Good Questions: Exporting Text Messages From iPhone to Computer

Good Questions: Exporting Text Messages From iPhone to Computer

Gregory Han
Jul 17, 2009

Dear Unplgg, I'm eligible for the iPhone upgrade and thinking about doing it but I don't want to lose all my text messages. Does anyone know a way to save a string of text messages on my computer as a document other than copying and pasting them all by hand? I've got too many juicy text messages from a variety of celebs I'd like to keep for posterity. Abigail

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Hi Abby, we're envious of your upgrade plans, but think we've got a couple solutions for you to save all those lusty, salacious text messages from your celeb friends. Here's the hard way first via Lifehacker that converts your text messages into a spreadsheet compatible listing:

  1. Jailbreak. First, you'll need to jailbreak your iPhone using these instructions (here's the Windows user version). Make sure you install OpenSSH (here's how) to make your iPhone accessible via SFTP.
  2. SFTP into the phone. Go to the phone's network settings, and view the details of the active connection. Write down the device's IP address. Using your favorite FTP client, SFTP into that IP address using the username root and password alpine.
  3. Download sms.db. Your text message database is located in /var/mobile/Library/SMS/sms.db on your iPhone. Download that file to your computer.
  4. Open the SQLite database. That sms.db file is a SQLite database, which you can edit and view using free tools. Download one of those tools—the SQLite Database Browser—and install it on your computer. Open up the sms.db file, and click on the Browse Data tab. Choose the message table and you'll see your SMS history.
  5. Export to CSV. From the SQLite Database Browser's File menu, choose Export > Table to CSV file. Save the resulting comma-delimited file, and open it using your spreadsheet of choice (whether it's Excel or OpenOffice.org).

And here are three commercial solutions: Phoneview is a $20 app that allows access to your MMS messages back to your computer. There's a free demo to give it a whirl.

Similarly priced is Tansee iPhone Transfer.

Last is Syphone, a freeware Macintosh utility for use with Apple's iPhone that lets you view, save, and back up your SMS messages:

  • View synced iPhone SMS messages on your Macintosh
  • Archive SMS messages
  • Import/export SMS messages
  • View SMS messages offline in an iChat-like interface with selectable colors
  • Open Address Book contacts
  • View the number of sent and received messages for each contact
  • Support multiple iPhones
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