Help me understand Message attachments and iCloud

Been an iPhone user since 2018 (Mac user for several years before that). I think I have always had messages synced with iCloud since the beginning. I am interested in archiving all conversations, ideally with attachments and all (I know I don’t need most of it but hey I am a hoarder and I have the hard drive space).

I fear, however, that not all attachments are on my Mac anymore, but only in iCloud. How do I find out how far back I have local message attachments saved, and if they are not all there, is there at this point any way to restore them all locally to my Mac from iCloud – and then save/backup/archive to something like iMazing or other apps?

Or is it just adios to the old attachments, since it took me 5 1/2 years to think of archiving messages ha ha?

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There are some mentions of archiving in this other thread. I use iMazing to export attachments, and my messages as PDFs

@WayneG thanks for the heads up. Curious - do you sync messages to iCloud? If so, do you find (when backing up to iMazing) that it misses any attachments because they are only available on icloud and not local on your phone (thereby depriving iMazing of the ability to capture them)?

Yes, but I don’t inventory iMessage attachments when I export them with iMazing. I normally keep images and PDFs and delete URLs. My most recent export contained around 2800 attachments of which around 2400 were urls. I don’t know how long info is retained. Apple has made several changes over the years.

Currently iMessage attachments are located on your Mac in ~Library/Messages/Attachments

And you might like using the the Shared with You feature to save photos & info as it is received.