How to Recover Deleted Text Messages on Android
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Losing data from your phone is heartbreaking. Whether you accidentally delete something or have your phone stolen or damaged, your irreplaceable photos, messages from loved ones, and more could disappear.

If you need to recover some text messages from your Android phone, you’re probably desperately looking for the best solution to do so. Here’s what you need to know about recovering deleted texts, and how to back them up to prevent this in the future.

How to Recover Deleted Text Messages on Android

We’ll start with the bad news: there’s really no reliable way to recover deleted texts on Android if you didn’t prepare beforehand. Perform a Google search for how to do this, and you’ll come across a variety of sites trying to get you to use their Android recovery software. The problem is that they won’t work for most people.

We tested Mobikin, FonePaw Android Recovery, and EaseUS MobiSaver for this article. Each of them failed to recover data due to at least one of three big limitations:

  1. You need root access to recover text messages.
  2. The tools don’t actually recover anything without paying.
  3. They ask you to use the unavailable USB Mass Storage protocol.

Let’s discuss each of these drawbacks in turn.

Drawback 1: Root Access Needed

recover deleted text messages android

Rooting your phone The Complete Guide to Rooting Your Android Phone or Tablet The Complete Guide to Rooting Your Android Phone or Tablet So, you want to root your Android device? Here's everything you need to know. Read More provides, among other benefits, the ability to access any file on your device. By default, Android hides some protected system folders from you. The folder that contains your texts falls into this category. Thus, you can’t install a file browser app The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android The 7 Best Free File Explorers for Android There are a bunch of file management and file exploring apps out there for Android, but these are the best. Read More and browse to the directory with your texts without rooting.

Whenever you progress through one of these text recovery programs, they’ll usually check for root access. Without it, they can’t do much. When testing Mobikin, we skipped the root prompt and ended up at a blank results screen. FonePaw attempted to perform a temporary root, which causes Android to display a security warning.

While a temporary root reverts after you reboot, this is still an invasive (yet unfortunately necessary) step for these apps to take. And permanently rooting usually requires unlocking your bootloader, which wipes the data on your phone. Additionally, you might not want to root your phone for security reasons 4 Security Reasons Why You Should Never Root Your Android 4 Security Reasons Why You Should Never Root Your Android Rooting Android -- like jailbreaking iPhone -- brings with it some great function benefits. But there's a down side: what risks do you face by rooting your Android device? Read More , plus you don’t really need to do it anymore Do You Still Need to Root Your Android Phone? Do You Still Need to Root Your Android Phone? Rooting used to be a necessity for many, but as the years have gone by, is it still as useful? Read More .

Thus, requiring root access prevents most people from using these recovery tools.

Drawback 2: Recovery Isn’t Free

recover deleted text messages android

Even if you have a rooted phone or don’t mind the temporary root, you’ll be in for a shock when you actually try to restore texts. These tools are all quite similar and offer “free trials” that do virtually nothing other than check for deleted files. You’ll need to pay a high price ($40-$50 or more) in order to actually recover anything.

Most people probably won’t want to pay that kind of money Save Your Money: 9 Apps You Shouldn't Pay For Save Your Money: 9 Apps You Shouldn't Pay For Some subscriptions are really worth the cost, but others you should cut out of your spending. Here are several popular subscriptions you can replace with free alternatives. Read More to recover a few texts. Of course, you assume the app creators are trustworthy with your payment, and that the software actually works if you pay.

Drawback 3: USB Mass Storage

recover deleted text messages android

Faced with these limitations, you might consider using a PC file recovery tool The Best Free Data Recovery Tools for Windows The Best Free Data Recovery Tools for Windows Data loss can strike at any time. We will highlight the best free data recovery tools for Windows to help get your precious files back. Read More like Recuva. Connecting your phone to your computer should let you scan it for deleted files, right? Unfortunately, this is a dead end too.

When you connect your Android phone to a PC, you can choose from several protocols to use. Modern devices typically use MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) or PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol). Ancient Android devices (older than 4.x Ice Cream Sandwich) used a different protocol known as USB Mass Storage (UMS).

UMS is the same protocol that flash drives use when connected to a PC. It makes their contents completely available to the host computer. The problem is that a device needs exclusive access when using UMS.

Thus, if you were browsing files on your phone via your PC, you couldn’t use your phone at the same time. In the past, this caused problems with Android system folders, plus it meant Android had to use the FAT file system FAT32 vs. exFAT: What's the Difference and Which One Is Better? FAT32 vs. exFAT: What's the Difference and Which One Is Better? A file system is the tool that lets an operating system read data on any hard drive. Many systems use FAT32, but is that the right one, and is there a better option? Read More , which is slow and outdated.

All this said, Android doesn’t support UMS anymore. Thus, you can’t use a program like Recuva to recover files from a device connected with MTP or PTP. It won’t even see your device. EaseUs MobiSaver asked us to enable UMS, but this just isn’t possible on modern Android phones.

