How to enable and activate (or re-activate) iMessage

How to enable and activate (or re-activate) iMessage

iMessage lets you send and receive SMS-like text messages, and MMS-style multimedia messages just like a phone. Instead of a just a phone number, however, it uses your email address, and it only works with other Apple devices, like other iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, and Macs. Before you can start using messages, and sending texts, photos, videos, voice memos, locations, and contact cards, however, you need to set it up.

If you set up your device using iCloud there's a change iMessage is already set up as well, and good to go. If not, we'll show you how to get started, and get messaging, quickly.

How to enable iMessage for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

  1. Launch the Setting app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on Messages.
  3. Turn iMessage to On and wait for it to activate.

How to enable iMessage on your Mac

  1. Launch the Messages app on your Mac running OS X Mountain Lion or higher.
  2. Click on Messages in the menu bar and then Preferences.
  3. Now click on the box that says Enable this Account at the top.

That's it. If you have never linked your iMessage account to your Mac, just click the + sign instead and add your account.

Once iMessage activates you can send and receive texts and multimedia messages with other Apple users just like SMS and MMS! These instructions work for times when you need to re-activate iMessage as well due to a network error. Just toggle it on and off and you should be good to go!

How to get more help with iMessage

If you're having issues getting iMessage to activate, get more help at the iMore forums, and for more tips, check out:

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How to enable and activate (or re-activate) iMessage


Sending SMS- and MMS-like messages from a non-phone iOS device? But only to other Apple devices? There are already a number of apps in the App Store that let you do this, without the Apple-only restriction. Many even give you a phone number to receive regular SMS texts from any cell phone. (Google Talk, TextFree, etc.)
What is the appeal of platform-specific messaging programs like iMessage and BBM? Is it just for people who don't want to be your friend if you have a different kind of cell phone?

Use case: you have a iPhone and iPad. You will always have the phone but not the pad with you. When using the iPad you want to be able to handle your SMS/MMS right on the pad just like you do with email. iMessage is great but you still want to communicate with non ios users without constantly switching devices.
How do you do this without going to GV which is only SMS? How can the two devices be synced so if you respond on one device the other keeps the same threads and dismisses the notifications.
This seems like a usability case that Apple would be great at addressing and should address. Have they and I am missing something?
In some respects it seems as if the iPad should become a large phone when using it, having the option to even control the iPhone with ease. Putting the iPad up to your ear is silly, but with a headset this integration would be really astounding.

I have both an iPhone and an iPad. For some reason, I can't get iMessage on my iPad to sync with my phone. Any ideas?

I don't get it. iMessage seems like it could have been awesome a decade ago, but who really IMs these days? People text. But iMessage isn't even IMing. It's IMing to a limited specific group of people. I realize Apple is thinking of iMessage as another way to bring people into the Apple ecosystem, but the limitation makes it less user friendly, not more.
If I could use iMessage with google voice texting, it would be my go-to app. But just for messaging other Apple users? Even my Apple friends are more likely to send a text - often with Google Voice.

All of my iPhone s are showing up except my son's. If he is out of town (roaming), does that make a difference? It wont take his cell number. He is out of state at college. Thanks

Hi, I've been on iPhone for a while and love it. But:
My sister just got an iphone, her iMessage is activated etc, but because she wasn't on iPhone before, we sent normal texts to each other. How do I change that to send as iMessage now? Normally with new contacts it detects whether they have iMessage automatically...
Also the same problem with someone else who was in a bad reception area once where iMessage couldn't work so I sent them a message as text, and now it keeps sending them texts even though they have an iphone...