Apple’s iMessage system and the Messages app that goes with it make it very easy to sync messages across your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. You can even use it to send SMS messages from your Mac because if the person you’re messaging isn’t on iMessage, the communication is automatically routed over SMS. One of its other benefits is that it archives all your messages on your Mac, whether the conversation took place there or not. However, there may be occasions when you want to delete some or all of the messages from your Mac to free up space. We’ll show you how to do that here.
Disable Messages in iCloud
To remove messages permanently from your Mac but leave them on your other devices, you’ll have to disable Messages in iCloud. If you leave it enabled, the messages you delete will be removed from all the devices synced with your AppleID. If you want to remove the messages from all your devices, leave it enabled and skip to the next step.
- Launch Messages.
- Click the Messages menu and choose Preferences.
- Select iMessage.
- Uncheck the box next to ‘Enable Messages in iCloud’
- Close Preferences.
Now, when you delete messages, they’ll stay deleted. However, it also means that when you have conversations in Messages on your Mac, they won’t sync with your other devices.
How to delete messages on your Mac using Terminal
Before we show you how to delete messages from within the app itself or in the Mac’s Finder, there is a very quick way to do it if you’re comfortable using Terminal. Here’s how.
- Go to Applications > Utilities and launch Terminal.
- Paste the following command:
rm –r ~/Library/Messages/chat
- To delete attachments, use this command:
rm –r ~/Library/Messages/Attachments/??
Those commands will delete messages and attachments permanently, without the need to empty the Trash.
How to delete messages from the Messages app
If you’re not comfortable using Terminal or don’t want to delete every message, you can do it from within Messages. Here’s how.
- Open Messages.
- Right-click or control-click on the conversation you want to delete.
- Choose Delete Conversation.
- Click Delete to confirm.
Alternatively, you can use the Clear Transcript function. This does the same thing: it deletes the conversation from Messages on your Mac.
- Select the conversation you want to delete.
- Click on the Edit menu and choose Clear Transcript.
- Press Clear to confirm.
If you only want to delete one message from a conversation and not the whole conversation, do this.
- Right-click on the message you want to delete.
- Choose Delete.
- Press Delete to confirm.
How to delete multiple messages on your Mac from Finder
Deleting individual messages and conversations is fine if that’s all you want to do. However, if you want to clear all the messages and conversations on your Mac and don’t want to use Terminal, it could be a very long and laborious process. Thankfully, there is an easier way.
- In the Finder, click on the Go menu and choose Go to Folder.
- Paste this file path into the window: ~/Library/Messages
- Drag the files in the files below to the Trash.
4. Empty the Trash.
How to delete attachments from Messages
The previous method will delete messages from your Mac, but not attachments. To remove attachments, paste this file path into the Go To Folder box and drag its contents to the Trash: ~/Library/Messages/Attachments
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On recent versions of macOS, there is another way to delete attachments.
- Click on the Apple menu and choose About This Mac.
- Choose the Storage tab and click Manage.
- Select Messages in the sidebar.
- You will see in the main window a list of all the attachments on your Mac.
- To remove them all, select the first one, press and hold Shift, then select the last one. They should all now be selected. Alternatively, select the first and press Command-A to select all.
- Press Delete.
All the attachments you selected will now be deleted. Of course, you don’t have to delete them all. You can choose which to keep and which to delete. If you only want to delete large attachments, press Size in the top right of the window to order attachments by file size. Then you can choose the biggest ones and only delete those.
You can also preview attachments using Quick Look. Just select one and press the spacebar. Finally, if you select an attachment and press Show in Finder, you’ll notice that the attachment is in the ~/Library/Messages/Attachments we navigated to from Go To Folder. This is because both options do the same thing – they remove files from that folder.
How to delete messages from other apps
Each messaging app has a different method for deleting messages. In Skype and the Facebook Messenger desktop applications, for example, the process is similar to Messages. Right-click or Control-click on a conversation in the conversation list and choose Delete. In some apps, you can also delete individual messages, though usually, they will be deleted at your end, but the recipient will still see them. So again, different services handle it in different ways.
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Messaging apps aren’t the only place you might want to remove traces of activity to maintain privacy, of course. Your browser history, recent Items list, and even the Wi-Fi networks you have connected to in the past can all be used to find out information about you.
Fortunately, you can take control of those, too, with a little help from CleanMyMac X. The Privacy module in CleanMyMac X allows you to clear browser history, your Mac’s Recent Items List, remove old Wi-Fi networks, and revoke permissions you’ve granted to applications to do things like access your webcam or microphone.
- Download the free version of the app and install it.
- Choose Privacy in the sidebar and press Scan.
- When it’s finished, click on the section you want to tackle first, e.g., Wi-fi Networks.
- Check the box next to it and press Remove, or use the dropdown arrows in the right-hand window to drill down in more detail.In each section, you can choose to remove everything in the section, or you can specify which networks you want to remove, permissions you want to reset, browser data you want to delete, or items on the Recent Items list you want to get rid of.
Apple’s Messages is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family members, partly because it syncs messages and attachments across all your devices. But that can mean your Mac stores lots of messages and attachments, which take up space. If you want to delete messages or conversations, follow the steps above and choose the method that works best for you.