We have all deleted something important and then needed it, or damaged our phone and lost crucial data. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens with our text messages, and if you have an Android, it can be almost impossible to recover them. Here’s what you can try to save them and, more importantly, what you can do to prevent them from happening again.
Why is it difficult to recover texts on Android
It’s difficult, and in some cases impossible, to recover deleted messages due to the way Android handles text message data. Unfortunately, there’s no place like the Recycle Bin on Windows or the Trash Bin on the Mac, where deleted files are kept for a certain number of days before they’re actually deleted. There is also no kind of “undo” function for a deletion once you have done it.
Instead, when you delete something, Android marks it to be “overwritten” with new data. Think of it like erasing something from your to-do list with a pencil so you can write something new in the same space.
What you can try to do is to restore the data from the location that Android has placed for deletion, which you cannot access by normal means. And if you’re reading this on the same phone you just deleted text from, you might be out of luck. To be clear, this is not guaranteed and the data may already have been wiped.
Android Deleted Text Recovery: What to Try First
First of all, you should try to preserve the data. If you have just deleted the messages, immediately put your phone into airplane mode by pressing and holding the power button and selecting airplane mode from the menu that appears. This will turn off Wi-Fi and the cellular radio, so you won’t be downloading any new information. You should also not use the camera, record audio, or create new data that could overwrite messages.
Once this is done, you should check if the relevant data you need has already been saved elsewhere. For example, sometimes photos are automatically copied to the phone’s Gallery app and appointments are automatically added to the calendar. If there is an app relevant to the information you need, check it out first.
If you’re in regular contact with the person whose messages you missed, they may have a backup of the conversation on their phone and forward it to you. Simply explain the situation and ask them to send you the relevant messages.
If all else fails and you’ve fully backed up your phone before deleting messages using a full phone backup app like Ultimate Backup, you can try wiping and restoring your phone.
The bad news is that if these steps don’t work, there’s no easy, and certainly not guaranteed, way to restore messages with software, and the cure may be worse than the disease.
Android message recovery with software
If it is not possible to wipe and restore the phone, you can use PC-based software.
There are plenty of “Android data recovery” apps out there, from companies that are not affiliated with Google. Although the quality of these apps varies greatly depending on the company, there are some factors consistent with these apps.
First, they do not promise results. They may be able to recover your text messages, among other deleted data, if the data has not already been overwritten. All these apps do is find the data marked for deletion and you can decide if you want to delete it or not. Anything beyond that will be luck of the draw.
Second, they require you to root your phone. Think of “root” as the person who has all the keys to a building and the permission to go anywhere and do anything in it. If you root the phone, it is likely to void the warranty of the phone and cause other problems.
Third, you will have to pay for the software. Therefore, you must weigh the value of recovering your text messages against what you pay for the software, the risk of voiding your warranty, and uncertain results.
If you decide to go the software route, DiskDigger is a popular app that does not require you to root the phone, although this may limit the effect of the software. But whether you go to software, or just ask for a new text, this is a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Backup of messages
If you have a relatively new Android phone, backing up your text messages is easy. First of all, check if your phone has Google Drive installed. If not, you can find it in the Google Play store; Open the store and search for “Google Drive”. It will be a free download. You can choose to purchase more storage if you wish, but it will not be necessary for our purposes.
Once Google Drive is downloaded, open it, sign in if you need to use the name and password you use for your Gmail if necessary, and click on the three lines in the upper left corner. Next, choose settings and select “Google Backup”.
This will bring up a menu and then you will select “SMS Messages”. If Google Drive comes pre-installed on your phone, it will already be backing up your messages, but otherwise just enable it and that will preserve the texts. However, you won’t have much time; Google Drive updates your backup every 12 to 24 hours, so if a message is deleted, restore it immediately.
Unfortunately, this is an archive: One message cannot be searched and only one cannot be restored. This will update your entire text history, in one go, to the old settings. If there’s an important message you’ve received in the meantime, use the following techniques to preserve it.
For multimedia messages, or MMS, like photos, you’ll have to repeat this process with Google Photos, though it usually comes with your Android. The good news, though, is that whatever photos you take, if you have Google Photos, backups have been enabled for years, so you might be surprised at what’s already stored there. For photos sent to you, you may need to download a third-party app, such as Save MMS, which will do this automatically.
If you really want to cover your bases, you can also capture important messages, which will be automatically saved by Google Photos. On any phone operating system Android 4.0 or higher (which is just about any phone released since 2011), press and hold the power button and the volume down button at the same time, and it will take a picture of your screen. It’s a “quick and dirty” way to back up important messages when you’re in a hurry or only need to back up a handful of messages.
If you want a full-featured tool that doesn’t involve interfering with your phone, try Helium, which uses your desktop and can keep specific messages as well as data from all over your Android.
This ounce of prevention will go a long way toward preserving your text history and keeping the messages you want recorded right. And it will also make sure that you hang on to anything you break.