One of the beautiful things about your Mac’s Messages App is that it stores all your text and message history for you. So if you ever need to find a lost message or accidentally deleted an important text from your iPhone or iPad, open your Mac and retrieve that text from your Message App Archive!
But like life, it’s a double-edged sword–a positive and a negative. And for folks using work, school, public (like at a library), or shared Macs, having all your Message history stored indefinitely is not desirable or safe! So for us, we need ways to delete all our sensitive text messages and feel comfortable that other people cannot read our messages.
Unfortunately, there is currently no option to auto-delete your Message App logs after a certain number of days. So if you’re wondering just how to delete texts and iMessages on your Mac, Apple offers a few manual solutions to help us remove all those texts. So let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways today.
- Quick Tips
- Delete Messages with Message in iCloud
- How to Delete Texts and iMessages on Your Mac, including Multiple Messages
- Want a Quick Way to Delete One, Some, or All of Your Conversations?
- How Do I Get My Mac To Delete Messages Automatically?
- How-To Clear Your Messages Without Closing the Conversation
- Closing and Deleting Conversations are Different!
- How-To Delete All Your Messages App Chat History Permanently
- Reader Tips
Follow These Quick Tips To Delete Texts and iMessages on Your Mac Today
- Enable Messages in iCloud on your Mac
- Change your Message App Preferences to Keep Messages for 30 Days or 1 Year
- Delete an entire conversation with Command + Delete or using File > Delete Conversation
- Delete selections from message threads using a right-click and choosing Delete or Edit > Delete
- To keep the conversation open but delete the content, choose Edit > Clear Transcript or Option+Command+K
- To prevent your Mac from storing your message history, update your Message App Preferences and untick the box for Save history when conversation are closed
- Use Terminal to delete your Messages App chat history permanently
- How To Remove Yourself from a Group iMessage Conversation
- The Complete Guide to Disabling or Deregistering iMessage and FaceTime
- Did an Error Occur During Activation for iMessage or FaceTime on Mac?
- Where Are iMessage files stored on my Mac?
Delete Messages with Message in iCloud
If you use iOS 11.4 and above on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod AND use macOS High Sierra 10.13.5 and above, you can take advantage of the Messages in iCloud features!
When your devices including Macs use Messages in iCloud, your Messages and texts synchronize on all devices using the same Apple ID. That means if you delete on one device, you delete on all!
The idea is that Messages in iCloud update automatically on all your devices, so you always have the same messages anywhere you use iMessage, as long as you use the same Apple ID, and the device supports Messages in iCloud.
How To Enable Messages in iCloud on your Mac
- Open Messages
- Tap Preferences
- Choose Accounts
- Tick the box for Enable Messages in iCloud
- Tap Sync Now to get the process started
Unable to Enable Messages in iCloud?
If you sign in to iMessage with a different Apple ID than you signed in under System Preferences > iCloud, then you cannot use Messages in iCloud.
The Apple ID for iMessage must match the Apple ID you use for all other iCloud services (like iCloud Drive, Photos, Mail, and so forth) for this feature to work!
How to Delete Texts and iMessages on Your Mac, including Multiple Messages
- Launch the Messages app
- Locate the conversation where you want to delete a message(s)
If you enable Messages in iCloud, deleting a conversation or parts of a conversation on your Mac ALSO deletes it from all of your devices where Messages in iCloud is turned on and signed in with the same Apple ID
To delete an entire conversation
- Select a conversation
- Choose File > Delete Conversation, Command+Delete, or right-click and choose Delete Conversation
- For trackpads or Magic Mice, swipe left with two fingers on the conversation in the sidebar, then select Delete
- At the confirmation pop-up, choose Delete again
To delete parts of a conversation
- Find and click on the specific text bubble that you wish to remove. Make sure you select the entire message bubble, not just the text within it
- Press the Command+Click to add additional text selections
- Your selections gray out
- Control-Click or Right-Click and select Delete from the drop-down menu
- If you don’t see the Delete option, you probably selected the text rather than the message bubble
- Your Mac asks you to confirm that you want to delete this message(s) and reminds you that this action is undoable
- Tap Delete to confirm
- macOS removes those message selections from the Messages app on your Mac
Want a Quick Way to Delete One, Some, or All of Your Conversations?
Select an entire conversation thread from the left-side of your Message App window. Then, hold down the Option+Command keys and press the delete key. It deletes the conversation that you’ve currently selected.
If you keep pressing Option+Command and again press the delete key, it removes the next entire conversation. Continue to press delete while holding down Option+Command to remove all the conversations, if desired.
Keep in mind is that these deletions are permanent and so make sure that you really want to delete those messages!
Option+Command+Delete Not Working on High Sierra 10.13.5 and above?
As a few of our readers note, it appears that Command + Option + Delete is no longer working in macOS High Sierra and above.
We suspect Apple made the change with the introduction of Messages in the Cloud–because when you turn on Messages in iCloud, all your messages automatically delete across connected devices.
The alternative is to use Option+Command+K. However, with this shortcut, you must confirm each conversation deletion. So it’s definitely not as convenient!
Another possibility is to Command + Delete–but you get that a similar confirmation message.
If this removal bothers you, consider sending Apple your feedback–they do listen!
How Do I Get My Mac To Delete Messages Automatically?
If you’d rather have your Mac clear out older messages on a set schedule, there’s an option in your Message Preferences to remove messages either every 30 days or every year.
