How to Make Your WhatsApp Messages Self-Destruct by Default

Earlier last year, WhatsApp finally introduced the option to send ephemeral messages that would automatically be deleted after 7 days. The Meta-owned messaging giant is now rolling out a new update that adds more durations to the self-destruct timer (24 hours and 90 days). It also brings along an option to set a default disappearing message timer for new WhatsApp chats, and that’s what we are going to discuss in this quick and short guide. So, let’s look at how you can make WhatsApp messages in new chats self-destruct by default.

Send Disappearing Messages by Default on WhatsApp (2021)

As mentioned above, the disappearing messages timer is applicable only for new chats. If you would like to turn on the feature for existing chats, you can follow our guide on how to send disappearing messages on WhatsApp. With that out of the way, let’s get to the steps to configure the default disappearing messages timer to have WhatsApp chats self-destruct by default.

Set up New WhatsApp Chats to Self-Destruct by Default

1. Open WhatsApp and tap the vertical three dots menu icon at the top-right corner. From the pop-up that appears, choose “Settings“.

open whatsapp settings

2. From the WhatsApp settings page, tap “Account” and choose “Privacy” to review your privacy settings.

whatsapp privacy settings screen

3. Under the “Disappearing messages” section on the next page, you will find the option to set the “Default message timer” for new chats. The available disappearing messages timer options are 24 hours, 7 days, and 90 days. All you have to do is select the appropriate timer based on how often you would prefer WhatsApp messages to self-destruct in the conversation window.

default message timer settings

4. Once you have set the default messages timer, WhatsApp will display a banner in new chats to remind that you have enabled this feature. Tapping this banner takes you directly to WhatsApp’s disappearing messages settings page. If you change your mind or prefer adjusting the message expiry duration, you can do that without going through these steps.

WhatsApp disappearing messages timer warning banner

Setup Disappearing Messages Timer for WhatsApp Groups

While the new default message timer is mostly relevant for one-on-one chats, WhatsApp also enables the self-destruct timer preference for new groups. For example, if you set ’90 days’ as the default timer in settings, this duration will be the default option when you create a new group. Here’s how you can configure disappearing messages on new and existing groups:

  1. After picking participants when you are creating a new WhatsApp group, you will see the “Disappearing messages” option below the field to enter the group’s name. Tap it to set the duration after which you want the messages to self-destruct in the WhatsApp group.
WhatsApp Disappearing Messages timer new group

2. For existing group chats, open the group info screen and you will see the option to configure the “Disappearing messages” setting. As WhatsApp previously detailed, users can still choose to forward messages to other chats or quote the text as workarounds to retain the original message before they self-destruct.

WhatsApp Disappearing Messages timer old group

Pros and Cons of WhatsApp Disappearing Messages Feature

Now that you know how to set up the new default disappearing messages timer in WhatsApp, you need to remember these things before using this feature to enhance your privacy. The feature isn’t as private as the messaging giant advertises it to be and has some gaping loopholes. To give you a better idea, we have listed the pros and cons of WhatsApp’s ephemeral messaging feature right here:


  • Messages automatically get deleted after a preset duration with no trace left behind.
  • Option to turn on the feature by default, as explained in this guide above.
  • New self-destruct timer options, ranging from as low as 24 hours to 90 days.
  • If your disappearing messages were backed up to the cloud on Android os iOS, they will be deleted when you restore from the backup.


  • No screenshot detection.
  • User can copy or forward messages. Yeah, this is one of the biggest shortcomings of this feature as there is essentially no privacy protection as compared to other ephemeral messaging apps like Snapchat or Instagram DM.
  • Attacker may manage to access expired message using your backups without end-to-end encryption. To safeguard against exactly that, you can learn how to enable end-to-end encrypted backups in WhatsApp via our linked guide.
  • Message preview stays in notifications even if the timer has expired. That means you can still read the message in the notification if you haven’t opened the chat yet.

Set New WhatsApp Messages to Self-Destruct by Default

WhatsApp is not the only messaging platform that allows users to set a default message timer. In fact, the update comes just a few months after Signal added a similar feature to its secure messaging app. If you have switched from WhatsApp to Signal, do not forget to check our linked guide on sending disappearing messages by default on Signal. And if you are looking for other nifty WhatsApp tips and tricks, check out this linked article to stay ahead of the curve. Any queries about the disappearing messages feature in WhatsApp? Do let us know in the comments below.

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