How to transfer SMS and iMessage history between iOS devices

By , Jan 30, 2013

SMS folder

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been waiting for the upcoming release of the iOS 6.1 untethered jailbreak before you upgraded to the iPhone 5. Upgrading to a new iPhone is exciting, but there are always a kink or two in the process. One of the upgrading issues that always bothers me is the fact that iTunes doesn’t make it easy to copy your text message history to a new device; your only option is to restore from a backup, and that doesn’t always work.

Unfortunately even third party utilities like iTools.hk or CopyTrans Contacts are currently unable to transfer SMS and iMessage history between devices since iOS 5 and up. I was able to find a manual method, but it requires following the process to the letter. The guide also works with the iPad and iPod touch, but these devices will only display iMessages.

In this tutorial, we will show you how to backup your SMS and iMessages, and we will also show you how to transfer these messages from one device to another…

Note: This tutorial is intended to instruct savvy jailbreakers on manually overwriting system files. While I have tested this process with my iPhone 4 and 3rd generation iPad without issue, iDownloadBlog is not responsible if you lose your data while attempting to follow our instructions.

You will require:

First we need to get the iMessage and SMS database files off the old iPhone. This part is fairly straight forward.

Step 1: With your old iPhone connected to your computer, open iFunBox and click on the iFunBox Classic tab.

SMS folder

Step 2: Open your device and access the Raw File System. Navigate to ‘var/mobile/Library/SMS‘. Copy the contents of the SMS folder to your computer. If you don’t care about photo attachments and drafts, you only need to copy sms.db, sms.db-shm, and sms.db-wal. Otherwise copy all the contents.

Now that we have our iMessage and SMS database files backed up, we need to prepare our new device for receiving these files.

icloud sms

Step 3: On your new iPhone or iPad, go into Settings and select ‘Mail, Contacts, Calendars’.

Step 4: Enter the settings page for your iCloud account and disable Contacts from the menu.

Step 5: At this point, open the app switcher and make sure the Messages app is closed. It is very important that you do not open Messages until the process is completed.

Step 6: Plug your new device into your computer, and access var/mobile/Library/SMS in iFunBox. Back up and delete the existing contents of the SMS folder and drag your old phone’s files over. If you’re not copying Attachments and Drafts over, leave the original folders.

SMS highlight

Step 7: Highlight all the files that you just copied over, right-click, and select permissions.

file ownership permissions SMS

Step 8: In addition to setting permissions to 0755, you will also need to change the ownership of these files from Root to Mobile. Otherwise, Messages will be unable to access the database files.

Step 9: Reboot your device before launching Messages. If you launched iMessages before rebooting, you will need to repeat the process from Step 6.

Once you reboot, your iMessage and SMS history should work with your new device. If you have any issues, let us know in the comments section.

[ModMyi]

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  • Derek Brown

    You can do this without jailbreaking with iBackupbot. I transfered all my texts to my new iphone 5 without restoring an old backup.

    • http://twitter.com/ax3ko74 ax3ko74

      How?

      • RarestName

        iMagic.

      • Sanect

        Or use Backuptrans iPhone SMS Transfer. It lets you transfer messages between iPhones directly. No Jailbreak required

      • Seshasai

        Do you Have BackupTrans software and is it working for you. If so could you share the software to me coz i donot have credit card to buy the application :( if you are willing to share send a mail to seshu.smartguys@gmail.com

      • Chuck Finley

        It’s literally all there for you. Seriously, try to use this magic thing called Google.

    • Namerson

      Great find bud, this will be incredibly useful. Will take a look at it. I simple use a FTP client and copy and paste data, but this way, iTunes will place them correctly. Finally get rid of all my jailbreak traces left from iPhone to iPhone. -.-

  • ap3604

    So this is a tutorial if you have two devices and you want the same SMS history on both…

    But If you just have one device (say an iPhone), simply use iCloud no?

    • pegger1

      This is a tutorial to copy the messages from one device to a new device. If you only have one device, where are you copying to?

      • RarestName

        Backing up?

    • http://Michaelschnier.tumblr.com Michael Schnier

      If it works for you automatically, you don’t need the guide. If it doesn’t, that’s what the guide is for.

  • http://twitter.com/TameR_NooR T@MeR NooR

    thanks

  • http://twitter.com/piyushr21 Piyush

    You know I was doing this trick since the time of iphone 3G and i am surprised no one ever done it before till now . It can also be use for to copy safari bookmarks and contacts also.

  • Guest

    Another useless tutorial on this n00b Blog… Why do I even come here? I guess because it’s fun to see stupid people.

    Go on and dislike, foolish sheeps.

