Starting with iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, Apple’s Messages app provides a useful new cloud-syncing feature, called Messages on iCloud. With it, when you sign in to another new device all of your conversations are automatically synchronized through iCloud and appear automagically in the Messages app on the new device.

Like with iCloud Photo Library, the Messages on iCloud feature keeps your conversations and attachments continually synchronized across your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac devices in a manner that helps preserve storage.

With Messages on iCloud, deleting an embarrassing message you don’t want in your transcript on one device automatically removes it from all the other devices you own, and vice versa.

Here’s how to set up and use Messages on iCloud.

Before we get to it, Messages on iCloud requires:

  • iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iOS 11 or later
  • Mac with macOS High Sierra or later

The feature is not directly supported on Apple Watch.

The benefits to using Messages on iCloud

As mentioned, this feature saves your entire message history in iCloud, so all your conversations and attachments are available when you sign in to Messages on a new device.

Messages caches the most recent chats on the device and older ones are loaded on demand from iCloud. This lets you save space on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac.

Messages on iCloud also makes for smaller and faster iCloud backups.

That’s because the Messages database is not included in your iOS device backup in iCloud since it’s already there. Perhaps most importantly, Messages on iCloud helps you keep the size of the Messages database on your device under control.

Messages is notorious for keeping deleted messages in its database—chats and attachments are simply marked for deletion, which lets iOS optimize the Messages database when storage is low. It is not uncommon for Messages to store years worth of saved and deleted chats on your device, with no way to manually slim down its database without jailbreaking.

With Messages on iCloud, those storage issues become a thing of the past.

As a bonus, should you ever lose your iPhone or accidentally wipe out everything, simply sign in on your new device and all your chats are loaded from iCloud.

Best of all, you don’t have to give up your privacy and security when using this feature: with Messages on iCloud, all your chats are end-to-end encrypted, just like before.

How to enable Messages on iCloud

You must enable the feature separately on every iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac you own.

iPhone and iPad:

1) Launch Settings on your iOS device.

2) Tap Messages.

3) Slide the switch Messages on iCloud to the ON position.

The first time you turn this feature on, your device will need to upload the Messages database to iCloud. Depending on the number of chats and attachments you have in Messages, this may take anywhere between a few seconds to a couple of minutes or more.

Mac:

1) Launch Messages on your Mac.

2) Choose Preferences from the Messages menu.

3) Click the Accounts tab in the Messages preferences window.

4) Select your iMessage account from the list on the lefthand side, then tick the box next to “Enable this account” if it hasn’t been turned on already.

5) Now tick the box next to “Enable Messages on iCloud”.

Messages will start downloading your chat archive from iCloud, which may take a while depending on the number of conversations and saved attachments in your account.

If the Messages on iCloud is already enabled on your other iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac, Messages may put up a prompt offering to enable it on this Mac, and vice versa.

If so, a single click on the Allow button is all it takes to enable Messages on iCloud.

How to manually force-sync Messages to iCloud

Before turning off Messages on iCloud for all of your devices, it may be a good idea to force the Messages app to perform one final sync with iCloud.

iPhone and iPad:

1) Launch Settings on your iOS device.

2) Tap Messages.

3) Tap the link “Sync Now” underneath the Messages on iCloud switch.

NOTE: The date and time of the last sync are shown underneath the “Sync Now” link.

This will ensure you have an up to date Messages database in iCloud, which may come in handy if you lose your device or accidentally wipe out everything.

If you don’t have Messages on iCloud enabled, you won’t see this option.

How to disable Messages on iCloud

You can disable Messages on iCloud for your current device only or have it turned off at once across all iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac devices that have it enabled.

iPhone and iPad:

1) Launch Settings on your iOS device.

2) Tap Messages.

3) Slide the switch Messages on iCloud to the OFF position.

A prompt asks if you’d like to turn the feature off for just this device or all of your devices.

Choose what you’d like to do:

  • Disable This Device—Disables Messages on iCloud for just this device.
  • Disable All—Disables Messages on iCloud for all of your devices.

Choose either option or tap Cancel to abort the operation.

Turning the feature off prompts your device to download the most recent Messages data. “By disabling Messages on iCloud, your Messages data will be downloaded to your device and will no longer sync to iCloud,” reads the feature’s description.

As mentioned before, it’s a good idea to manually force the Messages app to sync with iCloud before disabling this feature. The date and time of the most recent sync are displayed underneath the “Sync Now” link in Settings → Messages on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and in the Messages preferences window on your Mac.

Mac:

1) Launch Messages on your Mac.

2) Choose Preferences from the Messages menu.

3) Click the Accounts tab in the Messages preferences window

4) Untick the box next to “Enable Messages on iCloud” to turn the feature off.

If Messages on iCloud is active on other devices, your Mac will ask if you’d like to disable the feature for just this computer or for all your devices.

