phone number. use list view. pick the phone numbers you want to delete and then do secure trash erase.

    this way is better because you can delete selected threads instead of everything.

  17. Josh Pope says:

    I wrote a shell script to remove all iMessage logs for you- it’s super convenient.. Just download and doubleclick: https://github.com/joshpopenyc/Shell-Scripts/

  18. faye says:

    Hey,
    this didn’t work for me. I searched “chat” and then over 900 files with phone numbers came up, I selected and sent all to trash then emptied trash. Once i reopened iMessages, all text boxes to everyone were still there but no content was there, so the actual texts all got deleted. Now i just need to figure out how to delete even the chat boxes.

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