I have every text my wife and I have sent each other since the moment we started texting. That’s nearly 10 years of messages throughout various stages of our relationship spanning multiple devices.

And today, due to negligence, I deleted all of them on my phone … and all my other devices due to iCloud sync.


Restoration Attempt No. 1

My first attempt to restore the messages was an absolute waste of time. I attempted to restore the messages by restoring my iPhone from an iCloud backup.

that. 👏. does. 👏. not. 👏. work.

Apparently iMessages are not in the iCloud backup if you are using iCloud sync.

Restoration Attempt No. 2

My second attempt did not resolve the issue, but it did bring me closer to my goal. I attempted to restore the iMessage database via Time Machine on my MacBook Pro.

that. 👏. does. 👏. not. 👏. work.

While I could see the old messages on the MacBook Pro, syncing between my iPhone and the MacBook Pro was completely hosed. I was unable to enable/disable iMessage iCloud syncing until I deleted everything on both devices.

le sigh

Restoration Attempt No. 3

My third attempt ended up working, but it’s a bit brute force. I’ll try to keep the steps as straight-forward as possible.

  • Use the terminal to install SQLite3 on a Mac; brew install sqlite worked for me.
  • Disable iMessage iCloud syncing on all devices via iMessage Settings.
  • Restore ~/Library/Messages on a Mac via Time Machine (override the existing folder).
  • Restart the Mac.
  • Use iMessage to delete all chat’s that you don’t want to re-sync via iCloud sync.
  • Use SQLite to open the iMessage database; sqlite3 ~/Library/Messages/chat.db
  • Use the following SQL to remove the flags that indicate iMessage iCloud sync has already occurred. Please note that this may be overkill, but appears to work.

    update chat set ck_sync_state = 0;
    update message set ck_sync_state = 0, ck_record_id = '', ck_record_change_tag = '';
    update attachment set ck_sync_state = 0, ck_record_id = '';
  • Enable iMessage iCloud syncing on all devices via iMessage Settings.

  • Wait for the messages to re-sync between all devices.

Update 2020-05-14

It turns out I accidentally deleted the messages again.

What an idiot.

Thankfully I have these instructions to help restore the messages again. 😅