iOS 16 Recently Deleted messages: Our complete step-by-step guide

With the number of messaging apps that you regularly use, texts you receive on the native Messages app on the iPhone may typically go unnoticed. If you’re like us, you may often find it difficult to search for something important among the sea of irrelevant messages you get daily. While you were able to remove these messages from your iPhone in the past, sometimes you could also end up accidentally deleting a text that was of significance. 

To prevent this from happening, Apple now allows iPhone users to keep deleted messages in the Recently Deleted section which can be accessed at a later time if the user needs them. In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Recently Deleted messages on iOS 16 and how you may use it on your iPhone. 

Related: How to schedule a text message on iOS 16

What are ‘Recently Deleted’ messages on iOS 16?

Recently Deleted is a new section inside the Messages app on iOS 16 which lets you view any messages you deleted from your iPhone in the last month. Any messages you delete from your iMessage account will show up inside this section and this includes text messages, pictures, voice messages, or files shared by you or others. Messages inside the Recently Deleted section would include both single messages you removed from a conversation as well as entire conversations. 

Before this, when you deleted a message on iOS 15, the message would instantly be removed from your iPhone and wouldn’t be readily recoverable. Instead, the only way to recover deleted messages on iOS 15 was to restore your iPhone to an older backup that had saved the message you want to recover. 

With iOS 16, you can easily access the messages you delete and even recover them for a limited time before they’re permanently deleted from your iPhone. 

Related: How to Edit a Message on iPhone in 2022

How to move messages on your iPhone to Recently Deleted

Messages can be moved to Recently Deleted when you delete them from the Messages app on your iPhone.  To move messages to Recently Deleted, open the Messages app on your iPhone. 

Note: This will only be possible if your iPhone runs on iOS 16 or later. If you’re running on an older version of iOS, the messages you delete wouldn’t be accessible unless you restore your iPhone to an older backup. 

Delete an entire message thread

Inside Messages, locate the thread you want to remove a message from. If you wish to move an entire message thread, tap and hold on the preferred thread.

In the overflow menu that appears, select Delete.

In the prompt that appears at the bottom, tap on Delete to confirm your action. 

Delete a single message from a thread

If you wish to delete a single message from a thread, open the thread by tapping on it.

When the conversation loads up on the screen, tap and hold the single message you wanted to move to the Recently Deleted section.

In the overflow menu that appears, select More

The selected message will now be highlighted with a blue tick icon on the left-hand side. From this screen, you can select more messages from the thread you wish to move to the Recently Deleted section. Once you’ve selected the messages you want to move, tap on the trash icon at the bottom left corner.

In the prompt that appears at the bottom, tap on Delete Messages.

The selected messages will now be sent to the Recently Deleted section inside the Messages app. 

Related: How to Unsend a Message on iOS 16

Delete multiple message threads

If you have a bunch of conversations you want to move to the Recently Deleted section, you don’t need to long-press and manually delete these messages one by one. You can move entire message threads to the Recently Deleted section by first selecting them and then deleting them. To do that, tap on the 3-dots icon at the top right corner of the Messages app. 

In the overflow menu that appears, tap on Select Messages

You will now be able to select multiple messages that you want to move to Recently Deleted. To make your selection, simply tap on the desired messages and you will see blue tick icons appear on the left-hand side. 

Once you’ve selected the messages, tap on Delete at the bottom right corner. 

In the prompt that appears at the bottom, tap on Delete

The selected message threads will now be sent to the Recently Deleted section.

Related: Does Deleting a Message on iMessage Unsend It?

What happens when you move messages to Recently Deleted?

When you delete a message on iOS 16, the selected message or thread will instantly move to the Recently Deleted folder inside the Messages app. iOS stores all of your recent messages inside this section for up to 30 days from the time you deleted a message.

During this time, you can access any of the messages you sent to Recently Deleted, bring them back to your conversations, or delete them manually from there to permanently erase any trace of these messages. 

Once a message is older than 30 days, iOS will remove it from the Recently Deleted folder and delete it forever. Apple mentions that it may take up to 40 days on some occasions for the messages to get deleted. 

How long can you view a message inside Recently Deleted?

As mentioned above, messages and conversations you move to the Recently Deleted folder will be accessible inside the Messages app for up to 30 days from the date you deleted a message from the Messages screen. After this time expires, the Messages app will permanently delete the expired messages from your account and you won’t be able to view them or recover them from any device. 

If a message you moved to the Recently Deleted folder is nearing its expiration date, you can move it back to the main messages screen and then delete it again to renew its expiration date to another 30 days. 

