Getting Started with iMessage: Setting Up Devices

This is the first of likely many how to posts on iMessage. I think iMessage has to be one of the coolest, convenient, slick, and most freakin’ confounding apps/services that Apple offers. I love iMessage, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me round the bend too. In this post, I’m going to cover setting up iMessage, adding more email addresses to iMessage, and connecting all your devices/machines together to be in iMessage sync.

First step, as you can imagine, is turning iMessage on and you do this under Settings -> Messages. If you haven’t set up iMessage before it will ask for you to log in with your Apple ID to proceed. If you have more than one iDevice (iPhone, iPod touch, iPads) or a Mac running Mountain Lion, start this whole process on your iPhone first. I get to why shortly, but trust me, it will save frustration later if you start with your iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone, then start with any device you feel like.

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Assuming you’re starting on your iPhone, iMessage will connect your phone number automatically. You will also be able to add additional email addresses that your friends can use to send you an iMessage with. Generally, the email with your Apple ID should come right up so that’s helpful. For other emails you need to do this.

From the main messages screen in Settings, tap “Send & Receive” to get to the screen where you will see all the places iMessages knows about to send and receive messages. The top section shows the emails (and your phone number) you have set up. The bottom shows where new conversations start from and this will be important later.


To add more emails, just tap “Add Another Email..” and enter the email address. Next you should receive an email from Apple making sure that this is your email and it’s legit. In the verification email will be a link to click on that takes you to Apple’s main Apple ID site. You sign in with your Apple ID and the email should be verified. You’ll have to do this will all your email addresses, but only once (whew).

Once you have all your emails verified (it might take a while for all the emails to come through, so you might need to be patient), you can move onto your next iDevice (or Mac). Before you do though, in the Send & Receive screen, pick where you want all your messages conversations to start from. I set it to my phone number, because it seems to work best for syncing.

On your next iDevice (or Mac) you’ll follow the same steps. Go to Settings -> Messages, Turn on iMessage, and sign in with your Apple ID. Now, since you’ve already set up iMessage on your iPhone (or other device) first, you should see your phone number and email addresses already there. If not you can quickly add them. Make sure you tap each email (and your phone number) so there is a check beside it so that device will get messages sent to that address too. Yes, this is a tedious and maddening step; no arguments here.

Last thing is the “Start new conversations from:” selection. If you picked your phone number on your iPhone, do the same here. Rinse and repeat this on all of your iDevices.

For your Mac—Mountain Lion only, sorry—Messages replaced iChat. The account settings screen looks similar to the iOS version and the process is pretty much the same:

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As you’re setting each device, your iPhone is going to receive an alert that “such and such device is using [all your emails and phone number] for iMessage….” This is good. This means things are probably going to sync up for you!

Now, why did I suggest starting on your iPhone? What I’ve found is that if you start on an iPad, for example, your phone number isn’t connected to your Apple ID for message automatically. You’ll receive iMessages on your iPhone just fine, but they might not appear on your other devices. Once you have your iPhone set up, you can (and I’ve done this to force a resync—just this week in fact) go to the device that’s not getting all the messages, go to the Messages settings, log out/turn off Message (you have have it log out your Apple ID, but I found turning messages off does the same thing), then log back in. Your phone number should now appear on the list of places to receive iMessages.

Pain in the tush? Oh you bet. That said, once things are all synced up (having all devices and your Mac starting messages with your phone number or at least the same email address helps) it’s great to be able to send and receive “text” messages regardless of device.

That’s getting started with iMessage. Questions? Comments? Let me know!

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  • Ryan

    I still can’t get my iPad to display my iPhone phone number in iMessage even after logging in and out several times

    • Rounak Jain

      You’re on iOS 6?

      • Shl

        I have the same problem, And I’m on iOS 6 with the latest update.

        • Jay

          I also have the same problem snd I’m on 6.0.1

          • Jay

            And running 5.1.1 on iPhone so maybe that’s why

      • Ryan

        Actually that may be the issue im running iOS 6 on my new 5 and I’m running 5.1 on my pad

        • iPhoneHacks

          The ability to merge your Phone number with iMessage and FaceTime was introduced in iOS 6 and OS X 10.8.2, so you will need iOS 6 on your iPad for this to work.

    • Marla Sue Forgues-Kostis

      I am having that same problem also.

