How to Save iPhone Text Messages and iMessages

Aug 29, 2018 - 17 Comments

How to save iPhone messages and text messages

Do you want to save an iPhone text message? Maybe you want to document and preserve a message sent to your iPhone for some purpose? Whatever the reason, you can save iPhone messages, text messages / SMS, iMessages, media messages including pictures and videos, or anything else sent through the Messages app on the iPhone.

This article will show you several methods of saving iPhone messages and text messages, one approach will cover saving messages directly on the iPhone itself, and another method will use a computer and third party software to read and save iPhone messages to export them as PDF, TXT, or a spreadsheet file.

First, understand that there is no official method of exporting or saving an iPhone text message, an iPhone message conversation, or anything of that sort. There is not currently a method on the iPhone to simply print out all iPhone messages received from a person or within a Messages app conversation. It’s possible down the road that will exist, but currently iOS does not offer a “Save Messages” or “Export Messages” or “Print Messages” type of feature. Thus, we will use the options detailed below to save iPhone messages.

How to Save iPhone Messages Directly in iOS

This particular method of saving iPhone Messages is achievable entirely on the iPhone itself. It is a bit tedious, but it is also perhaps the most official method of saving and capturing iPhone messages in a format that can be easily saved and shared. Essentially you will be browsing through the messages you want to save, and then relying on screenshots to preserve and document those messages exactly as they appear on screen. Here are the steps necessary for this iOS message saving process:

  1. Open the “Messages” app on the iPhone
  2. iOS Messages app icon

  3. Open the Message conversation or the text message that you wish to save so that it is active on screen, briefly pull down if you want to reveal a full screen of messages and hide the keyboard
  4. How to save iPhone messages with screenshots

  5. Screen shot the iPhone message screen by doing the following:
  6. Repeat with additional messages to save, or continue scrolling to continue documenting and saving messages from the same message thread on the iPhone
  7. When finished snapping captures of the messages, return to the Home Screen of the iPhone and then open the “Photos” app and go to “Camera Roll” (or Screenshots album)
  8. How to savfe iPhone text messages

  9. Find the saved messages screenshots at the bottom of the recent Camera Roll picture, select them and then tap on the Sharing button (it looks like a box with an arrow flying out of the top) to share the messages, save the images to iCloud, email, send it elsewhere as a message, etc
  10. How to savfe iPhone text messages

If you’re saving a lot of messages this way it will take a while, so have some patience and get in a good routine of pressing those screen shot buttons to snap and save each screenful of messages on the iPhone.

This approach may be tedious, as we already mentioned, but it’s also likely to be the only method of saving iPhone messages that is considered reliable or official in any capacity, perhaps enough to use in an official basis as documentation or evidence or something of that nature, at least that doesn’t involve subpoenaing the original message data from a cellular phone company or Apple directly (which is certainly possible too if something was serious enough to warrant that approach).

How to Save iPhone Text Messages on Mac or Windows with iExplorer

This next approach allows you to easily read, save, access, and export all iPhone messages either from an iPhone itself, or from an iPhone backup, and it works the same on both a Mac or Windows PC. This will use a third party tool called iExplorer, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Download the iExplorer app from here (you can download the free download demo version to try it out)
  2. Launch iExplorer on the computer then choose “Continue with Demo” *
  3. How to savfe iPhone text messages with iExplorer

  4. Next, either connect the iPhone to the computer with USB, or if you’re going to read messages from an iPhone backup on the computer choose “Browse iTunes Backups”
  5. How to save iPhone messages with iExplorer

  6. Choose “Messages” from the onscreen menu for the iPhone / backup
  7. How to save iPhone Messages to a computer with iExplorer

  8. Optionally, if the iPhone backup is encrypted (and it’s a good idea to always enable iTunes backup encryption) then click on “Decrypt Backup” and enter the iTunes backup password to decrypt the backup and access the messages
  9. How to save encrypted iPhone Messages data with iExplorer

  10. Browse through the iPhone messages shown on screen, you’ll have access to all iPhone text messages, iMessages, picture messages, video messages, and other media shared through the Messages app on iOS
  11. Saving iPhone text messages and browsing them in iExplroer

  12. To save a particular message thread, select it and then choose “Export Conversation” and then choose the output file type to save the iPhone message thread as PDF, TXT, or CVS file
  13. Saving iPhone messages as a PDF file from iExplorer

* The demo version will work on both Mac and Windows PC to test and confirm that you are able to access and read the iPhone text messages and other message data with the iExplorer app. Optionally, you can pay to have the full version of iExplorer to gain full access to all features and iPhone message saving and export capabilities, including the ability to easily save all iMessages and save all iPhone message media like pictures and videos. For our purposes here we will simply use the free demo version, which lets you read the iPhone messages on a computer either by connecting the iPhone to the computer through USB or by reading the iPhone backup file on the computer.

Other methods of saving iPhone messages and iPhone text messages

There are certainly other approaches to save iPhone messages, and other apps that allow you to read and save iPhone messages on a computer or elsewhere.

