Why Are Old Messages Showing Up On My iPhone?

Apple stores the messages on your iPhone and other devices either through using device storage or iCloud. This normally makes your Messages save and appear chronologically. 

Sometimes this goes wrong and can result in:

  • Old messages appearing with a current date & time stamp
  • Your iPhone resending old text messages
  • Messages no longer being sorted by the most recent message  

The most common solution is as follows:

  • Go to Settings -> General -> Date & Time
  • Choose “Disable Set Automatically”
  • Set the time zone to something different than your current one
  • Force quit the Messages app by swiping up from the bottom of the home screen and pressing until the app cards appear. 
  • Find the Messages app and scroll upwards to force quit it. 
  • When you’re done, launch the Messages app again. 
  • Go back to your Settings and change Date & Time back to “Set automatically”. 

Your messages should be back in order now.

If this did not work for you or you have further concerns about messages not syncing properly, keep on reading! 

Upgrade to latest version of iOS

This might be a solution for you especially if:

  • You’re receiving new messages that are dated as being older than they are
  • Your messages are no longer being sorted properly by date. 

The problem is likely to do with a software update. Before you delve into complicated solutions, make sure your iPhone is operating on the latest iOS upgrade. Installing the latest software upgrade sometimes solves the issue alone.  

Restore data from a backup

If updating your software still did not work for you, then you might need to restore data from a previous back-up. 

To do this, first ensure you have a current backup. To create it:

  • Go into Settings
  • At the very top of the page, click on your name or Apple ID. 
  • Then go to iCloud. You are going to see a list of Apps using iCloud. 
  • Find iCloud backup, click on it and then press “Back up Now”. 
  • Then go back to your Apple ID page and select “Find My”. Disable “Find my iPhone”. 
  • Finally, reset your iPhone by going to Settings -> General and selecting Reset -> “Erase All Content and Settings”. 

When this is done, start setting up your iPhone again and select the latest iCloud backup. 

Messages to new Android phone appearing on old iPhone

If you got a new non-Apple phone and messages from other Apple users (iMessages) are still going to your old iPhone, do the following: 

  • On your old iPhone, go to Settings -> Messages -> Send & Receive
  • At the bottom, you will see your Apple ID. Click on your Apple ID and select Sign Out. 
  • Go back to the Settings main page, find Facetime and click on it. Again, tap on your Apple ID and select Sign Out. 

Still receiving messages on old iPhone after switching to new iPhone

If you are still receiving messages on your old device after purchasing a new one, you need to grab your old iPhone and change the settings. You need to either be connected to WiFi or have cellular data in order for the changes to sync. 

  • Open the Settings app
  • Go to Messages and turn off iMessage by clicking on the green slider. 

See also Can my iPhone be cloned remotely without me knowing?

Old messages NOT transferred to my new device / iPhone

If your old messages are not showing up on your new Apple device, first check that iCloud is turned on for Messages on your old device(s). 

To ensure it is turned on:

  • Open Settings and click on your Apple ID at the very top. 
  • Select iCloud -> you will see a list of apps for which iCloud is turned or turned off.
  • Make sure it is turned on for Messages. 

If you did the above and are having trouble transferring your old messages such as: 

  • The progress bar on your new device displays “Downloading Messages from iCloud” but nothing is happening
  • You have a notification saying “Messages have not been fully downloaded, tap Disable and Download Messages”

Then try the following workarounds:

  • The first thing to try is to sign in and back out of your Apple ID a couple of times, then leave it signed out overnight. 
  • Sign in again in the morning, it should be working now. 

If this didn’t work and you also have a Macbook that you use to receive and answer messages, you may have to upgrade it to the latest operating system. To do that: 

  • Click on the Apple in the top left corner of your Macbook ->System Preferences
  • Click Software Update -> “Upgrade Now”
  • When you are done, launch the Messages app -> Preferences -> iMessage
  • Choose “Enable Messages in iCloud” 
  • Click on “Sync Now”. 

Seeing notifications for old messages on Macbook

Problem: you open your Mac and all the messages you’ve gotten since the last time you used your Mac start popping up, including those that you’ve opened and replied to on your iPhone or another device. 

Turning on the Power Nap feature can stop this from happening. The Power Nap feature basically lets your laptop get more done (like process messages) while it is closed.

To turn on Power Nap: 

  • Click on the Apple that appears in the top left corner of your Macbook screen
  • Go to System Preferences -> Energy Saver
  • Select “Enable Power Nap while on battery power”

How to search for old messages on iPhone

If you are looking for an old message on your iPhone, there’s a better way than scrolling forever to find it, you can simply use the search feature of the Messages app.

With your Messages app open, simply swipe downwards until you see a Search bar. Type a word that you remember the message you are looking for contains. A list of messages matching your search will appear. 

How to automatically delete old messages?

If you don’t want your Messages to be stored in any way, neither on your device, nor on iCloud, do the following:

  • Launch the Settings app -> Messages 
  • Under Message History, select “Keep Messages”. 

You will be given an option of 3 time-periods for which your device stores your messages (30 days, 1 year, Forever). Forever is the default option. Less than 30 days is not an option – you will have to manually delete your messages if you do not want them stored.