You can soon make WhatsApp messages auto-delete after one week

5 Nov 2020

Image: © Aleksei/

Catching on to the trend of ephemeral online content, WhatsApp is now allowing users to enable ‘disappearing messages’.

WhatsApp has announced a new feature where users can easily make their messages disappear.

The optional disappearing messages feature will remove any messages more than a week old from a chat, “helping the conversation feel lighter and more private”, according to a company announcement.

“In a one-to-one chat, either person can turn disappearing messages on or off. In groups, admins will have the control,” the Facebook-owned company explained.

Explaining the seven-day threshold, the company said it believes it will offer “peace of mind that conversations aren’t permanent, while remaining practical so you don’t forget what you were chatting about”.

How disappearing messages will work

Toggling this setting will affect all messages in a chat, not just those sent by the user who makes the change.

However, the setting won’t affect messages sent or received before it was activated.

WhatsApp also explained that deleted messages may still appear in preview notifications until the app is opened.

How the feature will behave with messages linked to replies is unclear, as the FAQ explains, “the quoted text might remain in the chat after seven days”.

When it comes to forwarded messages, those from a chat with disappearing messages enabled won’t disappear in a chat without the setting activated.

WhatsApp users are also able to create back-ups of their message archive at regular intervals if they wish. The company explained that if a back-up is created before a message disappears, it will be included in the back-up but will be deleted if a user restores from a back-up.

Users are still advised to be cautious if sending sensitive material on WhatsApp as the disappearing messages feature can’t ensure messages are not copied and kept. With screenshots or even a simple copy and paste, messages can still be stored by those to whom you send them.

Additionally, any media should be sent with caution, as photos or video sent via WhatsApp are often automatically downloaded to devices that receive them. While the disappearing messages feature will remove any media attached to messages up for deletion in the app, any downloaded files will remain on the device.

Disappearing messages will be rolled out to WhatsApp users worldwide this month.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.