How to Backup and Restore SMS and iMessage on a clean iOS Install

IOS offers effective backup solutions. You can back up your device on iCloud or your local computer using iTunes. IOS also lets you easily restore your device from the backup files. All’s good! But there is one little challenge. You can either restore it all or nothing. What if you only wanted to back up your SMS and iMessage from the previous installation? Well, there is no straightforward way to do it. But, thankfully, the iBackupBot tool makes things easier for you. In this guide, we will learn how to backup and restore SMS and iMessage on a clean iOS install. In fact, you can use the same method to restore only the messages on a new iOS device as well. Keep reading!

How to Backup and Restore SMS and iMessage on a clean iOS Install

How to Backup and Restore SMS and iMessage on a clean iOS Install

Step 1: Back Up the Existing iOS with Messages

The first step is to create a backup of the device from which you wish to retrieve the messages. This will be a full backup using iTunes. We need to back up using iTunes and not iCloud as we need the backup file on our computer. Also, this way it is much faster. For iTunes backup, you will need to make sure iCloud backup is disabled.

To turn iCloud off, go to Settings and tap your picture with your ID. Select iCloud followed by Backup and move the slider next to iCloud to the left to turn it off.

In the Backups section of your device, you need to select ‘This Computer.’ Also, make sure that ‘Encrypt iPhone Backup’ in this section is unchecked.

Connect your iOS to the computer using the lightning cable. Now go to the Backups settings on your device again and tap ‘Back Up Now’ under ‘Manually Back Up and Restore’ section. Again, make sure that ‘This Computer’ is selected.

The backup may take a while depending upon the size of the content to be backed up. It also depends upon the last time you backed up and the size of the content you have amassed since then.

Whether you are using iTunes on Windows or Mac, you can find the Backup folder at the following location: /Library/Application Support/MobileSync

This path is usually in the root directory.

You can view the backups directly from iTunes. Just click Preferences and select the Devices tab.

If you have taken backups before (and never deleted them) you will see multiple backup files in the folder.  But, what we are concerned about is the latest backup we have created. It is easy to find. The timestamp is the giveaway.

Step 2: Retrieving SMS and iMessage From the Backup

The next task is to extract the messages from the freshly created backup. For this, you will need an iBackupBot tool.

Visit the following URL to download the tool:

Select the version for your OS. This tool is currently supported on Windows and Mac. Run the installer and follow the onscreen instructions to install iBackupBot.

Please note that the tool isn’t free. However, it offers a free trial. If you are using it for the first time, you don’t have to pay anything as you can back up your messages within the free trial. But, if you need to use it after the free trial period, you will need to buy the tool.

Launch iBackupBot and it will extract all the information related to the backups saved on your computer. It is smart enough to look into the default folder and lists all your backup files. This is an automatic process which starts when you launch the tool. It may take a while depending upon the number of backup files you have.

When the tool has extracted all the necessary information from the backup location, it will load its main user interface. On the left, you will see two sections, Backups and Devices.

Extract Messages: In the Backups section, expand the System Files >>  HomeDomain >> Library >> SMS.

Make sure you select the ‘Drafts’ folder as well as the SMS.db file. Now click ‘Export’ button on the top. Choose the folder on your hard drive where you wish to save the data. Select a folder you can easily navigate to later.

Extract Attachment: From the Backups section, again go to System Files followed by MediaDoman >> Library >> SMS.

Select the folder ‘Attachment’ and then press ‘Export’ on the top. Again, choose the folder on the hard disk where you wish to save the Attachment folder. We would recommend you to save it in the same folder as the messages.

Step 3: Reset Your Device for a Clean Install

If you have just bought a new iOS device, you don’t need to reset it. If you want a clean install on an existing device, go to Settings >> General >> Reset and select ‘Erase All Content.’

When the device reboots after the factory reset, make sure you select ‘Set up as new iPhone’ on the Welcome Screen and NOT ‘Restore from this backup.’ This is because we will back it up later only with SMS and iMessage.

Step 4: Create a Backup after Clean Install

Yes. We need to create a backup of the factory reset device even though it does not contain any data. This is because we will merge the exported SMS and iMessage in Step 2 with this backup.

Back up your device following exactly the same process as laid out in Step 1. You need to disable iCloud and back up the device to ‘This Computer’. You also need to uncheck the backup encryption.

Step 5: Adding SMS and iMessage Backup to the Latest Clean Install Backup

For this part, we will need to use iBackupBot again. Launch the tool and it will show you the list of the backups. You will see the backup file you created in Step 1 as well as in Step 4. You can tell one from the other by the TimeStamp and also the size. The clean install backup file must be smaller in size.

Select the new backup file.

On the left, in the Backups section, navigate to System Files >>  HomeDomain >> Library >> SMS.

Import Messages and Drafts: Click ‘Import’ on the top panel and navigate to the folder where you saves the SMS.db file in Step 2. Select the file. Click ‘Okay’ when you see the prompt warning you that the file already exists. We need to overwrite this file with the new one.

In order to import the ‘Drafts’ folder, click on the small triangle next to ‘Import’ and select ‘Import Folders’ from the drop-down. Navigate to the folder where you saved the ‘Drafts’ folder. Select the folder. Click ‘Okay’ when you see the warning message.

Import Attachments: Now navigate to System Files >> MediaDoman >> Library >> SMS.

Click on the small triangle next to ‘Import’ and select ‘Import Folders’ from the drop-down. Now navigate to the location where you saved the ‘Attachments’ folder in Step 2. Select the folder. Click ‘Okay’ when you see the warning message.

Attachments take more time as they contain media files and documents.

Restore Backup

Now we have the clean install backup with only the SMS and iMessage from the previous backup.

Connect your iOS device to the computer. Launch iTunes. Go to the Summary page and from there select ‘Restore Backup’.

Choose the most recent backup file from the list (the one that we merged with SMS and iMessage Data)

Click ‘Restore’ button. Just wait for a while for the backup to complete.

That’s it. You now have backed up SMS and iMessage on a Clean iOS install.

Through this post, you can easily backup and restore your SMS and iMessage on a clean iOS install. You have to apply all the steps carefully and step-by-step. If you skip any step, then no method will be going to work.

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  1. Thanks for these tips! I’ve already switched to Android two years ago, but my friend still uses iOS. I will pass this post to them i bet they still dont know about it.

  2. following the instructions to merge texts, the process starts, the ‘merging messages’ to the original main back up, but then it always finishes with no messages merged.


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