So I can close a conversation in Messages on my Mac and it handily disappears. I can't seem to figure out how to re-open that conversation manually (as opposed to getting a new message in that conversation, that is).

Closing means on the left panel of Messages. Hover over a person. An X appears in the middle of their "card" on the right. Click it. This closes the conversation and does not delete it.

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Does anyone know if reopening these conversations is possible?


Late Edit: This is all dependant on you having "Save history when conversations are closed" checked in Messages prefs - otherwise you can find the conversation, but not rejoin it to your main chat window.

Very Late Edit
It appears as of Jan 2021 that the 'Save history' option can not only uncheck itself, but also then grey out, leaving you completely & utterly stuck.
This is apparently done, without informing the user of the consequences, if you enable "Messages in Cloud" in prefs.
Doing so destroys your chances of simple recovery, as the conversation is simultaneously deleted on all devices.
One more bitter lesson in never trusting iCloud to keep your data safe.

The fix for this grand & glorious mess is to:-

  • Log out of Messages then quit the app

  • Navigate to ~/Library/Messages/

  • Enter Time Machine & navigate back in time until before your error.

  • Select the chat.db file & restore
    [alternatively grab this file from any other backup, Backblaze etc.]

  • Reboot [relog is supposed to work but doesn't.]

If you're lucky, you should be back to sanity.
It took me about 8 attempts before it worked. At one point I had a totally empty Messages & iCloud was refusing to accept my password. That's the point at which I rebooted rather than relogged.
After the reboot it stopped asking me to login & simply went back to as it was before the error, ready signed-in, all messages back.

If you didn't have iCloud Messages switched on, see below.

Recovering the conversation to my iPhone is still work in progress. Switching Messages in cloud & forcing sync has so far been unsuccessful.
I'll check again tomorrow, give it some time….
… Nope:( 24h & a lot of prompting with 'Sync Now' later, it seems the conversation is permanently lost on the phone.

Phone eventually recovered from a 3-week-old iTunes backup. Better than nothing.
iCloud, of course, has thrown the whole conversation away & saved only the very last incarnation of the backup, from last night.

You cannot directly re-open the last conversation you had from the app itself, if you already closed it by hitting the x.

You need to dig in history, it's located at ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.ichat/Data/Library/Messages

Conversations are stored by date. You only need to find any one instance of the conversation you are looking for.

Double-clicking that file will reopen it in a separate window in Messages.
Keep that window open, or the next step fails.

To persuade it to reattach to the main window…

Scroll down your conversations list - it will have reappeared in last place.

Select it, it will appear to be empty, but will fill as soon as you click it.

You can now close the extra window.

  • This doesn't work for me. I don't have enough conversations open to get a scrollbar, and the closed conversation is not on the list of conversations. – Magnus Lind Oxlund Aug 17 '20 at 18:27
  • The scrollbar is only needed if you can't already see the bottom of your convo list, of course. Restoration is entirely dependent on your "Save history when conversations are closed" pref. – Tetsujin Aug 17 '20 at 18:30
  • I've had that option checked all along. Maybe the scrollbar actually triggers a refresh. – Magnus Lind Oxlund Aug 17 '20 at 18:34
  • Odd. It now worked after a reboot. – Magnus Lind Oxlund Aug 17 '20 at 18:36

Easier still: just compose a new message to the person with whom you deleted the conversation, and as you hit enter to auto-complete the name, "poof!", the whole conversation reappears. You don't need to send them any message.

This depends, of course, on having 'Messages in iCloud' enabled in your Messages preferences.

  • That worked once for me... but then I couldn't get it to work again, even for the same person it originally worked for. – Joey Connick Feb 25 '15 at 1:07
  • This did not work for me, ever. =( – JVC Feb 6 '20 at 18:01

What worked for me..

  1. Compose a new message to the closed chat. Leave it open, don't Send.
  2. Using Finder Go to ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.ichat/Data/Library/Messages
  3. Find you latest closed chat. (as noted, chats are stored by date)
  4. Drag and drop your closed chat to the same person chat open in step 1.

In my case, the entire chat re-appeared. No new message was sent in the process. Everything work as if I hadn't closed the chat.

  • This just attaches the file in the composition field of the new conversation. – Magnus Lind Oxlund Aug 17 '20 at 18:32

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