Where To Find Recently Deleted iPhone Messages In iOS 16



When you delete a message thread in iOS 16 it’s not deleted immediately. Here’s where to find recently deleted iPhone messages.


If you’re an iPhone user, you’re used to a feature in select apps called “Recently Deleted”. Most people are probably most familiar with the “Recently Deleted” feature in the Photos app. In that app, when you delete a photo from your library, it’s not actually deleted right away.

Instead, that photo is moved to a “Recently Deleted” album, where it stays for 30 days before finally being merged from your photo library. At any time during those 30 days, a user can see the photo and restore it to their library (essentially, undulating it).

In iOS 16 Apple has brought the “Recently Deleted” feature to the Messages app. However, it’s a little trickier to find that it is in the Photos app. Here’s what you need to know…

Where To Find Recently Deleted iPhone Messages In iOS 16
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iOS 16 Messages – Where Do They Go When Deleted?

There are two ways you can delete messages in iOS 16. First, you can delete just a single message (chat bubble) inside any chat. This deletes the message for you only (it will still appear in the message thread of the person you are conversing with. (However, iOS 16 now has a feature that allows you to unsend a message within a certain time limit too).

But the other way you can delete messages in iOS 16 is by deleting entire threads at a time.

A message thread just refers to the conversation with any one person you are having. That conversation contains all your messages to them as well as any sent media or links.

It’s easy to delete a message thread in iOS 16. Just swipe left on any message thread (conversation) and tap the big red button with the trash can icon on it, then tap the Delete button that appears.

Prior to iOS 16, this would delete the entire message thread immediately. But in iOS 16, now the “deleted” message thread is moved to a “Recently Deleted” folder, where it remains for 30 days. 

And while iOS 16 will alert a user to this change when they first delete a thread after installing iOS 16, the operating system doesn’t tell you where to find it.

Where Are Deleted iPhone Messages Moved To?

When you delete an iPhone message thread in iOs 16 (see the steps to do so above) it is moved to a new “Recently Deleted” folder in the Messages app. Here’s how to find that folder:

  1. Open the Messages app.
  2. Tap the Edit button.
  3. In the pop-up menu that appears, tap “Show Recently Deleted”.

The recently deleted screen will slide up and you can see all the message thread awaiting deletion. You’ll see a day countdown next to the thread that tells you how long you have until the thread is permanently deleted.

Until then, you have a few options:

  • Tap the thread to select it and then tap the Recover button to return the thread to the main messages screen. This cancels the thread’s deletion.
  • Tap the thread to select it and then tap the Delete button. Now tap the Delete Message button that appears. This will delete the selected thread immediately.

Keep in mind once you permanently delete a message in this manner, there is no way to recover it. However, a copy of the messages will remain on the phone of the user you were talking to unless they also delete the messages themselves.

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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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