    • Tris Hussey

      I was having the exact problem. I noticed that I wasn’t getting messages on my iPad. Try, logging out and back in on your iPhone, then do the same on your iPad.

  • Wa

    How do I change my phone number if I frequently changing my sim for overseas?

    • Tris Hussey

      I’d say log out of iMessages and then back in…it should pick up the number.

  • Duzzy

    Hi, I have just got an iPad and can’t get past the log in screen for iMessage in settings, face time is the same. The log in screen accepts my Id & password, verifies & then goes back to the log in screen. When I go into the message icon I get the same log in screen. What have I not done right? Any suggestions?

  • Zyelhsak

    I have the same problem as Duzzy, some help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • danHHH

    How can I temporarily stop my imac from receiving messages? When I am at my iMac I want to send and receive messages, but if I am away from the iMac, I don’t want the iMac to continue to receive messages when I am not there as other people use the same machine. I could go into preferences and take my phone number off the account but thats too much effort. I was quite annoyed to find out imessages on the mac still received messages even when the application was closed.

    • Allison

      I would like to know how as well!

  • N.N.

    Can you receive iMessages on your ipad through your number with any phone or does it have to be an iPhone?

  • M.E.R

    I can’t get my iMac to display the phone number, how do you do it? Because it will only allow me to use my email. Please help me!

  • Žiga Hudournik

    Just to be clear: if someone sends you an iMessage on your phone number, you should receive it on other iDevices as well right? For example I have a 4S, an iPad 2 and since a few days ago a MacBook Air (ergo, I’m new at the OS X thing, so sorry for the eventual stupid question), so when i receive an iMessage sent to my phone number on my 4S it should show up on the MBA and iPad as well? ‘Cuz it doesn’t :D Help?

  • Damien

    My iMessage number is coming up different and I ain’t got were do you want to start conversation from box on my iPhone 5 and ios6 is the latest update wat can I do to resolve it as its my email that’s been used for FaceTime and iMessage plz help.

  • Sheila Stewart

    I want to turn off sync…when I start a conversation from my iPad using my email account, it shows up also on my iPhone. I do not want the thread on my phone that was started on my iPad. On my iPad I’ve only enabled my email for imessage. My phone defaults to all addresses (phone number and email) and I cannot deselect the phone for not receiving from the iPad. Any suggestions to stop receiving the iPad sent iMessages on my phone (and vice versa) ?

  • John

    Can anyone help me regarding the spotlight search feature..on the ipad….once you have your iphones sync with imessage to the ipad does it pick up old texts from the iphone or just recent messages and texts. My girlfriend has an ipad and iphone and I found messages on ipad that are questionable…..she says they are really old yet she just got the ipad in april of this year….is it possible for the text messages to be old or are they as recent only to time of purchase and syncing of IPad??? please answer

  • Kathie

    I have an ipad, but I don’t have an iphone, but want to receive and send text messages and pictures to my daughter-in-laws that have iphones.

  • BB BB

    I wish I could turn of the alert ” x device is now using … ” this gets super annoying when any update is made to our Apple ID or any other iDevice. When you have multiple imessage email addresses you’re using every single device gets an alert for every single alias. Super annoying. This is for security purposes obviously since if someone steals or hacks your Apple ID you would be alerted but I think a simple email or a online listing would suffice instead.

  • Rochelle

    I have not added any numbers, but when I look at my send/receive numbers there are other numbers other than mine? and other email addresses? why is that and how do I get rid of them?

  • Kvothe

    I chanced my work, but i learned my imessage accouts stiil active the old mac there. How can i remove it remotely?

  • FM

    This did not work.

  • JHZR2

    Why is it that when you have more than one email address under an Apple ID, that on a device where both addresses are enabled, if an iMessage comes into either sub-address from another Apple ID, they all get lumped into one iMessage thread on that device?

    Specifically AppleID1 has two addresses:

    Device 1 on that Apple ID has both addresses enabled, and Device 2 on that Apple ID has only address 2 enabled.

    If AppleID2 sends iMessages to both -add1 and -add2 on AppleID1, they all show up in the same thread. Id prefer that there be two threads depending upon which address under Apple ID 1 the iMessage was sent to. Any ideas??? Thanks!

  • Casey

    I just set this iMessage up for my boss. Is there any way she can have all of her iMessages from her phone appear on her mac?