How to Fix iMessage Not Syncing Between a Mac & iPhone/iPad

Aug 9, 2012 - 34 Comments

Use an Apple ID for iMessage syncing between iOS Devices and Mac OS X

As you probably noticed when configuring iMessage on a Mac, you use an Apple ID during the set up process. This allows iMessage to sync all messages between any Macs and any iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad you may have using that same Apple ID. But this doesn’t always work as intended, and sometimes messages sent to the iPhone won’t reach the Mac, and sometimes messages sent to the Mac won’t reach the iPhone, and a myriad of other similar situations. If you find Messages to not be syncing properly between iOS and OS X, the fix is straight forward:

From the iOS Device(s):

  • Open “Settings” on the iOS device and tap on “Messages”
  • Scroll down and tap on “Receive At” which is usually followed by a phone number or email address
  • Tap the “Use your Apple ID for iMessage” button at the top and sign in

Exit out of Settings and return to the Mac briefly.

From the Mac(s):

  • Double-check the Apple ID used in Messages for Mac is the same as the iMessage setup in iOS

This problem seems to mostly effect users who set up iMessage on the iOS device a while back but based the delivery and caller ID on their phone number and not their Apple ID. Because Messages for Mac uses an Apple ID and not a phone number, the messages won’t sync. Simple cause, simple solution.

Similarly, if you discover that iMessages aren’t syncing between multiple iOS devices, be sure to use your email address and Apple ID as caller ID and all should be working as intended.

Things still aren’t working? Try this:

Confirm Your Apple ID Mobile Phone Number
Another possible solution is to confirm your mobile phone number with your Apple ID. This has been reported to be a fix for some users who have persistent issues after the above sequences turn up blank.

  • Go to https://appleid.apple.com and log in with your Apple ID
  • Under “Phone Numbers” make sure you have the proper cell phone set under “Mobile Phone”, if not enter it and choose “Save Changes”

Fix iMessage syncing with iPhones

Try sending a new iMessage, it should now sync flawlessly between all iOS devices, whether it’s sent to or from an iPhone, Mac, iPad. Thanks to Taylor for leaving this last tip in our comments, it does seem to resolve some stubborn problems so give it a try!

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

34 Comments

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  1. Jared says:

    This is why Apple announcement at WWDC that iOS6 will allow you to sync iMessages from your phone number AS WELL AS your Apple ID will be one of the best features of the new OS.

    • Ben says:

      Yup, but you’d think with Mountain Lion already out there in peoples hands they would have updated iOS to 5.2 or something to fix this because it causes so many problems it’s hard to understate.

      No brainer of a solution but I’m guessing less than 5% of people who complaint about iMessage implemented it!

  2. Eduardo says:

    How can you add another apple id to iMessage?.

    If you go to Preferences > Accounts and click the Plus sign it only gives you the option to add Google, Yahoo, AIM, etc but not another Apple ID.

    I also tried adding it in SysPrefs > Mail Contacts & Calendars, and while I was able to add it, it doesn’t get added to Messages and what’s worse, I can’t delete the Apple ID that’s already in Messages… WTF?

  3. Chris E says:

    I wondered about this, but then assumed if I set my iPhone to receive messages at my Apple ID, then text messages sent to my *phone number* from another iPhone would not be received.

    Right / wrong?

    • Jim M says:

      Correct, I just tried it and the meeasge never went through. I changed the setting back to my phone number and tried agin, it worked.

  4. Mrman says:

    I tried this on mine, but still no luck.

    Doesn’t sync.

    I think it is just broken!

  5. Cliff says:

    What you have suggested will work but it doesn’t change the fact that messages sent to your phone number will not show up on the Mac. Getting all of your contacts to switch to your email address is an issue. Hopefully when ios6 is out this will be addressed.

    • Jeff says:

      True. But once you’ve changed the caller ID for Messages on your phone to your AppleID, any messages you send to contacts will have your new (syncable) contact info, so the folks with whom you regularly chat will pick it up quickly.

  6. Scott says:

    FYI, it’s fixed in iOS 6. It’s pretty cool to have messages show up within seconds of each other on my MacBook Pro (10.8), MacBook Air (10.8), iPad (iOS 6) and iPhone (iOS 6). What’s more useful is the fact that all your conversations show up on all your devices. No more going from device to device to find that bit of information that was texted to you.

  7. This syncing is very cool…. Like it has been mentioned when the messages sent to your phone thing gets fixed it will be even better.

    One issue I have found though is that I would rather messages on my Mac did not automatically pop open and show all my messages! I don’t mind the notification center flashing the notification for a moment. But the app automatically opening and then just sitting there showing all my messages is not cool! I’m a teacher and if I leave my computer on during class because it is hooked up to a projector…. The kids don’t need to see my personal messages on the big screen!

    Anyone know how to stop messages on the Mac to stop automatically opening? I want to be able to open when I need it and see messages synced though.

    • Mrman says:

      Try going into notification centre in system prefs,
      Maybe you can turn off messages there?
      Of choose what happens when you get one.

  8. shannon says:

    I don’t have the “Use your Apple ID for iMessage” button at the top of that screen. What to do? Phone software up to date.

