Why Pictures Disappear from Text Messages on iPhone

Some reasons why pictures may have disappeared from your text messages include them being deleted, a strange bug or glitch, a problem with a recent update, or your storage being full. Thankfully, there are a few ways to recover them.

I can remember several occasions where I’ve gone back to my old text messages to try and view a photo that someone has sent me, only for it to have seemingly disappeared out of nowhere.

This can be a frustrating experience, especially if the photo you’re looking for is important. But why do these pictures disappear and how can you get them back safely? Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • There are several potential reasons why your pictures may have disappeared from text messages such as the messages themselves being deleted, a weird glitch, a problem with an OS update, or a lack of storage space on your iPhone. 
  • Some things you can do to try to get them back include restarting or updating your phone, restoring a backup, using a third-party data recovery tool, or seeing if anyone else has a copy of the pictures that have been lost.
  • Pictures and other attachments should realistically stay in your messages forever, unless you have changed a setting that allows them to be deleted after a certain amount of time has passed.

Reason 1: The Pictures Got Deleted Automatically or By Accident

The first reason that the photos may have disappeared from your text messages is due to them being deleted. iPhones have a setting that lets you choose how long messages are kept for, and once the time passes, the messages are deleted.

To access this setting, go to Settings > Messages > Keep Messages. You can choose to keep messages forever, for 30 days, or for 1 year. If this setting is set to anything but Forever, messages will eventually be deleted once the stated amount of time passes.

You can change this setting to ensure you don’t lose important photos going forward.

In addition to deleting these messages automatically once enough time passes, there’s also a chance you deleted the photo/message by accident. In order to preserve space on your iPhone, a good practice is to delete photos that are kept in your messages.

You can do this by going to Settings > General > iPhone Storage, and then scrolling down to Messages.

Under the Documents header, you’ll see a Photos option. When you click it, you’ll be able to go through all of the photos you currently have in your messages and delete them if need be.

While this is a handy option to quickly and easily save space on your device by deleting old photos you never need, there is a chance you accidentally deleted a photo or entire message conversation that you didn’t mean to.

Reason 2: iPhone Bug or Glitch

It’s also possible the photos disappeared due to a strange bug or glitch. iPhones are complex devices with a lot of software and hardware interactions behind the scenes, and sometimes these interactions can lead to glitches or bugs within the device.

To see if a bug is what’s causing your issue viewing photos, restart your device. You can do this by pressing and holding either the volume button and the side power button down at the same time until the Power Off slider appears.

Simply slide it to the right to shut down your device. After about 30 seconds, press and hold the side power button until the Apple logo appears to turn your phone back on and see if the issue is corrected.

You could also try and check for an update, as Apple frequently includes bug fixes in iOS updates, so installing a new version of iOS can often fix problems like this. To update your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Software Update and click Download and Install.

Reason 3: Lack of Storage Space

Also, some people have experienced this issue when their device is lacking available storage space. So if your storage is full or nearly full, try to free up some space to see if that brings the photos back into your messages.

Different Ways to Recover These Photos

If you’ve restarted, updated, and cleared some space on your device and the photos still haven’t returned, your photos may truly be gone and you’ll need to recover them. Your best bet here is to restore your device from a previous iCloud backup.

1. Restore from iCloud Backup

To restore from a backup, you first need to reset your device. This is done by going to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Erase All Content and Settings.

When setting your device up again, follow the steps and make sure to choose Restore from iCloud Backup on the Transfer Your Apps & Data screen.

Keep in mind that if you restore from a previous backup, anything new that you have added on your device since then will be removed.

2. Use Data Recovery Software

If you don’t have a backup, or don’t want to revert to a past backup for one reason or another, another option is to use some type of third-party iPhone data recovery tool to try and recover the photos.

There are several of them out there, so make sure to do your homework and choose one that has solid reviews and is legitimate. The way they work varies, but it’s generally a simple and quick process.

For example, follow these steps to use the popular PhoneRescue for iOS software to attempt to get your pictures back:

  • Step 1: Download the PhoneRescue for iOS software on your computer, open it, and connect your device to your computer.
  • Step 2: Select the Recover from iOS Device option and make sure to select Messages from the list of different data options it can recover.
  • Step 3: Run the software and search through the Message Attachment results to see if you’re able to find the photo(s), and then either recover them to the device or your computer.

3. Check Elsewhere

Another option is to attempt to find out if the photos exist on any other device or in another app somewhere on your iPhone. It’s also possible that you saved it to your Camera Roll, or the person who sent the photo could have saved it somewhere and may be able to send it back.


Here are a few frequently asked questions about pictures in text messages, as well as their answers.

How to view the photos in a message conversation on an iPhone?

There are a few ways to view the photos you have kept in messages. You can simply scroll through the conversation to find the photos/attachments, but you can also click on the person’s name at the top of the conversation and then scroll down to Photos to see a list.

How long are photos saved in a conversion?

This depends on how you’ve organized your message settings. You can choose to keep messages forever, for 30 days, or for 1 year. So if enough time passes and a message is deleted, the photo included in that message will also be gone.

Final Thoughts

Being able to look back at your messages to view photos when needed is a convenient option. Unfortunately, these photos may not always be where they should be and could mysteriously go missing.

I hope this guide has helped you learn why they could have disappeared, and how you can get them back.

Do you feel I left something out that I should have mentioned in this guide? If so, let me know!

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