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How to Move Text Messages to a New Android Phone

by Sagar Naresh Bhavsar on August 16, 2023

Updated by Suzanne Kantra on 8/16/2023 with new instructions and screenshots.

If you buy a new phone, Google makes it easy to transfer most of your data, letting you pick up where you left off. However, text messages won't automatically be transferred to your new phone. So any important texts you have from family, friends, doctor's offices, or other sources will be lost. And the same issues could occur, without warning, if you break or lose your device.

However, there are steps you can take in advance of switching phones that allow you to back up your texts so you never lose access to important messages. 

Android phone showing a screenshot of the SMS Backup & Restore app setup screen.

If you’re a Google Pixel owner or use Google’s Messages app (not the proprietary app that is the default on Samsung and some other manufacturers’ phones), you can use Android’s built-in text message backup function. Otherwise, there are two apps that I recommend for backing up text messages. SMS Backup & Restore is a basic app that lets you back up your messages to Google Drive or another cloud service. Alternatively, if you are looking for an app that can manage all your text messages and back them up automatically, I recommend Microsoft SMS Organizer.

Here’s how to use these three options to back up your old text messages and get them back safe and sound on a new Android phone.

1. Use Android Settings to back up your texts to Google Drive

Android can back up all of the data on your phone, including contacts, device settings, call history, and text messages, to Google Drive. To use it for texts, though, you need to be using Google’s Messages app. Google Messages is the default app for Pixel and other stock Android phones, but you would need to download and install it on phones that use a proprietary app, like on Samsung Galaxy devices.

Three screenshots of Android Settings app. In the first screenshot, you see Storage, Cloud Service, Accounts, Digital Wellbeing  & parental controls, Google (pointed out), Utilities, System, About phone. In the second screenshot you see a photo with the name Sagar Naresh Bhavsar, a button Manage your Google Account, COVID-19 Exposure Notifications, Ads, Autofill, Backup (pointed out), Devices & sharing, and Find My Device. In the third screenshot you see Backup at the top, with Account storage, Backup by Google One with the toggle on, a button Back up now (pointed out), Back details, Apps, Photos & videos SMS messages (pointed out), Call history.

How to back up text messages with the Settings app

  1. Open the Settings app on your phone and select Google.
  2. Select Backup.
  3. Here, ensure that the Backup to Google Drive or Backup by Google One toggle is enabled (The Backup by Google One option shows up if you have a Google One subscription plan).
  4. At the top of the screen, confirm that the correct Google account is selected for backup under Account Storage.
  5. Scroll down to the Backup details section, and you will see all the data that is being backed up. Under SMS & MMS messages, you will see the size of your text message backup. 
  6. Tap the Back up now button to manually back up your data. Otherwise, your phone will back up automatically whenever it's on WiFi and idle and charging for two hours. 

How to restore text messages with the Settings app

  1. Turn on your new phone and, during the setup process, log in with the same Google account you used to create your text message backup.
  2. During the device setup process, click on Restore when you are asked if you want to restore data connected to your account.
  3. After completing the setup process, you will see all of your text messages.

2. Use SMS Backup & Restore App to move texts to a new phone

If you haven't been using the Google Messages app on your device already, I recommend using a third-party app such as SMS Backup & Restore. I have personally used the SMS Backup & Restore app many times, it's free in Google Play, and I find it super easy to create backups and restore messages to a new phone. Here are the steps.

How to back up text messages with SMS Backup & Restore

Three screenshots of the SMS Backup & Restore app. In the first screenshot you see what would you like to back up with toggle optins for Mssages and Call Logs. In the second screenshot you see Where would you like to store your messages with options for Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and Your Phone, with options to require Over WiFi and While charging. In the third screenshot, you see options to schedule back ups daily, weekly or hourly and advanced options for disabling notifications.

  1. Download, install, and open the SMS Backup & Restore app.
  2. Tap the Get Started button. When opening the app for the first time, you can choose to allow access to your call logs, contacts, make and manage calls, and send and view SMS messages. To back up your text messages, you only need to enable the app to send and view SMS messages.
  3. On the app home screen, select the “Set up a Backup” button.
  4. Make sure the Messages toggle is on. If you only want messages and not attachments like photos and videos backed up, tap the “Advanced Options” button and toggle off Attachments and media.
  5. Tap Next.
  6. Choose a cloud storage service to store your backups – Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive – by tapping the toggle.
  7. Sign into your cloud storage account by tapping the Log in button.
  8. In the pop-up, choose the option to Only access to files and folders opened or created with SMS Backup & Restore.
  9. Under Delete backups older than, choose whether you want old backups deleted (up to 30 days) or whether you want to save all backups.
  10. At the bottom of the Set Up Backup screen, you can now select whether you want to back up over WiFi only and whether your phone needs to be charged.
  11. Tap Next.
  12. Select your back schedule from daily, weekly, or hourly.
  13. Tap the Back up now button, and the backup process will begin.

