I have a conversation that likely has tens of thousands of messages sent over the past year. I want to find texts 6 months ago in August. How can I go about getting back to August and scrolling through those messages? I have the conversation on both on my iPhone and my Messages on my Macbook.

  • What was wrong with going to ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.iChat/Data/Library/Messages/Archive & opening a folder from the end of August ?
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 16, 2016 at 11:34
  • @Tetsujin What do you mean, "what was wrong?" Has this been suggested yet?
    – User
    Jan 16, 2016 at 17:14
  • …in my opening comment
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 16, 2016 at 18:47

5 Answers 5


I found 2 ways of doing that. Depending on your needs and preferences, you choose what you want.

1. The flexible way

Open the Terminal.app And enter the following command:

sqlite3 ~/Library/Messages/chat.db

Now you are in the database of the Messages app of your mac.

Enter the following commands (but don't include the sqlite> as this one was added to this answer just to show you what you will expect at this point):

sqlite> .mode column
sqlite> .headers on
sqlite> SELECT text, datetime(date, 'unixepoch', '+31 year') AS cDate FROM message WHERE cDate >= "2016-01-12";

Replace this "2016-01-12" with the date you want to filter your messages, but keep the ""!

If you know the exact date of the message you can replace the >= with = like this:

sqlite> SELECT text, datetime(date, 'unixepoch', '+31 year') AS cDate FROM message WHERE cDate = "2016-01-12";

Or if you know a range of dates then you can also do this:

sqlite> SELECT text, datetime(date, 'unixepoch', '+31 year') AS cDate FROM message WHERE cDate >= "2015-12-10" and cDate <= "2016-01-12";

You should get your messages now filtered!

This way you can actually filter your messages in more flexible way. If you play around with the database schema, you may find a good way to filter your messages.

2. The easy way

If you want something more user-friendly then I found out that if you type this command in the Terminal.app:

open ~/Library/Messages/Archive/

Will open a folder in finder that has your messages grouped by date, which will make your life much easier, looking for your message. This has been mentioned by another user as well.

The advantage of this method, is that the messages are opened in a nice User Interface (i.e Messages) which is more readable and user-friendly.

  • open ~/Library/Messages/Archive/ says that folder doesn't exist.
    – User
    Jan 15, 2016 at 14:26
  • @User depending on your OS X version, the path of your Message App messages will be different. Check that and let me know if that helped you or not.
    – user165396
    Jan 16, 2016 at 8:48
  • Version 10.11.2 El Capitan
    – User
    Jan 18, 2016 at 0:50
  • 1
    On macOS big sur, the Archive folder is empty. Have those moved somewhere known?
    – Chris R
    Mar 6, 2021 at 17:15

For me, the easiest way I've found to search my messages, some of which go back years, is to use and continue to use iExplorer to export my Messages to various formats. I usually do PDF and TXT exports, either of which are then easily searched.

I make use of others features too and for me it was worth the cost, as it's not freeware.

  • 1
    I rather not buy something to check a single text message.
    – User
    Jan 9, 2016 at 20:00
  • Apparently there is a demo version and it's been backing up messages for almost 4 hours. Is this normal?
    – User
    Jan 11, 2016 at 5:06

I ended up getting the SQLite Browser and opening the ~/Library/Messages/chat.db file then searching and navigating through the texts there.


I needed to print an entire message history for legal purposes. After a long search I've found iMazing and it's working very well for me.

Link to iMazing here.

I am not affiliated with the company.


You may try going to .../Library/Messages/Archive and look for the specific date/phone number. It should allow you to pull up the conversation.

Good luck!

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