- Open Messages
- Tap Preferences
- Choose General
- Under Keep Messages choose either 30 Days or One Year to set-up automatic deletion
When you choose an option other than Forever, your conversations (including all attachments–photos, videos, documents, gifs, and so forth) are automatically removed after the time you specified is over.
How-To Clear Your Messages Without Closing the Conversation
Sometimes it’s just easier to keep a conversation open but remove all the texts inside that conversation.
For folks that send a lot of group messages or have a lot of recipients in a conversation, it makes sense to clear the content rather than compose a new conversation.
And the good news, it’s super simple to clear your conversations on your Mac!
Want to remove all the messages without closing the conversation?
- Select an entire conversation from your Message App’s list
- Choose Edit > Clear Transcript from the Message App Top Menu
- For folks that love keyboard shortcuts, pick Option+Command+K.
- You can also select an open conversation and control-click (or right-click) anywhere in the white space for a shortcut to Clear Chat Transcript
Closing and Deleting Conversations are Different!
Ever notice that after you close a conversation on your Mac’s Message App, the next time you compose a new message to that person(s) after you hit enter your earlier conversation history suddenly reappears?
That’s because, in your Mac’s Message App, there’s a big difference between deletion and closing.
What’s Closing a Message Thread?
If you have Save history when conversations are closed checked in your Messages App Preferences, your Mac automatically saves all your conversations. And this feature is ON by default.
To close a conversation in your Mac’s Messages App, select one from your list and tap on the X that appears at the end, just underneath the date or time of the last posted message.
Tapping the X closes the conversation BUT does not delete it–despite conventional wisdom.
But What If You Don’t Want Your Mac To Save Old Conversations?
If, instead, you want your Mac to delete those conversations instead of merely closing them so that your message thread history does not automatically populate, change your Message preferences.
Stop Your Mac’s Message App from Saving Text History Automatically
- Open Messages and in the upper menu, choose Preferences or use the keyboard shortcut Command+Comma
- Select the General Tab
- Untick the box that says Save history when conversations are closed
Now, when you close or quit a specific conversation or the Messages App and at a later time, reopen Messages, your previous message history with that person(s) should no longer show up.
Closed a Conversation By Mistake? Or Need to Reopen an Old Conversation?
If you’ve ever closed a message thread by mistake, you can manually reconnect to those earlier messages with a few steps
- Launch Finder and either choose Go > Go to Folder OR press the Command+ Shift+G
- In the search box, type ~/Library/Messages and hit enter. This opens your user’s Message App library
- Locate the Archive Folder and open it
- macOS stores your conversations by date
- Find the latest archive of the conversation you’re looking for
- Double-clicking that file
- It opens in a separate window in Messages
- Leave that window open (critical step!)
- Scroll down your conversations list and look for an empty message with the person(s) name from that conversation you just opened from your Messages Archive folder
- Click on that name(s)
- It populates with all the information from the Archive
- Close the archive file
Note that this works for conversations that you close NOT conversations that you delete.
How-To Delete All Your Messages App Chat History Permanently
So the steps outlined thus far prevent folks from seeing your Messages inside the App itself, but what about all that archived, cached, and stored Message App data?
How do we remove it all so no one can take a peek at our texts?
We turn to our favorite macOS and OS X friend, our Finder!
- Sign Out of Messages by going to Messages > Preferences > Accounts
- Sign out of your Apple ID
- Disable any other accounts (like Bonjour or Google Talk) by turning off Enable this account (untick the checkboxes)
- Then, close your Messages app if it’s open
- Next, launch Finder and either choose to Go > Go to Folder OR press the Command+ Shift+G
- In the search box, type ~/Library/Messages and hit enter. This opens your user’s Message App library
- Find and select these files: chat.db, chat.db-shm, and chat.db-wal and two folders: Archive and Attachments
- If you don’t see these files or folders, check the following location instead using the Go to Folder command: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.iChat/Data/Library/Messages/
- The Attachment folder contains all the images, gifs, videos, audio files, pdfs, and other files sent to you or sent by you, so look through this folder and save these attachments elsewhere (like to your photos app) if desired
- Move chat.db, chat.db-shm, and chat.db-wal and the two folders Archive and Attachments to your Trash or place them in a new folder (name it Old Messages or some such) on the Desktop or elsewhere (and trash that later)
- Restart your Mac
- Remember to sign back into Messages the next time you launch it!
- You may see a message that “the messages database is being upgraded; please wait while it finishes or Quit Messages and relaunch it later.”
- Restart your Mac then open Messages again
- If after a few hours, it’s still showing you this message do the following:
- Quit Messages (if it’s open)
- Open Terminal and use the command kill the IMDPersistenceAgent
- Check ~/Library/Messages folder again and remove any files with Messages, iMessage, or iChat in the name (via Trash or moving to a folder on Desktop) OR use Terminal command rm -rf ~/Library/Messages
- Open Terminal again and clear the preferences cache with the command killall cfprefsd
- Open Message App again and follow the on-screen instructions to set-up Messages again
- To close all your conversation, press Option-Shift-Command-W. If you save your conversations on your mac, you can retrieve anything you close!
- I’m using macOS High Sierra. And the only thing that seems to work to delete messages quickly (Since Command + Option + Delete isn’t working) is to press Command+Delete and keep pressing down the Command key, then press the D key. The D key seems to confirm the deletion instead of having to manually click the Delete button in the confirmation message. It’s a workaround but not great!
- I love deleting my Messages quickly using the shortcut command option delete, so it sucks that Apple isn’t offering this with the latest High Sierra update (10.13.5). Now it takes three steps and the mouse to delete each message–what a pain!
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.