Several of our readers report that they are no longer able to search for old texts and messages after their recent iOS update OR after a recent Restore on their iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.
Only texts sent after the update or restore show up when searching in-app or via Spotlight Search, leaving many important conversations out!
However, the messages are still there, and you can always find them manually and read them. They’re just not showing up in the search results. For iFolks that have a lot of stored texts, being unable to search messages on their iPhones is a major headache.
It seems that when you update your iOS or perform a Restore, this process resets your iDevice’s search index and only new messages are added to the post-update (or restore) search index for both in-app search results and spotlight search results.
So what we need do to is rebuild that search index to include all messages, including old ones.
Follow these quick tips to help get your Message app searching all texts, including older ones
- Toggle off Siri & Suggestions for Messages, then close the Settings app, and toggle Siri & Suggestions back on
- Temporarily change your language
- Toggle iMessage off and on
- Send a new message to a person’s whose messages aren’t appearing in your search results
- Turn off Messages in iCloud and choose to disable and download all your messages
- Back up and restore from a recent backup
- Check a Mac signed in with the same Apple ID
- For third-party messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and such try backing up your chat history to both iCloud (or another cloud option like DropBox) and your computer and then delete the app and reinstall it
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- Get Back Your Accidentally Deleted Text Messages Now
How To Reclaim Old Texts in Messages and Rebuild Your Search Index
- Go to Settings > Siri & Search
- Scroll Down to the Message App and toggle OFF Show Siri Suggestions in App and Show in Search
- For earlier iOS, toggle off Siri & Suggestions or Search & Siri Suggestions
- Close the Settings app
- On an iPhone or an iPad with no home button from the Home screen, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and pause slightly in the middle of the screen
- On an iDevice with a home button, double-click the Home button and swipe right or left to find the app that you want to close
- Swipe right or left to locate the app you want to close
- Swipe up on the app’s preview to close it
- Restart your device
- Go back to Settings > Siri & Search
- Locate the Message App and toggle ON Show Siri Suggestions in App and Show in Search (Siri & Suggestions)
- Be patient and wait for 1-2 minutes to allow your search index to rebuild
- Open your Message App and see if it now searches older messages
Still Not Seeing Old Texts in Messages App Search or Spotlight Search?
If the above steps did not solve your issue, try changing your phone’s language temporarily
- Go to Settings > General > Language & Region > switch to something else other than the current language
- Next, visit Settings > Siri & Search > Language > change to the same language selected in the previous step
- Follow steps 1-7 listed above
- Go to Settings > General > Language & Region and choose your local language
- Visit Settings > Siri & Search > Language and update the language to your local
Other Solutions When Search For Old Texts in Messages Isn’t Working
Toggle iMessage off and on to reactivate
- Go to Settings > Messages > iMessage and toggle off, wait 20 seconds, and toggle back on
Send a new message
- Compose and send a new message to a person’s whose messages aren’t appearing in your search results, and it seems that all the older message threads that were not searchable before become searchable again
Backup and restore via iCloud or iTunes/Finder
- Some readers say that backing up and restoring from a recent backup solved their issues with older texts not showing up. It’s a pretty drastic solution with no guarantee, especially since some users report this problem occurring after a restore. But if nothing else works, give this a try
- Back up to iCloud or via Finder app/iTunes and then reset the device as new and restore from that latest iCloud/iTunes/Finder backup
Turn off Messages in iCloud
When you turn off Messages in iCloud, you’re able to download all your messages to your device. Once all those messages download, it forces the Message app to index again, on your device. Once that local indexing is done, turn Message in iCloud back on (if you want to sync between additional devices.)
Before you start this process, ensure that your device has sufficient available storage to download your messages. To check local storage, go to Settings > General > Storage. Free up local device storage before toggling Messages in iCloud off.
How to reindex the Message app on your device by toggling off Messages in iCloud
- Go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Messages in iCloud
- Toggle it off
- At the prompt, choose to Disable and Download Messages
- Any other Apple device that you enabled Messages in iCloud continues to store what you send and receive from that device in iCloud
- Wait for your device to complete the download and start indexing
- Once your device finishes the new indexing, verify that your old messages are there and run some tests on the search function
- If satisfied with the new index, back up your device first and then toggle Messages in iCloud back on, if desired
- When you back with Messages in iCloud off, your message history is included in your iCloud backup (and any iTunes/Finder app backup)
iPhone Message Search Not Working At All?
If your problem is a little different in that your iDevice isn’t searching through any of your texts, then it’s quite possible that the Message App is toggled off in Siri & Search.
To check, go to Settings > Siri & Search > Messages > and make sure Show Siri Suggestions in App and Show in Search are toggled ON.
If it’s already on, toggle it off, wait 20 seconds, and toggle it back on.
If you’re still having problems, the good news is that the steps listed above should also work if you discover that your iPhone or other iDevice isn’t searching through ANY of your messages.