Related: How to Share Focus Status with Everyone on iPhone

How to find Recently Deleted Messages on your iPhone

The messages you deleted from the Messages app won’t appear alongside your active conversations on the app. Instead, they will be accessible inside a separate Recently Deleted folder that can be accessed within the Messages app. To find your recently deleted messages, open the Messages app on your iPhone. 

Inside Messages, tap on Filters at the top left corner. 

On the next screen, you’ll see all the different filters that your texts are categorized into. From here, tap on Recently Deleted at the bottom. 

In the Recently Deleted screen that appears, you’ll see a list of messages you deleted in the last 30 days.

You won’t be able to open a conversation or a message directly from this screen. If you wish to open a deleted message, you will need to recover them back to your conversations. 

How to recover or delete Recently Deleted Messages from your iPhone 

iOS 16 allows you to recover any text or conversation you deleted in the last 30 days from the Recently Deleted section or you can choose to delete them permanently from your iPhone if you no longer wish to keep them. 

Recover messages from Recently Deleted

To view a message you sent to the Recently Deleted folder, you will need to recover it first. For that, access the Recently Deleted section by opening the Messages app and going to Filters > Recently Deleted

In the Recently Deleted screen, you’ll see a list of messages that you deleted within the last 30 days. If you wish to recover a message from this screen and send them back to your active conversations, select the message from this list. You can select multiple messages from this list and when you make your section, you will see a blue tick icon appear on the left-hand side of the selected messages. 

Once you’ve made your selection, tap on Recover at the bottom right corner. 

To confirm this action, select Recover Messages in the prompt that appears at the bottom. 

The selected messages will now move back to the main conversations screen inside the Messages app. 

You can also recover all the messages from the Recently Deleted screen and move them back to your conversations by tapping on Recover All at the bottom right corner. 

To confirm this action, select Recover Messages in the prompt that appears at the bottom. 

This will recover all of your recently deleted messages and move them back to the messages screen; thus emptying the Recently Deleted section. 

Delete messages from Recently Deleted 

If you no longer wish to keep the messages sent to the Recently Deleted section, you can remove them permanently from your iPhone. To delete messages from the Recently Deleted section, you need to first get to this section by going to Messages > Filters > Recently Deleted

Inside the Recently Deleted screen, you’ll see a list of messages that you deleted within the last 30 days. To delete one of the messages from this section, select a message you want to remove and a blue tick icon will appear on its left-hand side. You can select as many messages as you want to delete to remove them in bulk. 

Once you’ve made your selection, tap on Delete at the bottom left corner. 

You will see a prompt at the bottom asking you to confirm your action. In this prompt, select Delete Messages

When you do that, the selected messages will be deleted from all your Apple device and will not be recoverable at any point in the future. 

You can also delete all of the messages you moved to the Recently Deleted section by tapping on Delete All at the bottom left corner. 

In the familiar prompt that shows up, tap on Delete Messages to confirm your action. 

Since the Recently Deleted section has been emptied, you will be taken back to the list of filters where you will no longer see a Recently Deleted folder on the screen. 

I cannot see messages I moved to Recently Deleted. Why?

The Recently Deleted screen will show all the messages you deleted from your iPhone as well as the ones you removed from other Apple devices. The feature requires you to run on iOS 16 or later; meaning this section won’t be accessible on devices running on iOS 15 or earlier. If you wish to move your messages to the Recently Deleted section, you thus need to make sure you’re deleting them from an iPhone on iOS 16.

In case you cannot see the messages you deleted inside the Recently Deleted section, it could be because:

  • The message you’re looking for has already reached its expiration date (i.e. 30 days) and iOS has automatically removed it permanently from your iPhone.
  • You had manually recovered the message that you deleted before which means this message will be accessible inside the main Messages screen alongside your active conversations.
  • You have already deleted the message (intentionally or by mistake) from the Recently Deleted section at which point there’s no way you can recover it back.
  • Messages you deleted before updating to iOS 16 won’t show up inside the Recently Deleted folder as they may have been removed permanently from your iPhone. 

If you’re unable to access messages you recently deleted:

  • You need to look for them inside the Recently Deleted section as instructed earlier in this post.
  • The Recently Deleted screen is unavailable because your iPhone is running on iOS 15 or an older version. 

That’s all you need to know about Recently Deleted Messages on iOS 16. 

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Ajaay

Ambivalent, unprecedented, and on the run from everyone's idea of reality. A consonance of love for filter coffee, cold weather, Arsenal, AC/DC, and Sinatra.

4 Comments

  1. How do you delete the entire “recently deleted” feature. I don’t want to go through this additional step.

  2. I would like to remove the recently deleted text messages feature. I don’t like to have to delete twice, it’s very annoying.

    1. I’ll be waiting for someone to find out how. I hate deleting twice as well…

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