There is a silver lining: if your phone has an SD card Your Next Phone Needs a MicroSD Card Slot -- Here's Why Your Next Phone Needs a MicroSD Card Slot -- Here's Why Some popular phones don't have microSD card slots -- but a lot still do, and you need one! Read More , you can remove it and put it in your PC using a built-in slot or an external reader. From there, Recuva can work its magic. However, few Android phones store text messages on the SD card. Thus, you won’t be able to recover anything from your card in most cases.

How to Back Up and Restore Android Text Messages

recover deleted text messages android

While you’re generally out of luck for recovering text messages, the good news is that backing them up is simple. Take a few minutes to set up an automatic backup plan Back up Your Android Phone Today Before It's Too Late Back up Your Android Phone Today Before It's Too Late If you lost your phone today (or it was stolen or damaged), would you still have all your photos, contacts, and data? Let's make sure everything is properly backed up. Read More today, and you’ll never have to worry about losing a message again.

For easily backing up text messages How to Delete, Back Up, and Recover SMS Text Messages on Android How to Delete, Back Up, and Recover SMS Text Messages on Android If you need to delete, backup, or restore text messages on Android, this article has you covered. Read More , SMS Backup & Restore is your best bet. It’s easy to set up, runs on a schedule, and backs up to cloud storage. If you want to back up everything at once, try another top backup app Don't Lose Your Data: 5 Top Backup Solutions For Android Don't Lose Your Data: 5 Top Backup Solutions For Android Everybody needs to back up their data in case something happens to their device. Protect yourself with these amazing backup apps. Read More .

After installing it, give it permission to access your information. Then, tap Set up a backup on the main screen. You can choose to back up phone calls in addition to texts, if you like. Tap Advanced Options to enable backing up MMS and emoji, or back up only certain conversations.

Next, select where you’d like to back up to. The app supports Google Drive, Dropbox, and storing locally on your phone. You shouldn’t back up to your phone, though: if it was stolen or destroyed, you wouldn’t have any way to recover 5 Basic Backup Facts Every Windows User Should Know 5 Basic Backup Facts Every Windows User Should Know We never tire to remind you to make backups and keep your data safe. If you're wondering what, how often, and where you should back up your files, we have straight forward answers. Read More the messages. Tap your preferred service, then you’ll need to connect your account and choose how long to keep backups.

Finally, choose how often to perform the backup. Daily is a fine interval for most; you can pick Hourly for more protection. When you’re done, tap Back up now to start a backup and schedule it. Your messages are now protected!

You can slide out the left menu in the app and tap View backups to make sure they’re working anytime. Choose Restore from this menu when you need to recover messages.

Download: SMS Backup & Restore (Free)

Android Texts Backed Up for Good

While the Android text recovery scene isn’t great, thankfully backing up is. If there was a perfect way to back up, we’d be happy to share it with you. As is, though, a combination of Android limitations and expensive recovery tools mean that you can’t recover messages without paying a significant amount of money and modifying your phone.

If you do decide to use one of the above tools, make sure to do it soon after you deleted messages. When you delete a file, Android marks it as OK for removal. It thus sticks around for a bit, but once you start downloading more files it quickly disappears. Time is of the essence with data recovery What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? If you've ever experienced a major loss of data, you've probably wondered about data recovery -- how does it work? Read More .

Image Credit: londondeposit/Depositphotos

Explore more about: Android, Data Backup, SMS.

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  1. Rebeccah
    May 4, 2019 at 1:44 am

    Thank you for this article.

    I keep on hitting advertisements disguised as simplistic articles as I've been searching for information on backing up the inaccessible contacts, call log, and sms/mms messages files. I back up my phone regularly via usb cable to my pc, but these data are always missing. When I remember, I export my contacts to a vcf file on the sd card before backing up, but this time I forgot. :-( It would be nice if there were a single app that would export all three of these content types (as well as any other user data in inaccessible filesystem locations) to the SD card, and could import them later. Then my backup strategy would capture everything.

  2. @Tedcohen1
    November 3, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Excellent, honest, straightforward article - the first addressing this issue.

  3. Dr. Frank Buck
    March 7, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Couldn't you save both send and received text messages on Android through If This Then That? On the "IF" side, choose "Android SMS." For the trigger, choose "Any new SMS sent." On the THAT side, choose Google Sheets. For "Choose action," select "Add row to spreadsheet.

    Then, create a similar IFTTT applet to send texts you receive to Google Sheets. Since the messages are in a spreadsheet, you can search, sort, etc...any of the things you would normally do with a spreadsheet.

    I don't do a great deal with texts. I much prefer email communication, so I created an IFTTT that sends texts to my email so that I only have only place to look.

    • Ben Stegner
      March 7, 2018 at 3:59 pm

      That's a great idea; you're right. Unfortunately, like most solutions, someone would have to set this up before they lost messages to make use of it.

      For the average user, I figured installing an app is easier than setting up an IFTTT script, so that's why I covered that method here. But I really appreciate you adding this!