How to restore text messages with SMS Backup & Restore

  1. Make sure the SMS Backup & Restore app is installed on your new Android phone during setup. If it isn’t installed, go to Google Play and install the app.
  2. Open the app and tap on the menu icon (triple bars) in the top left.
  3. Select the Restore option.
  4. Select the cloud storage option you used on your old phone and sign in with the account you use to store your backups. The app will confirm the connection to your account.
  5. Toggle on the Messages option and tap on Restore.
  6. A message will pop up asking you to temporarily set the app as your default SMS app. Tap OK.
  7. The SMS restoration process will begin and, after the process completes, tap on “Close.”
  8. Go to Settings > Apps and select the Messages app. Select Set as default, and you will see all of your messages restored on the new phone.

3. Use SMS Organizer to move texts to a new phone

About two years ago, I started using Microsoft’s SMS Organizer app as my default text messaging app. Like SMS Backup & Restore, it serves as a full backup provider, but it does much more. It automatically categorizes incoming messages as Personal, Transactions, or Promotions, and if messages are important, I can star them for easy access (It will categorize your existing messages when you first install the app). And there is a simple toggle to just view messages that I haven’t read.

Beyond text message organization, it can set reminders that notify you about your upcoming flights, deliveries, bills, and more based on your texts. And there is an option to schedule texts for things like birthday wishes.

It’s not compatible with all Android phones, but if yours is (you’ll know if you see the Install button in Google Play), I highly recommend it. Here’s how to use SMS Organizer to move your text messages to a new Android phone.

How to back up text messages with SMS Organizer

  1. Download, install, and open the SMS Organizer app.
  2. Follow the onscreen prompts and make sure you accept the option to set the SMS Organizer as your default text messaging app.
  3. Tap on the 3-dot menu icon on the top right of the app home screen.
  4. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
  5. On the Settings page, select the Backup & restore option.
  6. Select Google Drive account and sign in with your credentials.
  7. Set the backup schedule to Daily, Weekly, or Monthly.
  8. Tap the Back up button.

How to restore text messages with SMS Organizer

Three screenshots of SMS Organizer. In the first screenshot, you see a life of text messages with the Messages tab at the top open. At the bottom  are icons for Personal, Transactions, Promotions and Starred. At the Top the triple dots are pointed out. In the second screenshot, you see the Settings screen with App status, Generagl Backup & restore (pointed out), Message rules, Group Messaging, Swipe actions, Theme, Use system theme, Show quick replies, About. In the third screen shot, you see the Backup & restore Settings screen with the Last backup shown with date and time and buttons for Back Up and Restore. Below is the Google Drive account name and the scheduling for Auto Backup.

  1. Make sure the SMS Organizer app is installed on your new Android phone during setup. If it isn’t installed, go to Google Play and install the app.
  2. Follow the onscreen prompts and make sure you accept the option to set the app as your default text messaging app.
  3. Tap on the 3-dot menu icon on the top right of the app home screen.
  4. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
  5. Select Backup & restore.
  6. Tap the Restore button.
  7. Select the most recent backup that you created on your old phone.
  8. Tap the Restore button.
  9. All text messages from your old phone now will be available on your new Android phone.

Since it is such an easy process, I recommend keeping your messages automatically backed up using one of the three methods above. That way, if you lose access to your phone or it gets stolen, you will be able to easily retrieve your text messages. And when you're ready to upgrade to a new phone, you'll be all set for the move.

[Image credit: screenshots via Techlicious, SmartMockups]

Sagar Naresh Bhavsar has been writing about technology for more than two years. Previously, he was a staff writer at Guiding Tech and TechWiser. He loves working out, having a cup of coffee, and playing guitar.


Topics

Tips & How-Tos, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, Tech 101


Discussion loading

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From Toni Smith on March 25, 2022 :: 3:15 pm


It worked!

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From John on June 17, 2022 :: 4:21 am


Very grateful…my new phone missed loads of data on set-up, Your advice to use SMS Backup& Restore was perfect…Thanks!

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From Josh Kirschner on June 17, 2022 :: 5:02 pm


Awesome! Glad that worked for you!

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From Amy on June 13, 2023 :: 1:32 pm


Hi there,

I’m wondering if there’s a way to transfer messages from two google accounts to one account, on the new phone.

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From Gary on January 06, 2024 :: 11:50 pm


Unfortunately, (and I’ve had cellphones since the very beginning, this guy IS WRONG. I’ve moved many I phones to new phones and your messages come up as they should as soon as your into your account. It stores them online. Just like it always has.
You don’t honestly think someone said, “ya, let’s not only” Not” include people able to get their messages anyone by signing into their accounts like always.  But let’s also outrage people knowing they would torch Google once and for all if they are going to be that much of an assh**’ by not saving all our text messages like always.
So those with a brain KNOW our messages are their.  I just can’t figure out their new way of accessing them. 
Also, I’m paying for a cellphone service so “THEY HAVE TO” restore. They have no choice!

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From M!ke on June 19, 2022 :: 8:46 am


As always the phone maker seems to make it as difficult as possible to go seamlessly from one ‘phone to another; this app was easy to use even by a smartphobe’s standards. thanks.

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From Peter Maerz on June 25, 2022 :: 2:58 pm


SMS Backup and Restore was perfect solution for moving text messages from ancient LG phone to new Samsung Galaxy. It is rare that each step of the instructions is a perfect replica of what is seen on the phone! Hearty thanks!

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From alta on June 26, 2022 :: 5:15 pm


I cried. I had to get a new phone and my messages and calendar did not transfer over. I wanted to keep my old messages from loved ones that passed away and this program worked like a charm. I am so grateful, thank you so much. You are a genius!

Now, to find one for my calendar.

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From Josh Kirschner on June 27, 2022 :: 12:28 pm


I’m so glad that worked out for you to keep your old messages!

Reply

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From Georgina on July 04, 2022 :: 5:42 am


Thank you so much for your page on transferring SMS from the old phone to the new. Invaluable advice.

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From Lenny Khmel on July 22, 2022 :: 12:32 pm


Samsung Galaxy phones also feature Smart Switch where you can easily transfer everything including SMS from one phone to another

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From Corky on March 10, 2023 :: 8:43 am


I couldn’t use SmartSwitch because it required my new and old phones to be connected together. That’s a problem because when you enable a new Verizon phone on the same line as your old Verizon phone, it disables your old phone so you can no longer recover data from it.

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From Joseph on July 03, 2023 :: 6:11 am


I’m going to try this program shortly. But you can use SmartSwitch via wifi or a cable, both devices do not need to have a sim card. But SmartSwich does work well transferring data from Samsung device to a non-Samsung device. It will port messages into the Galaxy just fine, but won’t transfer out of the Galaxy. Hope this helps.

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From Sandy on August 13, 2022 :: 3:17 pm


Everything was going smoothly with the backup on my old phone to google drive.  Then the transfer seemed to be working, but the transfer won’t complete. The popup says that it needs to temporarily switch to a default SMS to restore and for me to click yes on the next screen.  But when I do that, it takes me back to the restore screen.  Seems like that it is caught in a loop.  Ideas on how to complete transfer to my new phone?

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From Josh Kirschner on August 18, 2022 :: 8:58 am


Hi Sandy,

Confirming that you used the Google backup method above to save your messages and the Google restore method during phone setup to restore them? Not a separate SMS transfer app? And you are using the same Gmail address on both?

Did this start happening after Verizon tried their transfer method? If so, I would factory reset the device to clear out any software Verizon may have added and try again.


Josh

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From Hans-Georg Michna on August 17, 2022 :: 9:00 am


Works very well, thanks!

I have known this app for a long time, then forgot about it while using rooted phones. Now I’m back to normal, and your article reminded me of this reliable app.

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From William on September 05, 2022 :: 1:59 pm


Thanks for this tip on how to save/move msgs from old to new phone.  The process was pretty straight forward based on the steps you documented.  The only comment I might make (and maybe I just didn’t understand correctly) is that the log and message files go together.  I was expecting just one file (which happened to be the log file first) and was wondering why I kept getting invalid backup when I tried to restore to new phone.

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From Ramesh Soni on September 11, 2022 :: 3:47 pm


SMS Organizer (MS) worked beautifully.  Thanks for the article.

rgs

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From Rick Rippeth on September 20, 2022 :: 3:46 pm


My phone is a Galaxy S21+. I recently had to perform a master reset after a Samsung security update. I entered my google account inormation and selected restore. All my photos and contacts were restored, however, none of my message history was restored. Is there a way to do a manual message history restore. FYI, I use the google messenger app.

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From Marty Harrington on October 08, 2022 :: 4:44 pm


Transferring data and software is such a major PIA, and you made this one part easy!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

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From Bonnie on October 09, 2022 :: 1:12 pm


This was extremely helpful - thank you so much!

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From Ljaynavl on October 14, 2022 :: 7:24 am


I used the Sms backup app even though I was moving content from one Google phone to another. I wasn’t seeing the embedded app referenced.  Your step by step method worked and everything transferred well.  Thank you.

