How long are text messages stored?

Text messaging has become one of the most popular forms of communication in recent years. Whether sending a quick note to a friend or having an entire conversation over text, it’s common for text messages to contain personal or private information. This raises the question: how long do text messages stick around? Are old messages stored somewhere forever, or do they eventually get deleted? The answer depends on where the messages are stored. Let’s take a look at how long texts are kept on different devices and messaging services.

Text Message Storage on Phones

When you send or receive a text on your phone, it gets stored in your phone’s internal memory storage or on a removable memory card. Texts will remain there indefinitely unless you actively delete them. The length of time a text is stored locally on your phone depends entirely on your habits managing messages:

  • If you regularly delete old texts, they may only stick around for days or weeks.
  • If you never bother deleting messages, your texts could remain on your phone for years.

Most modern smartphones do not automatically delete or purge old text messages. It’s up to you to delete conversations after a period of time. This prevents a build-up of texts that take up storage capacity on your device. Most phones will let you bulk delete older messages you no longer need.

So in summary, texts stored directly on your phone will stay there until actively removed. They are not automatically deleted over time. The only exception would be if you factory reset your phone – that would wipe all locally stored data including messages.

Text Message Storage in the Cloud

These days many people rely on cloud-based messaging services like iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc. These services store your texts on remote servers rather than locally on your device. So how long are messages kept in the cloud?

Again this depends on the particular messaging app and its policies:


Apple’s iMessage service encrypts and stores your conversations on Apple’s servers. iMessages are retained for up to 30 days as a default, after which they are deleted from Apple’s servers. There is no user-accessible setting to adjust this 30-day retention period. The only way to keep iMessages longer than a month is to regularly back them up to your computer.


WhatsApp also stores your messages on remote servers in an encrypted format. WhatsApp retains texts for up to 30 days after they are sent. The company purges older conversations on a regular basis. You cannot adjust this 30-day window. Backups can preserve WhatsApp messages longer.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger retains your messages on its servers until you decide to delete them. There is no set timeframe where old conversations are automatically deleted. Of course, deleting the Messenger app itself will wipe your locally cached messages. But conversations remain stored on Facebook’s servers unless proactively removed.


Unlike messaging apps, SMS/MMS text messages are not stored long-term by carriers. Most networks only retain SMS for a few days up to a couple weeks. After that they are deleted permanently. Contact your carrier if you need the specific SMS retention policy.

Recovering Deleted Text Messages

So if a messaging app or your phone’s operating system deletes your texts after a certain time period, is there any way to recover them?

Unfortunately, recovering deleted texts is difficult and often impossible. If the messages were stored locally on your device and you recently cleared them, recovery apps may salvage remnants from your phone’s storage. But this is not a surefire solution.

Trying to retrieve deleted messages from cloud services like iMessage is essentially hopeless. These companies encrypt conversations and control the decryption keys. So once a cloud text is deleted from their servers, it is gone for good.

The only way to reliably preserve important text conversations long-term is to back them up regularly to an external storage device or printer. Backups let you retain control rather than relying on messaging apps or mobile OS companies to keep your conversations.

Factors That Determine Text Message Storage

We’ve covered the general retention policies for texts stored on phones versus the cloud. But there are many factors that influence exactly how long your messages stick around:

Type of Messages

We’ve focused on standard text messages so far. But modern messaging can include photos, videos, audio clips, documents and more. Multimedia messages tend to be deleted quicker than plain texts due to their storage footprint.

Location of Storage

As mentioned, local phone storage versus cloud servers have vastly different retention periods. Carrier networks only hold onto texts for days or weeks, while apps store them for months.


Backing up your messages to another device or computer allows you to retain texts as long as you want. Backups are essential if you want permanent message storage.

Deletion Habits

Your personal habits controlling messages heavily influence storage length. Deleting texts frequently ensures short retention times. Never cleaning up old chats keeps messages around indefinitely.

Storage Space

Phones and cloud servers have finite capacities. On local devices, storage space limitations could force earlier deletion of messages. Server space constraints could also impact retention.

Privacy Regulations

Data privacy laws sometimes mandate tech companies can only retain personal data like texts for limited times before deletion. Regional regulations may require shorter message storage.

Company Policies

As we’ve seen, every app and carrier has unique message retention policies. These policies ultimately dictate how long texts stick around by default.

How to Store Texts Longer

If you want to preserve important texts beyond the standard storage times, here are some tips:

  • Back up your phone to your computer regularly to retain local messages.
  • Use a messaging app that lets you set custom retention times.
  • Save key message attachments like photos to cloud storage.
  • Print or screencapture special texts to preserve them.
  • Use an app that lets you export conversations as files.
  • Store texts on a flash drive or external hard drive.
  • Copy texts into a digital journal or diary app.

The key is being proactive about archiving the texts you want to keep. Don’t rely on apps, carriers or devices to store your messages forever.

Ethical Considerations

While you can use the above tricks to retain texts longer, it’s also important to consider ethics. Just because you can store others’ messages indefinitely doesn’t mean you should.

Respect Privacy

If a conversation was intended to be private and temporary, preserving it forever against someone’s wishes raises privacy concerns. Get permission before permanently storing personal texts.

Consider Context

Look at the context of a conversation before deciding to archive it. Was it intimate correspondence that should be kept confidential? Or innocuous messages that don’t matter?

Delete Irrelevant Texts

Don’t save old texts without good reason. If there’s no value to you retaining a conversation long-term, let it auto-delete on schedule.

Comply with Laws

Recording and storing others’ messages may be illegal depending on local regulations. Know the laws in your region before archiving texts.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key points to remember about text message storage:

  • Texts stored locally on phones remain until actively deleted.
  • Cloud messaging services retain texts from days up to 30 days typically.
  • Carriers only store SMS/MMS for very short durations.
  • Backups are the only way to keep messages indefinitely.
  • Recovering deleted texts is difficult or impossible.
  • Ethically consider privacy before storing others’ messages.

So be sure to backup your important texts if you want to preserve that data. Messaging apps and mobile operating systems are focused on security, not long-term archiving. Manage your message storage proactively if you want to retain text history.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about text message storage:

Do deleted texts stay on your phone?

No, when you delete texts on your phone they are permanently erased and cannot be recovered (unless you have a backup). Phones do not have a message “trash” folder.

Where are iPhone messages stored?

iMessages are encrypted and stored in the cloud on Apple’s servers. SMS/MMS texts are stored locally on your iPhone.

How long does Verizon keep text records?

Verizon retains SMS/MMS records for 3-5 days typically. Older messages are purged automatically.

Can police recover deleted texts?

In most cases it is impossible for authorities to recover deleted texts from phones or messaging apps due to encryption.

Can deleted WhatsApp messages be recovered?

No, it is not possible to retrieve deleted WhatsApp messages due to end-to-end encryption. They are gone forever.

How long does iCloud keep deleted texts?

Apple’s iCloud retains texts up to 30 days before permanent deletion. You cannot recover iMessages deleted from iCloud.

Do text messages take up storage space?

Yes, locally stored text messages occupy storage capacity on your phone. Large attachments like photos take up more space.


Text messages may seem ephemeral, but they can stick around for weeks or months on your phone or cloud servers before automatic deletion. If you want to preserve important texts long-term, be sure to back them up. Relying on apps and carriers to retain messages is risky. Be proactive about archiving the conversations you want to keep while respecting others’ privacy. With some effort you can store texts as long as you need.

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