How to transfer your Signal account to a new phone… the right way

Let’s say that you’re a Signal user and you buy a new phone (preferably from us).  You put your SIM card in your new phone, install your favorite apps, and now you’re ready to start messaging people with Signal again.

And yes, you can use Signal on your new phone right away, but you’ll have two problems.  First, all of your old messages and images will be on your old phone.  And second, your contacts will receive a message that their “safety number” with you has changed.

The Safety Number

Every Signal chat has a unique safety number that lets you verify the identity of who you are talking to.    If you’re paranoid, when you first add a contact you should verify your safety number with them.  To do this, view the contact and then tap on “View safety number.”  If your contact does the same, you should see identical numbers on your phones.  Then you can tap “Mark as verified” to ensure you are always talking to them directly.

If someone else was impersonating your contact, your safety number with them would change, and you would see a message in your chat indicating that.  You may have seen such messages before.

However, when you move your Signal account to a new device, this looks the same as if someone has hijacked your account (perhaps via a SIM swap).  They wouldn’t be able to view your old messages, but they could send messages as you.

So when you see a message that someone’s safety number has changed, it means one of two things – either their account has been hijacked, or they have moved to a new device without migrating their account properly.

Moving your account the right way

It’s very easy to move your account to a new device in such a way that it also moves your messages and doesn’t change your safety number.

To do so, open up Signal on your new phone.  At the initial startup screen, choose “Transfer or restore account.”  Signal may ask for permissions.  Note that you do not have to give it permission to view your contacts.

After that, choose “Transfer from Android device.”

Then go to your old phone, and tap on your profile photo in Signal to open your settings.  Then tap on Account, and then Transfer account.

The phones should be able to connect with each other, and you will see a progress bar as messages and images are transferred.  Note that the transfer seems to go from small messages to large ones, so it will go very quickly at first, and then slow down as you reach 100%.

Once you are done, your Signal account will be 100% moved to your new phone.  You should be able to see all of your conversations and messages there.  Signal can be deleted from your old phone, if you like.  You will not be able to use your account there anymore.

Some tips

Signal can be a bit picky about how and when it transfers your account.  Things have to be set up properly for this to work.

  • Location services needs to be active on both phones, including the ability to discover nearby devices.  Signal wants to make sure the phones are next to each other.
  • Bluetooth needs to be enabled on both phones.  This is another way to make sure the devices are near each other.
  • Both phones should be running the same version of Signal.  I have seen transfers fail when the versions are slightly different.  Make sure to upgrade to the most current version.
  • Both phones should be connected to the same network.  Wifi is fine, but if one phone is running a VPN, you will need to disable it so that the phones can find each other.

By transferring your Signal account the right way, you’ll have a seamless transition from one phone to the next, and your friends will have no idea you’ve changed devices.