How to recover deleted text messages on Android, and why you should back up your phone on Google Drive

Marko Geber/Getty Images

Losing any kind of important data on your Android can be gut-wrenching. Accidentally deleting text messages is especially onerous because your phone has no trash can or temporary storage for deleted texts; as soon as you delete them, they’re gone — at least, mostly gone.

Here’s what you can do to try to recover deleted messages and how to prevent catastrophe in the future. A word of warning, though: Your options are limited, and there’s an excellent chance you will not be able to recover deleted text messages.

How to recover deleted messages on Android with recovery software

The fact that your messages aren’t truly erased from your phone immediately gives you a narrow window of opportunity. In a worst-case scenario, you may be able to use data recovery software to find deleted text messages as long as they haven’t yet been overwritten with new data. Here’s what to do:

1. As soon as you realise your text was deleted, stop using the phone. Anything you do could potentially overwrite or corrupt the deleted text message, so at a minimum, put the phone in aeroplane mode.

2. For the safest results, turn your phone off entirely.

3. Install and run a data recovery program and see if it can recover your messages. There are a number of programs you can try, but Android Data Recovery is a well-reviewed option that stands a good chance of success. This $US49.95 app needs to be installed on your PC or Mac, which you connect to your phone. Apps that offer to recover data from the phone itself — without involving your computer — are much less likely to be effective because they run the risk of overwriting the data they are trying to recover.

Dave Johnson/Business InsiderYou can try a commercial data recovery program like Android Data Recovery, but it might not find the text messages you are looking for.

How to recover deleted messages from a Google backup

Many Android phones are configured to automatically back up to Google Drive. If your phone creates automatic Google backups, you might be able to restore your phone to retrieve the lost text messages.

Unfortunately, even if you had a recent backup before you deleted the text, keep in mind that this is very much a “nuclear” option: You’ll need to reset the phone to its original factory settings and then restore the entire backup; there’s no way to pick or choose. This is a time-consuming option and can result in the loss of other data that was created after the backup you are restoring.

Here’s how to see if you have a backup:

1. Start the Google Drive app on your phone.

2. Tap the three horizontal lines (the hamburger menu) at the top left of the screen. In the meu, tap “Backups.”

3. If you see a section labelled “This device,” tap your backup.

4. On the details page, find the entry for SMS and check the date of the last backup. If it’s before the date you deleted the text message, you can consider resetting your phone and restoring from this backup.

Dave Johnson/Business InsiderIf you have a current backup that predates the text message loss, reset your phone and restore your Google Drive backup.

Other ways to recover text messages

If you’re not ready to invest money in recovery software that might not yield effective results or you didn’t back up your phone on Google Drive, there are some other things you can consider. None of these are ideal, but they can be helpful:

  • Contact the person you were messaging with. Your contact might be able to supply the deleted information from his or her end of the conversation.
  • Check for other apps that might have automatically captured the important aspects of the text message. For example, photos and videos might be automatically downloaded to your gallery. If you were invited to a meeting, that might have already been placed on your calendar, reducing the need for the actual message.

How to prevent lost messages in the future

There are few genuinely good options at your disposal if you need to recover deleted text messages. Here are your best options to prevent catastrophe in the future:

  • You might get in the habit of taking screenshots of important messages when you receive them. These images, stored in your phone’s gallery, are insurance against accidental deletions.
  • Turn on Google Drive’s device backup option. Follow the instructions above on how to recover deleted messages from a Google backup, and if you don’t see a backup listed, tap “Backup Settings” and configure Google to start creating regular backups of your phone.

Dave Johnson/Business InsiderThe best advice is to make sure your phone is regularly being backed up in Google Drive.

What happens to deleted text messages

The reason text messages are so difficult to recover is that there’s no recycle bin for this kind of data. As soon as you delete a text, your phone’s operating system marks it as deleted. The text isn’t actually deleted, though — the text is marked as eligible to be overwritten with new data.

embed type
product
oEmbedUrl
html

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.