How to sync text messages between your iPhone and your Mac

Synching iPhone Messages with Mac

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!

First, some background.
“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. 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.

The goal here is to tie these two systems together. Remember, only your iPhone has a phone number. 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 solve 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. 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. So 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” heading, but than 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.” That’s fine, and expected. That’s “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.

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.

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

  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?

    Thanks!

    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 iCloud.com 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: https://appletoolbox.com/2016/10/want-imessage-windows-pc/), Team Viewer (my preference in this case), LogMeIn, probably others.

  2. Hi,

    Rats.

    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?

    Thanks!

    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.

    Thanks!

    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.

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