  9. Tinmania says:

    One issue with this is SMS fallback. If someone sends to your Apple ID then your iPhone it cannot revert to a regular text. Ditto when sending from the iPhone to an iTunes ID. In my case iMessage reverts to SMS on a fairly regular basis.

    Apple really needs to let us use phone number on Macs and iPads. Better yet, have a much more reliable fallback to email. Right now I have occasionally seen iMessage use email but it’s not consistent and can’t be forced.

  10. Mrman says:

    I agree with the phone number thing.
    The phone number should act as a portal for data across all devices via iCloud. Meaning you can i message and SMS on any apple device, and take calls on any device providing you have an apple phone.
    I message is a step In the right direction, but it’s incomplete.

  11. Nicko says:

    Mine syncs from iPhone to MBP, but not the other way around. Any thoughts?

  12. Jonathan says:

    I have updated to the latest upgrades.. 5.1.1 on iOS and Version 10.8 OS X on my Macbook Pro

    I still do not have my Messages synced with my Mac and iPhone 4 (iOS 5.1.1)!!!
    I don’t have the “Use your Apple ID for iMessage” button available to use when I access my > Message Settings.

    On my iOS: I’ve got my iMessages (ON) set to “Recceive At” 2 Addresses 1) phone number and 2) my email (which is the same as my Apple ID email.)
    On my OS: I’ve got my Apple ID set up for the Messages App (same as iOS)

    Is iOS 6 the only solution?

    • Travis says:

      I have the same exact issue as Jonathan (thanks for typing it all out so I didn’t have to) I suppose we just wait for IOS6? I’d rather have no option to sync messages until it works 100% correctly. More of a headache and a tease if you ask me.

      • Jeff says:

        this is because you’ve already connected to your Apple ID. If it’s still not syncing, change your caller ID from your phone# to your Apple ID. Going forward, When you send messages they will come from your Apple ID, and responses will sync to all your devices. When you send messages from your phone# they only go to your phone. You can test this by sending a message to your Apple ID. You’ll know you’re in sync if you get echos on both devices. If only your phone gets the echo, your caller ID is set incorrectly.

  13. Jonathan says:

    haha good point Travis

  14. Till says:

    i’ve been on the phone with Apple about this for weeks, and frankly, i think even they don’t know what causes the unreliable behavior with iMessages…when it works, it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, in my eyes, and makes me miss the excellent Blackberry messaging system a little less, but when it is unreliable, it makes it all seem entirely mute…because being able to *depend* on a messaging system, is what makes or breaks it for me, since i use it for business as much as for pleasure.

  15. Nick says:

    I could not get all mine to sync either – and I only have the one mac id and it was driving me a little crazy.

    The I realised that everyone has 2 apple ID’s one is @mac.com and one is at @me.com . I changed all my devices to @me.com and it started working fine.

    And I added several other email addresses as well and it is still staying in sync.

  16. olen says:

    Fine, but when I switch my caller ID to an email address, a person doesn’t have my phone number when I text them and they have iMessage. For example, I met a hot stud at the gym, we went for a HOT coffee, then afterwards, he gave me his iPhone number, and I texted him hello, both of us thinking he would then have my iPhone number. But he didn’t. he had my email address and couldn’t call. bumps in the road of my Game are not cool Apple, not cool.

    • Andy says:

      Valid Point mate.
      I find it strange that i can send a test message to my apple ip off my phone and yes i do receive it on my macbook. but the other way around it doesn’t want to work. Updates still need to be required for iMessage. It is in the right direction, just needs the phone number to be the main portal of contact instead of email. Number will always dominate the email.

  17. Ed says:

    I can sync in terms of sending and receiving messages but if I delete on iPhone, it remains on iPad unless and until I also delete it from iPad.

    Can this be fixed?

  18. Taylor Skoda says:

    ~!!!I did it and have a fix!!! It’s extremely simple; My iPhone would NOT sync iMessage intuitively with my Mac. It’s now working perfectly. _ALL YOU HAVE TO DO_

    Go to https://appleid.apple.com and make sure under phone numbers (Column on left side) you have your cell phone number filled out for all of the columns! Nothing will change other than the fact that iMessage will sync all messages from iPhone, under regular apple ID.

    Let me know if this works for you, or you need more assistance.. My e-mail is listed above.
    Best of luck,
    Taylor Skoda~

  19. Carol says:

    I’ve made the changes to show mobile number on my Apple ID account, also checked that I’m using my appleID to receive imessages on both iphone and ipad but a test message sent from my phone still isn’t showing up on my ipad. Both are running the same OS, have the same message settings. It works the other way so when sent from ipad message appears on iphone – have I missed something?

    Thanks

  20. Elvis Lives says:

    Re. Taylor Skoda’s comment… he put me on track with it, thanks! I actually had the correct number in my cell phone number field in the AppleID information, but I also had that cell number in the home and evening fields. I deleted the home and evening fields and hit save. Right away I got an email from Apple confirming changes to my account, and right after that syncing started to work again (sending an iMessage from my Mac resulted in that sent message appearing in the messages stream on my iPhone 4s). Great news! Thanks Taylor!

  21. Brian says:

    Just something to point out, I was having issues getting my iPhone 5 to sync messages with my MBP even though all my iCloud info on both devices were the same. What seemed to help was rebooting my phone. A simple little thing that sometimes gets overlooked

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