Need help? Ask iDB!

If you like this how-to, pass it along to your support folks and leave a comment below.

Got stuck? Not sure how to do certain things on your Apple device? Let us know at help@iDownloadBlog.com and a future tutorial might provide a solution.

Submit your how-to suggestions via tips@iDownloadBlog.com.

  • Tony Trenkle Jr.

    I have both betas and the option is greyed out in my settings. and on my Mac it wont let me turn it on.

    • bigkool2

      Try logging out of iCloud on both, rebooting both devices, then logging back into iCloud.

      • Luc Kurstjens

        I have the same problem, my iphone running the ios 11 beta won’t let me sync my messages. Like tony the option is greyed out. I tried logging in and out on imessage, icloud in general, i even restored my iphone but it just wont do. What to do?

      • Tony Trenkle Jr.

        I’ll have to try that when I get home.

  • Aman kapoor

    Does this work with watchOS as well
    That’ll save me from deleting all those one time passwords and promotional texts from my watch not to forget bank transactions

    Also does this use your iCloud storage or does this work like call log syncing ( call logs are synced across all devices and they don’t count against storage )

    • M_Hawke

      6th paragraph before the first fold: “The feature is not directly supported on Apple Watch.”

    • That’s a good question. My guess is that Messages data counts against your iCloud storage.

  • Rob

    I have iOS 11 beta and macOS beta at the right level and haven’t been able to run this on. On the Mac I get an error message, “Unable to update iCloud settings at this time.” and on the iPhone it spends a long time “Syncing to iCloud” before reverting to telling me the last sync was Never. I suspected that the backend provision that will support this isn’t ready yet and we shouldn’t be using it.

    • bigkool2

      I had the same issue, then I signed out of iCloud on my macbook (not just out of imessages), rebooted the machine and logged back into iCloud and it worked. Give it a shot.

      • Rob

        Thank you for the tip. I’ve tried that off the back of your suggestion. Mac tells me, “”Unable to update iCloud settings at this time” still. Where are you based bigkool2? I’m wondering if this is only enabled for US iCloud accounts at the moment.

      • Apple had some issues with iCloud this morning. I was initially unable to get it to work on my Mac due to these issues, but everything is now working like a charm. iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra are in beta 1 stage so issues are to be expected.

      • Rob

        I will give it another go. Did wonder if the fact that it’s got 14Gb of messages to sync was the problem.

      • Rob

        Same error message on both macOS and iOS. I wonder if it’s region specific. Any UK beta testers been able to get this working?

      • bigkool2

        I am in South Carolina, USA.

      • Rob

        Thanks. Interesting I can now use it in beta 2.

    • Arturo Mercado

      Did you solve it?

      • Rob

        Now that macOS beta 2 is out, I have installed that and retested. It’s doing an initial sync. iOS not playing ball as yet.

      • Rob

        iOS now playing. Had a stack of notifications about messages that couldn’t be sent from 400+ days ago. Wasn’t annoying getting push after push for a few hours at all 😉

  • I doubt they’ll ever add this. Such a tiny fraction of users needs this. Who doesn’t always have their phone on them. And of course everyone that has a Mac won’t need it.

    I get it would open things up for Windo/Androi users

    • Nathan Dennis

      At work we don’t use macs. Sometimes replying with a full keyboard on my windows machine at work would be awesome. I do a lot of work from texting people. So I think this would be more desired even from mac users than you think.

      • I mean, I’m not in charge of it. But if, I would have added it to Android / Web for sure. But that would create issues with say those iMessage apps (it would require a lot to get those to work) and if those aren’t available there’s even less reason for Apple to put money and time into doing it, as other chat clients do a lot more.

      • Leslie Standifer

        mac users have messages on mac so they already have it

    • SpideyRules

      You’re SORELY mistaken about ‘such a tiny fraction of users need this’. I sit in front of my work PC more than 50% of the day. I have a very nice dock for my phone. I’d much rather use my computer to reply to my iMessages instead of having to pick up my phone every time. If you doubt the number of people that would like this feature, look at the number of users for the jailbreak tweaks that allow this functionality.

      Until they add it, I’ll stick with WhatsApp, that provides better encryption AND lets me use my computer to sendreceive messages.

  • Eric Jacquier

    These instructions are OBSOLETE. There is nowhere a link called “messages on icloud” or “enable messages on icloud” on the latest versions of IOS and MAC OS. Step 3 can’t be done.

  • Dominick Tarabocchia

    My laptop is running High Sierra. My iPad is on IOS 11. However my phone is on IOS 10. Does anyone know if my laptop and iPad will have the sync features? Or do I need to upgrade the phone as well to IOS 11. I did notice that Numbers gets confused on two different platforms. I didn’t upgrade the phone because it’s a business phone.

    • Leslie Standifer

      apple removed the feature from beta 5 its not going to be ready for ios 11