Use Apple’s Message App on Your Mac Or Sync Your iPhone or iDevice with a Mac?
If you got a Mac and you use iMessage and iCloud, the good news is that all your iMessages are already on your Mac!
For folks that sync their iPhones with their Macs or that have Messages enabled on those Macs with the same Apple ID, finding older messages by date is definitely easier!
The Messages app for your Mac keeps track of all your text message history through both iMessage and SMS, providing you with a substantial archive of all your conversations.
And it’s super easy to review!
How-To Find a Message By Date Using a Mac
- Open Finder > Go to Folder OR the shortcut Shift+Command+G
- Enter the following path: /Users/[your user name]/Library/Messages/Archive/
- You find subfolders for each date by the year, month, and day
- Open the folder for the date you’re interested in to find my older Messages
- Double-click the .ichat file to open it in Messages
Another Option for Finding Older Messages On Your Mac
- Open Finder
- Tap on Spotlight Search (Magnifying Glass) in the upper right corner of your Finder
- Type in “chat transcript” PLUS the contact’s name and press return
- Finder shows your messages from that contact
Or Use Terminal!
For the DIY folks that love using Terminal, let’s open a Terminal session and get all our message history!
How-To Find Old Texts in Messages Using Terminal
- Open Terminal
- Enter the following command: sqlite3 ~/Library/Messages/chat.db
- This command opens the database of your Mac’s Messages app
- Enter the following commands:
- .mode column
- .headers on
- SELECT text, datetime(date, ‘unixepoch’, ‘+31 year’) AS cDate FROM message WHERE cDate >= “2018-01-01”;
- Replace the “2018-01-01” with the earliest date you want to filter your messages, but you must keep the “”
- If you know the exact date of the message you’re looking for, replace the >= with =
- For a range of dates, use this command: SELECT text, datetime(date, ‘unixepoch’, ‘+31 year’) AS cDate FROM message WHERE cDate >= “2017-12-01” and cDate <= “2018-01-01”;
How to Search Through Your Message App History
Searching through Message is usually easy. Just remember that the search function only looks through your current and stored messages.
So if you’ve deleted a text message, it’s no longer on your device and therefore, cannot show up when you search through your text message history.
You can search through your texts using names, numbers, keywords, and even phrases or other search terms.
So if you’re looking for a specific message, but you don’t remember the sender, just type in something that you do remember, and your iDevice’s search function usually finds it.
And keep in mind that the Search Bar only appears in the main Message screen, it does not appear in individual message threads.
Unfortunately, the Message App currently does not have a function to search for all messages within a specific timeframe or date.
And you can’t search for videos, images, or links either.
How-To Search Through Your Texts in iOS’s Message App
- Open your Messages app
- Look at the top for the Search Bar
- If you don’t see it, scroll all the way up
- Remember that the Search Bar only appears in the main Message screen, not in individual message threads
- Tap the search bar and type in a name, number, keyword, phrase, and so forth that you want to search your Messages for
- iOS lists all the matching texts, conversations, and message threads
- Select the message you want to review
And Don’t Forget Siri!
Searching for recent messages is another task you can offload to Siri. She’ll even read them for you if you want.
Unfortunately, Siri still doesn’t search through all of your message histories but rather locates the most recent conversation thread(s).
How-To check recent messages using Siri
- Activate Siri by pressing the side button or holding the Home button
- Ask Siri to “Check new messages,” “Open messages from (person),” “Do I have any new messages?” and so forth
- Siri reads your recent messages or lets you know you don’t have any new messages
- Once done reading, Siri asks if you’d like to reply
- If you didn’t catch all of the messages, ask Siri to “Read Again.”
Sadly, Siri’s search function for messages is still quite lacking. One of my biggest annoyances is that Siri only reads your most recent messages rather than displays them on-screen.
I wish iOS allowed Siri just to show you those messages on-screen, rather than having the AI reads them all aloud.
Also, since Siri currently only searches recent messages, we cannot use Siri to locate any older messages–and those are often the exact ones we’re searching for!
Don’t Want Siri Searching Through Your Messages?
If you don’t like the idea of Siri going through your recent messages, you can turn this feature off
- Go to Settings > Siri & Search
- Scroll down to the Message App
- toggle OFF Show Siri Suggestions in App and Show in Search
- If you don’t want to allow your text messages to show up in Siri and Search App Suggestions at all, also toggle off Learn from this App and Suggest Shortcuts as well
For most of her professional life, Amanda Elizabeth (Liz for short) trained all sorts of folks on how to use media as a tool to tell their own unique stories. She knows a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides!
Her clients include Edutopia, Scribe Video Center, Third Path Institute, Bracket, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Big Picture Alliance.
Elizabeth received her Master of Fine Arts degree in media making from Temple University, where she also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member in their department of Film and Media Arts.