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How to Delete All iMessages from a Mac or MacBook

One of the great things about iMessage is that it automatically saves and backs up your messages to your connected devices. However, this also makes things more difficult when you decide you want to delete all of your iMessages.

If you’re worried about someone looking through your Mac and finding your messages, or you want to delete your messages for some other reason, doing so is, fortunately, relatively easy.

Let’s take a look at what steps you can take to delete all of your iMessages from your Mac or MacBook.

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?

How to Permanently Delete All iMessages From a Mac

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 this option 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.

Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Exit the 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 the selected files 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 [1] from the conversations, just the messages. If you want to delete the attachments too, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. Exit the iMessage app
  2. Press Command + Shift + G to open the Go To Folder window
  3. Type in ~/Library/Messages/Attachments and press Enter
  4. Select all the files that you want to delete, such as text, archives, music files, videos, etc.
  5. Move them to the Trash folder
  6. Empty the Trash folder

This will permanently delete all of your attachments in addition to the messages that you previously deleted.

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.

To do this, open the terminal and enter the following command:

rm –r ~/Library/Messages/chat.*

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

To delete attachments, enter the following command:

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 of 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.

Erase Conversations Directly

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.

Using the Clear Transcript Function

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.

You can also use a shortcut to do this even more quickly. 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.