How to Recover Photos from Deleted iPhone Text Messages

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Kelly Heffner Wilkerson

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We have a much newer blog post about finding deleted text message attachments! Check it out here!.

One of the improvements that we're making to Decipher TextMessage is the ability to find attachments, like photos, videos, contacts, and recordings from your deleted text messages. If you're curious to try it out, download our free trial of Decipher TextMessage, send us an email via our contact page, and we'll send you a copy to beta test!

This post is all about how we can recover those deleted photo messages from the iPhone backups -- why aren't the photos totally gone?

In the iOS Messages app, all of your incoming and outgoing texts are stored in a database. Any message attachments, like photos, audio files, or videos are stored in their own file outside of the database. When you delete a message containing an attachment, the row in the database is deleted, and the files associated with that row should be deleted too (assuming no other row is using the file!) However, up until about iOS 7.1, this didn't work so smoothly — for many people, the files for the messages weren't deleted, and are still sitting on the phone. (The jury is still out for iOS 7.1+, but my initial testing shows the files being deleted more reliably as they should be.)

There are two big takeaways from this: