How to sync text messages between your iPhone and your Mac

Updated October 4th, 2020.

UPDATE: things have changed a little since I wrote this article, and they’ve changed for the better! Apple now has something called “Messages in iCloud.” This means that you can now delete a message from your iPhone and it will be removed from your Mac automatically. It works in the other direction too. Previously– that is, when I first wrote this article– you could set things up so you received all of your text messages on both your iPhone and your Mac, but you had to delete them from both devices separately. Now, with Messages in the Cloud turned on (and that’s optional), Messages acts more like Mail– delete something from one device and it disappears from your other device.

Messages in iCloud requires at least macOS 10.13.4 and iOS 11.4. They weren’t invented when I first wrote this article. On the iPhone, you’ll find a new option in the iCloud section of the Settings, and it looks like this:

iPhone Settings: Messages in iCloud, switched on
iPhone Settings: Messages in iCloud, switched on

That’s just as you’d expect: Settings, iCloud, Messages turned on. On a Mac, it’s different— you don’t go to System Preferences / iCloud. The option to turn on Messages in iCloud is in the Messages app’s Preferences, so you start Messages, go to the Messages menu, come down to Preferences…, click on Accounts, and there you find the checkbox. Here it is:

Messages in iCloud settings panel in the Messages preferences.
The top arrow points to the Messages in iCloud checkbox. The bottom arrow points to your phone number.

You still need to do the things in the rest of this article, so keep reading. But now things really sync, both when messages are coming in, and when you are deleting them.

Below: the original article. Still important stuff.

It’s really handy to have your iPhone’s text messages show up on your Mac (and/or iPad). Start a texting conversation on your iPhone when you’re out, then continue it at home or work when you’re able to use your Mac (or iPad). Each device will have the complete conversation, and the other party will not know that you aren’t doing it all on your iPhone. Setting it up takes a couple of steps, and occasionally things stop working. In that case you’ll need to check on the settings again. This article tells you everything you need to know.


If you’re not getting any of your text messages on your Mac or iPad, this article is for you. If you’re getting some, but not all, of your text messages on your Mac or iPad, this article is also for you!

iMessages are not text messages!

Technically, iMessages are not text messages, and text messages are not iMessages. “Real” text messages are handled by the phone company, and they are sent to devices with phone numbers (for example, to your iPhone). Real text messages appear in green on your iPhone in the Messages app. Apple’s “iMessage” service provides something that looks a lot like text messages, but with two important differences: iMessages are handled by Apple’s servers, so they don’t go through the phone company (which means the phone company can’t charge you for them), and they’re available on any device signed into your Apple ID. iMessages appear in blue on your devices.

iMessages will sync across all of your devices as long as they’re all signed into the same Apple ID. But text messages– the green ones– by default belong to your iPhone only, and they will not appear on your other devices, because text messages are tied to a phone number, which only your iPhone has. But will will fix that up shortly.

So you have two systems going at once: the phone company’s (green) text message system, and Apple’s (blue) iMessage system. The goal here is to tie these two systems together, and to show all of the messages, whether “text” or “iMessage,” all in the same Messages app. So how do we get the phone company’s text messages (sent to your phone number, on your iPhone) onto your Mac and iPad etc.? That’s what this article is about.

Note: your devices don’t really sync with each other. Rather, they sync with iCloud. There can be a little bit of a lag sometimes so you may notice messages appearing on one of your devices before the others. That’s just the way it goes– nothing for us to do about it.

Step 0: if you’ve never launched Messages on your Mac, launch it now. If you see this box, fill it in with your Apple ID and Apple ID password and then click “Sign in.”

Messages on the Mac initial settings
Messages on the Mac initial settings

Step 1: On your iPhone, go to Settings, then Messages. iMessage has to be ON. If it’s already on, but you’re not getting text messages onto your Mac, switch it off. Then switch it on. You’ll then see something that says “Use your Apple ID for iMessage.” Tap that, then enter your Apple ID and password. Signing in with your Apple ID is key to tieing your devices together. (It’s also often the step that people miss.)

Use your Apple ID for iMessage
Use your Apple ID for iMessage

Step 2: On your Mac, launch the Messages app (in the Dock by default) and go to Messages/Preferences… Click “Accounts.” You may see more than one account, but one of them should say “iMessage” underneath it. Click it, and be sure the checkbox for “Enable this account” (under Apple ID) is checked. If it’s not checked, check it. If you’re asked for a password, put it in– this is the Apple ID password that’s needed. 

Messages Settings on Mac
Messages Settings on Mac

(You may notice that you DON’T see your iPhone’s phone number in the list where it says “You can be reached for messages at,” If it’s there, but unchecked, check it. If it’s not there, don’t worry, we are about to fix that.)

Step 3: Back on your iPhone, in Settings/Messages, tap “Text Message Forwarding.” You won’t see “Text Message Forwarding” if you don’t have iMessage switched on, and if you haven’t signed into iMessage using your Apple ID.

Having trouble switching on iMessage on your iPhone? Are you stuck “Waiting for activation”? If so, read my article “How to fix iMessage ‘Waiting for Activation’ on iPhone.”

With iMessage turned on on your iPhone, and with your iPhone signed into the Apple ID for iMessage, you should see the names of your devices (Christian’s iMac, Christian’s iPad, etc) when you tap “Text Message Forwarding.” If you read the fine print at the top of the pane that appears it will really tell the story: “Allow these devices to send and receive text messages from this iPhone.” YES! That’s what we want– we want “text messages” (the green ones– from the phone company) to appear on the Mac, and the iPad, and whatever. So we forward them. If we don’t do this, we only see blue (iMessage) messages on our devices that aren’t iPhones.

So, in Text Message Forwarding, slide the switch to “On” for each device. You might have to tap where it says “Apple ID” at the top of the screen– if it doesn’t show your Apple ID at the top, in blue, tap and enter your Apple ID and password one more time.

Use Apple ID for iMessage/Text Message Forwarding
Use Apple ID for iMessage/Text Message Forwarding

Note: you might think it makes sense to check everything under “You can be reached by iMessage at,” but that can lead to confusion when your recipients ask you why you are texting them from an email address. Better to uncheck everything but the phone number, on each devices.

And that’s it! If all went well, each of your devices will show all of your incoming messages, and show all of your sent ones. During the setting-up process you are bound to see notifications on various devices saying something like “Your Apple ID was used to sign into an iMac in Santa Monica, California” (except the location will be your location, not mine). That’s fine, and expected. That’s just us turning things on.

Bonus tip #1: on your Mac, double-click a conversation in Messages’ left-hand pane. That opens the conversation in its own window. That way, you can keep key conversations in view.

Bonus tip #2: on your Mac, try dragging a picture from one conversation into another. Just click and hold on the picture, then drag onto the other conversation. You can drag it from one conversation right onto the other, in Messages’ left-hand pane.

Bonus tip #3: on your Mac, try dragging a picture (or other document) from your desktop right into the area where you’d ordinarily be typing a message. Or just drag it onto the conversation– anywhere on it! So easy.

Any questions? Ask away— that’s what I’m here for. Did this help you? Tell a friend (use the sharing buttons).

Copyright 2008-2024 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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24 thoughts on “How to sync text messages between your iPhone and your Mac

Add yours

  1. Hi!

    Ok, I’ve successfully set this p between my iPhone and my Mac.

    But I also use Windows 7 pc’s.

    How to get this same functionality working with my Windows 7 pc’s?


    1. Glad to hear you made this work for your iPhone and Mac. Fantastic.

      Turns out there is no way to get the same functionality on your Windows 7 PCs. You would think you could do it through a web app at but at the moment, that’s not possible. The feature just isn’t there.

      The best you can do for now is screen-sharing. That is, leave your Mac turned on, and share its screen to your PC. You can do this a few ways: Google Chrome (here’s a link to instructions:, Team Viewer (my preference in this case), LogMeIn, probably others.

  2. Hi,


    Hmmm, I have a VPN connection between my office and home.

    My Mac is at home.

    I regularly log into my office Win7Pro from home using my Mac and
    Microsoft’s Remote Desktop application and I like its functionality.
    MS’s RDP is stable, has a lot of functions and just seems smooth.

    What app would you recommend to be the most versatile to remote
    into my Mac at home, from my office Win7Pro pc?


    1. I’m afraid my knowledge of PC software is not sufficient to give you a good answer here. Personally, I use LogMeIn to connect to Macs and PCs in my consulting business but it is commercial software, and expensive.

  3. Hi,

    I used your instruct above to successfully sync my iPhone7+ to my MacBook (12″, purchased Aug 2015, running Sierra 10.12.6). Texts now pop up on my MacBook and it is such a pleasure to be able to reply :-))

    Now I want to do the same thing with my MacMini (late 2012, running Sierra 10.12.6).

    I’ve followed all the above, but oddly, while I see just three (3) recent texts, I can’t access my contact list and unlike
    MacBook, I don’t have the whole history of texts that shows identically like my iPhone7+.

    So . . .

    1. How to get my MacMini to work just like my MacBook with iMessages?

    2. How to get my MacMini’s iMessages contact list syn’d to my iPhone7+ ?

    3. Can more than one (1) iPhone7+ be sync’d to iMessages?
    My wife has the same iPhone7+ as I do.
    She wants to sync hers to the same MacBook and MacMini iMessages app as I did.


    1. Sounds as if your MacMini is not signed into the same Apple ID (iCloud) as your other machine. If it is, sign out, then sign in again.

      Your wife can certainly sign into the same Apple ID for iMessage as you. That’s the whole key there. When you turn on iMessage you will probably see either her Apple ID, or something that says “Use my Apple ID for iMessage” or something similar. Tap there and you should be able to put in your Apple ID and password.

      It gets a little tricky. Look at your iPhone after she signs into your account. Go to the “Send and Receive Messages from” section in Messages and you will probably want to check your wife’s phone number too. She also will want to check your phone number in her settings. In the end, you will both show that you are receiving text messages from two phone numbers, and you will be signed into the same Apple ID for iMessage’s purposes.

      Let me know how it goes.

  4. Hi!

    Things were going well with this until today.

    I accidentally deleted a text message series from Messages on my Mac.

    They are still there in my iPhone7+.

    I do I re-sync Messages on my Mac to my iPhone7+ ?


    1. You might have a chance at putting things back in order. I am guessing that you don’t have Messages turned on in iCloud settings on both of your devices, because if you did, deleting the message series on the Mac would delete it from the iPhone also. If you were to turn it on, things would sync, but you have to be careful here. You’d want to turn on Messages in iCloud on the phone first, since it has the conversation you’re missing on the Mac. Then you’d turn it on in the Mac’s System Preferences/iCloud settings. It can take a LONG time for things to sync up, so it may not look good at first. But eventually things should sync. “Should.” If you need a record of the conversation you could use iPhone View to download and print (to pdf) the conversation, from your iPhone. Here’s the link:

  5. Hi!

    My previous comment should have ended with,
    “How do I re-sync Messages on my Mac to my iPhone7+ ?”

    But I think you got past my mis-type 🙂

    I will give your sequence of iCloud settings a go and let you know!


  6. Hey!


    Ok, I’ve turned on sync in my iPhone7+.

    How many hours, days, weeks, months (LOL!) should I give it to
    upload to iCloud before I can confidently turn on iCloud Messages
    in my Mac?



  7. Hello and thank you for the info. I’m used to having my texts synced through MightyText with Android, and I would receive desktop alerts in the top right hand corner of the screen and hear a ping sound. I am testing out my iMessages and iPhone message sync right now, but I cannot find a way to get these alerts. I even have the sound option set up, but I am not getting any ping or alert that I’ve received messages though they do show up in the app if I check it. I just want to be able to do other things on my Mac and get a clear alert that I’ve received a message ideally with a notification that previews the text. Is this possible?

  8. I do not see apple ID option in my messages, however my messages as well as SMS ones are being forwarded. My problem is the old texts/messages are not showing up in the conversations in the computer, only new messages. Is there a way for all of the old messages from my phone to be synced onto the computer?

    1. There MAY be a way to get the old texts from your phone onto your Mac. Depends on the operating systems on both devices. If your iPhone is fairly new, you can turn on Messages in the iCloud section of the Settings app. This will push the messages from your iPhone into iCloud (they will remain on your iPhone too.) Then, after a while (and it will take a while for the Messages to get up to iCloud), you would go to your Mac, and then to System Preferences, then to the iCloud section (where that is depends on the version of macOS), then turn on Messages in the iCloud section there on your Mac. In time, the messages will come in.

  9. This article was very helpful! Thank you. I did all of these steps in an attempt to reset the connection, because I am still not receiving some texts to my Mac, but only from certain friends. They are coming on my phone, but not the Mac. Weird. They are also apple users. Any suggestions on how to remedy?

    1. Hi Faith. Be sure your Mac and iPhone are signed into the same Apple ID. You can try turning ON “Messages in iCloud” (in the Messages preferences on your Mac, and in Settings/iCloud/Messages on your iPhone). Let me know how it goes.

  10. macbook pro 2012 – iphone 12 max pro – unable to send images / photos from macbook message app. Only able to send text. imessage on phone preferences does not show macbook . No “text message forwarding” selection.

    1. Be sure, on the iPhone, that you are signed into iMessage. That’s Settings, Messages, iMessage “on.” If you see something that says “Use Apple ID for iMessage” tap it and sign in. If your iPhone already says “iMessage on” try signing out, and then in again, right there in Settings/Messages. Let me know how it goes.

  11. Hello and thanks! I still can’t see all of my text messages with a certain contact that is on my iPhone XR, but not on my iMAC M1. Everything is on from your article (and perhaps more 😉 ).

  12. Ah, I figured it out. The contact was there, simply on my iPhone I see the name (contact) and on my iMAC I only see their phone number (as if the contact data is not synced with Contacts on iCloud perhaps, which is another issue.)

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