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How to Delete All iMessages from a Mac or Macbook

Posted by Arch on February 13, 2019

Finding an old message in your iMessage app can be a daunting task. Especially if you’re trying to find something you’ve mentioned to a friend that you talk with on a daily basis.

Of course, that’s exactly why many people favor iMessages in the first place, that you’re automatically saving your chat history. They’ll be saved in your backups and work independently of your other accounts (your cell phone carrier, for example).

Therefore, if you want to get rid of something, you can’t just rely on closing the app. That won’t prevent someone else from digging into your Mac and finding your conversations and attachments.

The Problem

Deleting your iMessages on a Mac is not the hard part. It’s deleting them permanently that requires you to know a few tricks.

When you normally delete a message or conversation and you’re using the default iMessage settings, chances are you’re going to recover all of them at some point. There’s also a big difference between deleting conversations and just closing them.

Although the text may disappear briefly after you close a conversation, the messages reappear if you start a new conversation with the same contact. So, how can you fix this?

The Solution

Before you start deleting messages, you’ll want to go to the Preferences menu on your iMessage app. Under the General tab, you will notice the following option:

Save history when conversations are closed

You have to uncheck it if you want to permanently delete your iMessages.

But this doesn’t solve your problem with older messages that have already been saved under the previous setting. Luckily, you can permanently delete all your chat history.

  1. Exit iMessage app
  2. Press Command + Shift + G – this brings up the Go To Folder window
  3. Type in ~/Library/Messages and press Go
  4. Select the following files – chat.db, chat.db-wal, chat.db-shm, and everything else you might find there
  5. Move them to the Trash folder
  6. Empty the Trash folder
  7. Open iMessage to verify if the operation was successful (Note that this doesn’t delete any attachments from the conversations, just the messages. If you want to delete the attachments too, you need to perform the following steps)
  8. Exit iMessage app
  9. Press Command + Shift + G to open the Go To Folder window
  10. Type in ~/Library/Messages/Attachments and press Enter
  11. Select all the files that you want to delete – text, archives, music files, videos, etc.
  12. Move them to the Trash folder
  13. Empty the Trash folder

Alternative Methods

If you want to avoid manually selecting the files to delete, you could always use the terminal and run a simple command line that empties the folder completely.

rm –r ~/Library/Messages/chat.*

This will remove all iMessages permanently without the need to empty the Trash folder.

rm –r ~/Library/Messages/Attachments/??

This will remove everything in the Attachments folder regardless if you’ve emptied the chat first.

Keep in mind that both these command lines result in permanent action. None of the data deleted can be recovered unless you have performed backups prior to the deletion of the files.

You can also erase messages from a conversation directly in the conversation window. You can do this by selecting the message bubbles individually. After you’re done with your selections, open the context menu and hit Delete.

Hit delete once more to confirm your action. Note that this will remove the messages permanently, not move them to the Trash folder.

Another method involves using the Clear Transcript function. Open up a conversation window that you want to clean. Without making any bubble selections, select the Edit tab on the app’s toolbar.

Scroll down the list until you reach ‘Clear Transcript’. Click on it and all the messages will be deleted even though the conversation will remain open.

Don’t worry, there’s an even quicker way to do this for all you shortcut fans. Once in the conversation window, press Option + Command + K. Or you can right click on an empty space in a conversation window and select the Clear Chat Transcript option.

A Final Thought

If you’re using a Mac, you have multiple methods at your disposal when it comes to erasing your chat history. You can remove individual messages, bulk messages, attachments, even entire conversations.

However, keep in mind that either of these methods will remove that data permanently. So, give it some serious thought before you deem it truly necessary to hide your chat history from prying eyes.

Now, before you do anything else, don’t forget to share your thoughts on iMessages or the iMessage app in the comments section below.

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