For example, other options that are possible to save and export iPhone Messages include:

  • Copy and paste messages into a new Notes file to save iPhone messages into the Notes app
  • Copy and pasting iPhone messages to save into a Pages or Numbers document on the iPhone
  • Forward the iPhone message and text messages to another iPhone (or another cell phone in general), though this won’t include the original senders contact info and it makes it appear as if the forwarder sent the forwarded message instead
  • Using a Mac or PC to read the iPhone SMS backup SQL file directly on a computer (note the backup must be unencrypted
  • Using other paid third party apps to read, save, and export the iPhone text messages like DecipherTools
  • Use a Mac with iMessage configured using the same Apple ID as the iPhone to access and save iPhone messages from a computer

Did the above tricks work for you to save iPhone text messages or save iPhone messages? Do you have another method that works better that is not discussed here? Share with us in the comments below how you save and export iPhone messages and conversations, whether they’re iMessages, text message SMS, or picture and video messages.


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


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  1. Manuela says:

    Not the Onion

    “How to Save iPhone Messages Directly in iOS”

    Screenshot SINGLE messages!

    FU Apple

  2. liz says:

    Unfortunately I can’t get “remind me of this” to work with Messages. It never knows the text I am on, or the person or anything. I have never seen it work….thus I have created a workflow button to remind me of texts. I copy the text and then go to workflow and press my button and it copies it to reminders for me. It’s a touch faster than going to reminders myself. I get a lot of orders and “to dos” from clients in texts now days and its a serious problem for me to remember to do them. Because you can’t reset a text as “unread” like you can an email, I stress making the decision to read the text and then…aaaaahhhhh, there’s a “to do” in there and I can’t do it right this very second…how to remember? ARGH!!! So the workflow button was the best I could do for now. It’s for sure a bandaide as it doesn’t have the person’s name or anything but usually it’s enough for me to remember “oh yes, suzy q wants xyz” when I review my reminder’s list later in the day.

    Totally open to other ideas!!!! It’s why I read this post in the first place — hoping for workarounds…

  3. paul kesse says:

    great tip

    does anyone know how to create a reminder from an email and message??

  4. Howie Isaacks says:

    Why not just find the message thread in the Messages app on Mac, and just print it to PDF? I have a long message thread between myself and a good friend that I wanted to keep, so I scrolled up all the way to the beginning of the conversation, and printed it to PDF. It’s over 200 pages long, and it saved every message. I have an app called Phone View that does this too. Since iMessage is now (finally) synced through iCloud, I can do this with any message thread if I want to make sure it gets saved.

    • Louie says:

      That’s a good idea if you have a Mac, but not everyone who has an iPhone or iPad has a Mac too.

    • chrissie says:

      Howie, hi. I have a long text thread I want to save to pdf. I have an iphone and Mac. I can’t find Photo View app though. Is this still a thing?

      • Jamie says:

        you can print a PDF of an imessage by just clicking on the message and going to “file/print – ” then print to PDF instead of to a printer. The PDF will start printing at wherever you are in the message screen to the end. So if you want to print months or even years of imessages you can, but you’ll need to scroll to the message or date you want to start printing from. That can take a while. This technique preserves the imessage format and puts thumbnail images of any attachments.

  5. Richard says:

    I have the ultimate way to save messages and more. There is an inexpensive software called PhoneView. Install it as an application and it automatically and easily saves your iMessages and more when you connect your iPhone to your computer. Note: I have no connection with PhoneView software other than being an owner and user.

  6. Charlotte says:

    I did figure this out for myself to make the screenshots. I then edit them to take out any part that is not needed. I then open Google drive, next: choose new, doc. I paste the screenshots in that new doc. Save it with a name, and file it. You can also make notes in that same doc for the screenshots come in as pictures,. You can make them larger or smaller. From there it can be printed and saved as a PDF, and stored in files in Google or on your computer in the document file. They can be attached as any file and emailed to another person.
    I am a Real Estate agent. It is very important to have copies of important conversations to track a transaction.

  7. Michael says:

    You left out the easiest method: select the desired text, copy it, and paste it into a text file. Repeat as many messages as you want. On a Mac, this is easy and fast. On the iPhone, it’s a little clumsier pasting into an App like Notes first (and then copying from Notes to a plain text editor).

    • Louie says:

      They are talking about saving while preserving the format of the conversation. If you want to copy and paste, you can only copy the actual text of the messages, but not any information about who sent each and how many people were in the chat. That means you will later have to reconstruct the thread before you save.

    • Cat says:

      You left out reading the article: copy and paste to save messages is directly mentioned.

      But the problem with copy and paste of messages is that it does not include the sender or the recipient. It’s just a bunch of text with no context.

      Screenshots are the only way to truly preserve iMessages in any meaningful way, as goofy as that is.

      • Louie says:

        They did, however, forget to mention that exporting messages to PDF does NOT require any third party software on a Mac. It is possible to do that right from the macOS messages app by going to file>print and then using the save as pdf option that can be found within the print dialog.

  8. pauljg says:

    1. Screen shot with one tap by activating “assistive touch” (3 taps of the home button)
    2. upload photo to free OCR tool on the web. Convert to PDF or Doc(x).

  9. G. Womm says:

    I have noticed that screen shots of iPhone text messages are becoming a very common thing you see in news stories, so I am thinking the screenshot method is the best way to ‘save’ an iPhone message this way.

    It would be nice if you could export them all as a PDF or something!

    BTW does anyone call iPhone messages as simply messages, iMessages, or text messages? I never know what to call them, I call them text messages still, but iMessage is theprotocol.

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