Where Messages are Archived and Stored on a Mac and How to Search All of Your iMessage Messages or iChat Messages

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Let’s say you want to search all of the text messages that you have received on your Mac via Messages (formerly iChat), sent using Apple’s iMessage system, because you know someone sent you some information via chat messages, but you can’t remember who, or you can remember who but it was so long ago that scrolling back on your iPhone or in your Mac’s Messages chat window would take forever. Here are two methods to search all of your archived Mac messages at once.

Method #1 for Finding and Searching iChat and iMessage Messages on a Mac

It used to be that you could just go to ~Library/Messages on your Mac,and there all your iMessage messages were, in an Archive folder, however from OS X Mavericks (released in 2013) and forward, not only do they get stored in a different location, but once you upgrade from anything older than OS X 10.9, the new system ‘helpfully’ rearranges where even your existing messages are stored.

More and more people are receiving iMessage messages on their computer as well as their phone, ever since Apple rolled out the ability to send and receive text messages on your Mac back in 2014, with the release of OS X Yosemite.


Of course, in order to search the messages, you have to have saved them; you do this from the Messages program preferences.

Check “Save history when conversations are closed” in order to archive messages
how to save archive text messages mac

So let’s assume that you have been saving your messages, and now you want to know where to find them, and they are no longer in ~Library/Messages

So, first things first: here is where your Messages messages are now stored:


Yeah, it’s a mouthful. If you don’t want to have to go to each subfolder individually, you can open Finder, select Go from the menu, and paste the above location into the Finder > Go and click on ‘Go to folder’ down at the bottom of the Go menu. Paste the above location into the window that popped up, and hit the ‘Go’ button, and it will take you right to it.

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how to find imessage ichat messages archive on mac

The first thing you will probably notice is that you have a lot of messages archived, going back to when you first started using iChat or Messages (or, at least, when you first set the preferences to have your messages saved).

apple mac messages archives

Click on any date folder within the Messages archives, and you will see something like this:

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Where Messages are Archived and Stored on a Mac and How to Search All of Your iMessage Messages or iChat Messages

mac message archives

Curiously, Macs still saves the messages as .ichat files, even though iChat itself was retired by Apple back in 2012.

So now you know where they are. At this point you can do a search for a text string within your message archives if you have Spotlight indexing your messages.

If you do not already have Spotlight indexing your messages, you may want to turn that on (or, you may not..read on). You do that under your Mac’s Preferences > Spotlight settings.

preferences spotlight


spotlight preferences

Now, if all of this is too complicated, too time consuming, or just too darned annoying, read about this second method!

Method #2 for Finding and Searching iChat and iMessage Messages on a Mac

There is an awesome program that we recently used called Chatology.

how to search mac messages chatology

Chatology loads all of your archived messages into its own interface, with the name of each person on the left, and all of the messages between you and that person, sorted by date, on the right. You can scroll through them if you like, but by far the most powerful feature of this program is that you can search your messages easily. All of your messages!

Let’s say a friend of yours told you about a movie they really enjoyed, but you can’t remember who it was, or what the name of the movie is. Just type in “movie” in the Chatology search box, and it show you all the people who have messages – ever – with the word ‘movie’ in the text message, sorted by person and date, and when you click on a give message it highlights the search term for you!

chatology search

It is, in a word, brilliant!

Chatology offers a free 10-day trial, and it’s only $19.99 to purchase! If you have lots and lots of text messages, we think the price is well worth it!

Check out Chatology here

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Where Messages are Archived and Stored on a Mac and How to Search All of Your iMessage Messages or iChat Messages

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