How to Recover Text Messages from a Lost or Stolen iPhone

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Jay Walsh

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Recover text messages from lost or stolen phone.

Access text messages from a missing iPhone or iPad

Help! I lost my iPhone while traveling this week (I think it was stolen) and I want to know if there is a way to recover all my text messages which are really important to me? I made an iTunes backup of the phone before I left town and now I really hope the text messages can be retrieved!
- Victoria Daniels, Austin, Texas.

If your iPhone was recently lost or stolen, many times recovering text messages is still possible if you backed up your iPhone via iTunes sometime in the past! Even if the backup was not recent, all your text messages and iMessages that are stored in any previous backup on your computer can be accessed with the help of Decipher TextMessage.

Decipher TextMessage runs on your Windows or Mac computer and the program will automatically read-in and display all your iTunes backups. The free version will immediately let you see if you have any SMS text messages or iMessages that are accessible from the backups of the iPhone that is no longer in your possession. Whether your phone was stolen, lost, or perhaps even damaged, it will take you only a few minutes to see if you have any previous backups that contain your important text messages!

Download Decipher Text Message

Specific Steps

Follow these steps to recover text messages from a lost phone

  1. Open the Decipher TextMessage installer on your Mac or Windows computer.
  2. Copy the program to your applications folder or desktop for easy access.
  3. Launch the program and you will see a "backups loaded" window which displays all the backups being read into the program. Hopefully one of these will be a previous backup made before your phone was lost or stolen!
  4. Look in the left column of the software and your iPhones / iPads / iPods with backed-up messages will be displayed.
  5. You can now select your lost/stolen iPhone in the main window and you'll then see all the iPhone contacts from the missing phone stored in backups.
  6. Choose a contact and you will be presented with all the text messages and iMessages to and from that phone number.
  7. Select Export as PDF from the menu and you can save the recovered text messages from the backup associated with your lost or stolen iPhone to your computer.

How are text messages displayed after they are recovered from a lost or stolen iPhone?

Any text messages that you've recovered from your lost iPhone backup will be presented in the program just as they appear on the phone itself! They will be displayed in chat-bubble format with any photo or video attachments included.

Screenshot of Decipher TextMessage that shows the view of how to save iPhone text messages from an iTunes backup

If you have previous backups of any missing iPhone on your computer, the backups will be loaded into the program the first when you launch the software. The "Backups Loaded" window will pop up and appear like this screenshot example:

Screenshot of Decipher TextMessage backups loaded window

In additional to loading in all the backups on your computer, you'll be able to see the specific dates of the newest text message and also the oldest text message contained in the backup! This will give you the exact time frame of the text message data stored in your iTunes backup and you can check if it corresponds to the dates for which you are hoping to recover text messages.

What happens if I don't see any older iPhone backups on my computer? Am I out of luck?

If there are no previous backups of your missing iPhone on your current computer, then you can also check any older computers that you might still have in your possession to see if a previous iTunes backup might be stored on an older PC or Mac. Decipher TextMessage can be installed on as many computers as you like.

Another option is to see if you have any older iCloud backups stored on Apple's servers. If you do, the only way to access text messages from an older iCloud backup is to restore your phone with the backup from iCloud. However, keep in mind that this will replace everything on your device with all the data from that iCloud backup.