How to Retrieve Deleted Text Messages on Android Phones

If you act quickly, you may be able to save that important message you tossed in the virtual trash.

Accidents happen

In a moment of panic, you realize you’ve done the unthinkable. You’ve deleted all the text messages on your phone. Or at least, the ones you cared the most about. Some texts should be deleted immediately. But these weren’t those. So what do you do? How do you fix this? And is your Android even capable of helping you to retrieve them? Read on to find out.

Act fast

“If you’ve accidentally deleted text messages by mistake, fret not!” says Kenny Trinh, managing editor of Netbooknews. “You can get lost SMS (short message service) back with a 99 percent chance of success, but there’s one ingredient that is most important: time!” If you’ve deleted text messages on your Android, Trinh says you have to act quickly to retrieve them. “The messages are only recoverable until the portion of memory on which they are saved is rewritten. So the longer you wait, the higher the likelihood of getting new text messages, app updates, or who-knows-what saved to the same location, obliterating them forever.” Find out 11 things highly organized people do on their smartphones.

Stop texting

It’s important to stop sending text messages as soon as you realize you’ve deleted some from your Android phone—at least if you have any hope at all of recovering those messages, says Ada Scott, who works for EaseUS Software, a company that offers data recovery software for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. “When the messages are deleted, they are not really erased at once, but the space where they are stored is marked as free to restore new data,” Scott explains. “Messages can be recovered as long as they are not overwritten.” Note that receiving new messages may also force the deletion of the text messages you’re trying to save, so turn your phone on Airplane mode immediately after you realized that important messages were deleted. Find out the hidden smartphone codes you should be using.

Start simple

“Like every tech-related thing, it sometimes can be a little difficult to restore all of the data deleted due to the fact that data can be permanently erased,” Jennifer Willy, editor at Etia.com. That’s why she suggests starting with the lowest effort method possible: Reaching out to the person whose text messages you lost to see if they can re-send them to you. Of course, this only works if you’ve just lost one or two text chains—and if you’re not embarrassed to admit you have a reason for wanting to hold on to those texts, or worse, you did one of the things you should never do over text.

Google backup

android google backupvia AndroidIf your friend can’t help out or if you don’t want to ask, there are a few other options for retrieving deleted text messages. “If you followed all the steps when you set up your Android device, chances are you configured it to back up to Google Drive,” says Phil Strazzulla, CEO and founder of Select Software Reviews. “If you did, all you need to do is restore your text messages from the backup.” Of course, this will only work if you have set up regular backups—a backup from two years ago probably won’t help you much here. But if you’re backing up every week, or more (as you should be,) you could be in luck! While you’re at it, this is how often you need to back up your computer.

Data recovery software

If you don’t have a backup, your next step is to give data recovery a try. “There are a couple of different data recovery tools to help you through this part of the process,” Trinh says.
When retrieving deleted text messages from an Android he says the steps may be slightly different based on which product you use, but the general steps (and those required for using EaseUS recovery software) are as follows:

  1. Download and install the program (One option is EaseUS Free Android Data Recovery Software.
  2. Launch the program on your computer.
  3. Enable USB Debugging on your Android. To do this, you need to have access to the “Developer Options” in your main “Settings” menu. If you don’t, just go to “About Phone,” scroll down to “Build Number” and start tapping repeatedly. You’ll now get access to “Developer Options” in the main “Settings” menu (just above “About Phone”). Go into “Developer Options”, scroll down to “USB Debugging” (or “Android Debugging,” depending on your ROM), and check the box.
  4. Connect your Android to your computer (with the recovery program installed and program running) with a USB cable.
  5. Scan the Android device to find deleted text messages. In this step, EaseUS MobiSaver for Android can connect and scan your device to find and analyzed all the data. After scanning, the software can classify the found data into different categories, for example, Contacts or Messaging.
  6. Preview and export the deleted text messages. You can click “Messaging” to preview its detailed contents on the right. Then select the messages you want to retrieve and click the “Recover” button to get them back. Here the software will prompt you to specify a folder to save the recovered files on your computer.

Try the free version, first

You may get lucky and retrieve what you need with the small amount of free recovery provided. If not, you’ll have to purchase the full software program. It’s always worth a try, Scott says, as you may potentially save money. But Scott reminds users it’s incredibly important to avoid installing the app or software on the same storage disk where your lost files were stored previously. “There’s a risk that the lost data will be overwritten by the installation, then nothing can be saved back.” Also, you will want to read about these 16 hidden android features you never knew about.

Programs to help

In addition to EaseUS, Sarah, Petrova, software engineer at Intel and co-founder of Techtestreport suggests trying:

“Which of the three programs you use is up to you,” Petrova says. “Unfortunately, the trial version of all three only shows you which data (including SMS & Whatsapp messages) can be recovered, but for the actual recovery, you need the full version.” Of course, those full versions do cost money. Find out 13 Android hacks you never knew about.

Don’t let it happen again

“To avoid making a habit of restoring, I recommend that you regularly backups your SMS messages,” Petrova says. “The easiest way to do this is with the free Android app G Cloud Backup. This app has a regular automatic backup that does the manual work for you, so you only need to open it yourself when you want to access an older version of your stored text messages. Next, read how to retrieve deleted text messages on an iPhone.

Leah Campbell
Leah Campbell covers technology for Reader’s Digest as well as sites including Reviewed.com. She has a degree in developmental psychology and has written extensively on topics relating to infertility, dating, adoption and parenting. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book Single Infertile Female. She lives in Alaska. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin.