How to set up iMessage on Mac

A press image of Messages working on a MacBook
(Image credit: Apple)

Knowing how to set up iMessage on Mac is pretty simple providing you have a Mac, iPhone, and an Apple ID. It's Apple's messaging service and through it, you can send unlimited messages to other people who also have Apple devices.

It works across iPhones, Macs, and iPads, so you can easily communicate with others, whether you have one of the best iPhones or one of the best Macs. On your iPhone, you can tell the difference between an iMessage and a regular SMS as iMessages show up in blue bubbles compared to green ones. 

Originally, it was easy to associate iMessages with iPhones given that's usually the device where you're messaging people most. However, you can still access them through your Mac, as well as send them, read them, or simply organize them. 

These days, pretty much all Macs and iPhones can access them providing you have an Apple ID and you're not somehow running an iPhone on iOS 8 or before. We're up to iOS 17 right now so you shouldn't have to worry here. 

Below, we'll guide you through all the steps you need to follow to get iMessage set up on your Mac. If you're new to all things Mac, check out our beginner's guide to using a MacBook. Even if you've just bought the latest MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max, you could learn something.

How to set up iMessage on Mac

  1. Launch Messages from your desktop, dock, or Applications folder. The Messages app will default use your Apple ID to log you in. Enter your Apple ID email address and password if that doesn't happen.
  2. Click on Messages in the Menu bar
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click on the iMessage tab.
  5. Select the phone number and email addresses you would like to be reached.
  6. Choose which phone number or email address people will see when you start a new conversation.

How to set up Messages in iCloud in macOS

Messages in iCloud keep both your iMessages and standard SMS in sync between your Mac and your iOS devices. This means you can also download your messages when you set up a new device.

  1. Open Messages from your desktop, dock, or Applications folder.
  2. Click on Messages in the Menu bar
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click on the iMessage tab.
  5. Click the checkbox next to Enable Messages on iCloud.
  6. Click the Sync Now button to sync immediately.

How to send a message on your Mac

  1. Open Messages.
  2. Click the New Message button at the top.
  3. Type the name, email address or phone number of the person you want to message. Or click the Add button and choose someone from your contacts.
  4. Click the message field at the bottom, then type your message.
  5. Press Return to send your message.

A screenshot of a Mac displaying Messages

If your Mac is running macOS Big Sur or later you can even add Memoji sticks, GIFs and effects to your messages.  (Image credit: Apple)

You can also add emoji, images and audio recordings to your messages. If your Mac is running macOS Big Sur or later you can even add Memoji stickers, GIFs and effects. To do this, you need to click the Apps button and find the ones you want to use. 

We have more in-depth instructions about how to send iMessages and attach all kinds of extras in our how to send iMessages on iPhone or iPad guide, along with how to use emoji on Mac.

Get chatting

If you want to get chatting through iMessage, it's simple to set it up on your Mac. That way, you can still converse with friends or colleagues without needing to grab your iPhone all the time. 

It's particularly useful if you need to type a long message and prefer a physical keyboard over your iPhone's screen. You also get the added benefit of always being able to easily store your iMessages across all your devices.

To truly take advantage of iMessages including via iCloud, you'll need to make sure to turn it on for any iOS or iPadOS devices you own. Once you've done that, now is the time to take a look at our ultimate guide to the Messages app for iPhone and iPad. It'll answer pretty much anything else you could possibly want to know about iMessage. When all your devices work seamlessly together, everything is predictably made a lot easier so it's worth mastering iMessage.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.