    P. S.: Not a Hater, just someone with advanced knowledge.

    • Kurt Andersen

      I guess you like to look at the mirror then. What’s the use of advanced knowledge if you can’t even respect others?

      • Guest

        Why would one respect people who are inferior?

      • http://twitter.com/rcnino Ryan C

        People who proclaim themselves superior do not deserve respect.

  • http://twitter.com/rcnino Ryan C

    This is great. I’ve always restored from backup when updating and rejailbreaking because I didn’t want to lose 4 years of text message history. Now I can backup my photos with a copy, app data with DataDeposit, PkgBackup for Cydia stuff, this for messages, and set up my 4S as a new device with 6.1! Anything else important that I’m leaving out?

    Thanks, Mike!

  • http://www.facebook.com/curt.zirlott Curt Zirlott

    What about game saves/progress?

  • Janno Sinclair BuzzBazz

    Dude… I just copy the files and back them up. Transfer to wanted device… now you can plant sms and shit on iPhone and trick anyone… or just use it for your self. Whatever floats your shit.

  • Codvisp

    and do think that your iMessages will function properly?! No Sir, you wont be able to see all past images because the Ownership of the image file should be Wheel (group) and it has to be set manually…
    @codvisp

  • http://twitter.com/gltch486 Matt

    Is there a way to use this process to back-up and restore messages after upgrading to a new version of iOS? (i.e.: upgrading from 5.1.1 to 6.1 after jailbreaking on the SAME iDevice?)

    • http://twitter.com/warrenskipper Warren Skipper

      Yes, you can but you shouldn’t need to since iTunes backs up your messages.

  • http://twitter.com/warrenskipper Warren Skipper

    Worked like a charm! Thanks

  • Lucy

    I’m guilty of not reading the 1st part properly and didn’t have an FTP client. I used ifunbox and got to step 6, I backed up all the files to my laptop and replaced them with the ones from old iPhone but a message popped up saying I didn’t have open ssh installed & couldn’t proceed. I replaced the files again with the original backed up files but now I can’t send or receive messages. I have since installed open ssh and mobile terminal but do I need to repeat the process again or will a restore fix it? I don’t re-jail breaking if I have to. Please help!

  • Lucy

    *don’t mind re-jail breaking

  • Matthew Sweet

    Is the process different on a Mac. When I right click I do not get a ‘Permissions’ option…

    Any help please…

  • http://www.jamesgunaca.com James Gunaca

    I’m having trouble receiving photos after going through this walkthrough. I backed up the SMS files on an iPhone 4 (iOS 6.0.2) and then put them on a semi-restored iPhone 5 (iOS 6.0.2). I can access the sms database, send/receive OK the problem is that when someone sends me a Picture, I get the notification but when viewing in the messages view the picture is not visible. When I reboot the iPhone I get a “img_418.jpg?” icon instead of the actual image in the message view.

    I’ve tried resetting permissions of all files in the SMS database to no avail. Help is appreciated!

    • TheW Ool

      exact same problem here. ios7.

      anyone?

      • http://www.jamesgunaca.com James Gunaca

        I ended up changing settings in iFile on the device. I applied read/write privileges to all files using the root level account to all files in the SMS directory.

        This method resolved the issue on iOS 6. Then it occurred on iOS 7 again and the same fix worked.

      • http://www.jamesgunaca.com James Gunaca

        Using ifunbox didn’t work. Which is why I did it via ifile.

      • rubencas

        Would you mind walking me through this, I’ve had this problem for over a year now and I’ve never been able to figure it out. Which settings privileges in iFile did you change?

      • http://www.jamesgunaca.com James Gunaca

        First, follow this guide to replace the database files in the SMS folder using iFunBox. Then on your device open up iFile and navigate to /var/mobile/Library/SMS

        Click the ‘i’ for sms.db, scroll down to “Ownership” and make sure both Owner and Group are “mobile” then under Access Permissions, change User, Group and World to “read, write”. Hit done. Repeat this process for sms.db-shm and sms.db-wal files, close iFile. Power off device, reboot.

        Hopefully that should help. That’s what I had to do on mine. Basically, it’s a permissions problem for the SMS database files that prevent it from showing the images.

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    Goolge Coolmuster iPhone iPad iPod to PC Transfer software.This tool is good tool to backup ios data to pc.
    I heard that Coolmuster have a holiday promotion for Christmas. You can get a lot of discount.

  • Nvupaann

    Goolge Coolmuster iPhone iPad iPod to PC Transfer software.This tool is good tool to backup ios data to pc.
    I heard that Coolmuster have a holiday promotion for Christmas. You can get a lot of discount.