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From Preston on October 19, 2022 :: 3:48 pm


I don’t normally comment but I just had to say thank-you. I came into a unique scenario where I was combining my work and personal phones. I didn’t want to loose anything from either so a factory reset was out of the question. SMS Backup & Restore app worked perfectly for me.

Thank-you!

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From BRIAN MCKAY on October 27, 2022 :: 6:22 am


thankyou! a gazillion times over, thankyou!

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From Curls on November 17, 2022 :: 10:42 pm


First I tried Google BU to transfer sms/msm to new phone. It didn’t transfer messages. Instead it made skeleton dates of a handful of messages for each often used contact.

Then I used Samsung smart switch to transfer. Most messages transferred.

But where those skeleton’s were, it didn’t transfer the message and left the skeleton. The rest of the thread with that person transferred.

What tool can work for that? I’m at a loss. The old phone is broken so I can’t easily try out things and need to figure it out ahead of time.

I don’t want to try anything again and overwrite what’s transferred already.

Thanks!


——
Samsung A53 Android 12 from my Moto x4 Android 9.1

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From Al on November 19, 2022 :: 7:24 am


Your advice to use SMS Backup & Restore was excellent

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From Judy on November 27, 2022 :: 9:38 pm


Thank you so Much.You made it so easy to follow.

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From Laurie Swanson on January 01, 2023 :: 6:35 pm


I just got a new Samsung S 22. I was able to move my messages and phone log from my old S-7 to my new phone following Sagar Naresh Bhavsar’s directions.
Please note that I am not technologically savvy and I am way too old to be figuring this stuff out, but with Mr. Bhavsar’s directions, my new phone has all my old text messages from 2017 and my call log. Now to work on the rest of the stuff. Thank you!

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From lori on February 07, 2023 :: 8:25 pm


Thank you for your detailed options and instructions! I was having difficulties with transferring thousands of text messages that I needed because I’d had to switch between Google Messages and the native Android Messages app due to carrier issues over the years. Your solutions not only helped me successfully transfer all that I needed, but they also allowed me to do that without a factory reset, which seemed like it was going to be a requirement. I’ll definitely recommend your site to others.

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From Josh Kirschner on February 08, 2023 :: 9:34 am


Hi Lori,

Thank you for the kind words. We’re glad the article was helpful for you!

Best,
Josh

Reply

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From Angela Addison Felton on March 08, 2023 :: 4:05 pm


I need help transferring messages from Samsung Flip4 to a Samsung FE20 phone can you assist me?

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From Brett Warner on May 09, 2023 :: 9:08 pm


I was able to transfer my Google Messages texts from my old Motorola moto g power to my new Samsung Galaxy A14 5G, only it did not transfer any pictures attached within any of the texts. Any ideas please?

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From Hallie Fisher on July 07, 2023 :: 7:17 pm


Omgoodness. I have a slew of texts I need to save and I thought I was going to have to screenshot all of them.

Only question I have is will it retain the “Details” Information showing the text was received,read,etc
Ty!

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From Chirac snr on August 24, 2023 :: 9:33 am


I WAS LOST ON HOW TO RETRIEVE SMS U GUYS ARE GREAT!

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From Jose A Carus Jr on September 16, 2023 :: 10:27 pm


Dear Sagar Naresh Bhavsar and Suzanne Kantra:

The last time I switched phones years ago I lost a lot of message because I could not find instructions like you put together to assist me.

This instructions and guidance you put together are exceptional.  They worked perfectly and you covered all the options in great, and especially, accurate detail.

I used the SMS Back and Restore and it worked exactly as you wrote.

Thank you and I am forever in your debt!!!

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From Michael S on September 17, 2023 :: 1:12 am


Hi folks,
I am keen to find a solution to merging multiple text messages from multiple phones. 

Typically a backup and restore process overwrites anything on the target phone, but I don’t want to do that.

Does the SMS Backup & Restore app allow for what I am calling “merging” text messages?

If not, does anyone know a solution?

I understand that there may end up being some duplication of text threads ... but that’s fine.


Many thanks in advance for any help.  [And my daughter, who I’m helping out, will be very grateful too.  grin ]

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From Leanne on September 28, 2023 :: 8:34 am


I used the SMS Back and Restore and saved the texts to my Google Drive.  When I went to look at them in GD, it says I can’t preview them because the file is too large and it recommends text editor or shiftedit to open them.  Is that normal or should I be able to open them without any additional apps?

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From Ron M on November 01, 2023 :: 5:41 pm


Thank you for a detailed and helpful article.

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From jp on January 06, 2024 :: 12:37 pm


thanks!

Reply

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