Recover deleted contacts from iPhone or iPad
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How to export iPhone contacts

Our guide on how to recover iPhone contacts and deleted contacts from your address book, and how to import them 👩‍🏫

Difficulty: easy

Steps: up to 6

Time needed: 2 - 10 minutes

About this guide

This guide will help you do the following things:

  1. Export contacts from your iOS address book in a format that you can easily import elsewhere
  2. Recover lost and deleted contacts, even if you might not have a backup of them.
  3. Import contacts to another iPhone, or to an Android phone, Gmail, or other systems.

If you'd like to skip the introduction, you can click on any of the sections above, and that'll take you straight into the action. We've also compiled the know-how in this guide into a video, below.

You'll need

Win and Mac

Windows PC or Mac

iCloud

iCloud account credentials

iTunes

Or an iTunes backup

Latest iPBE

iPhone Backup Extractor

Exporting contacts from iPhone

The simplest way to retrieve the contacts from your iPhone is to download them from iCloud, or to use Apple's built-in backup mechanism to create a secure backup of your data. Then, using the free edition of iPhone Backup Extractor, you can view and export your contacts in a number of formats, individually or in bulk.

We can do this in two steps:

  1. Run iPhone Backup Extractor to find your iPhone contacts
  2. View & export iPhone contacts

1. Finding deleted iPhone contacts

Your iPhone may be configured to store its contacts on iCloud, and it may also back them up automatically to iCloud or via iTunes.

If you install the free version of iPhone Backup Extractor (download), as soon as it runs, it will list all of the backups on your computer, and when they were last taken. It's also let you log into iCloud, where you can examine your iCloud and iCloud backup contacts. Here's what that looks like:

Checking for recent backups in iPhone Backup Extractor
Checking for recent backups in iPhone Backup Extractor

If you need to update your iCloud backup to get fresh data, we have a guide here. Apple have a great guide which explains how to get updated or create an iTunes backup.

2. View & export contacts

Now for the really easy part: viewing and getting contacts our with iPhone Backup Extractor.

A list of iTunes and iCloud backups in the iPhone Backup Extractor
A list of iTunes and iCloud backups in the iPhone Backup Extractor

iPhone Backup Extractor main window

Click on your backup, or on the iCloud account that you want to view in the left hand part of the iPhone Backup Extractor window. The main part of the window will then update to show you an overview of the data in your backup. To export all of the contacts from your iPhone, click the "Contacts" icon or the text immediately underneath it. iPhone Backup Extractor will ask you where you'd like to save the exported contacts, and once you have chosen a folder, your contacts will be exported there. 🎉

If you'd like to browse the contacts and selectively export them, there's an easy route to do that, too. Rather than clicking on the contacts icon, instead choose Preview, and then select Contact from the left part of the window. That will let you browse through the contacts available for export, and you can then select them and click "Extract".

Extracting contacts from the iPhone Backup Extractor
Extracting contacts from the iPhone Backup Extractor

Recovering deleted contacts

iPhone Backup Extractor can automatically search for and recover deleted contacts on your iOS device. It can do with with a number of proprietary forensic iOS recovery techniques.

Retrieve contacts iCloud backup

In order to recover deleted contacts, you can use the normal process shown above. But ensure that the "Show Deleted Data" option has been ticked in the app's "Utilities" menu.

Other approaches for exporting contacts

Depending on your setup, you may have other options for exporting some or all of your contacts. These options won't work for all users, and lack the flexibility of the iPhone Backup Extractor, and its ability to recover deleted contacts.

If you have your iOS device configured to synchronise its contacts with iCloud (ie. not just having iCloud enabled and contacts on your device, but have the contacts stored in the iCloud account), you could log in to Apple's icloud.com site and export some of them from there.

Similarly, depending on what you plan to do with the exported scontacts, it may make sense to configure your iPhone to sync with a contacts service which could, for example, also synchronise with other, non-iOS devices. If in doubt, reach out to our support team for guidance.

How to transfer your contacts to an iPhone

Transferring your contacts is even easier and takes no more than a few minutes.

  1. From the contacts folder you've just extracted, look for the file called Contacts.vcf. Email this file to yourself as an attachment.
  2. Open the email you have just sent to you, from your iPhone. Make sure you are using the default email client application from Apple, otherwise the restoring process might fail.
  3. Tap on the attachment and you'll be asked if you want to transfer all contacts to your iPhone. Click on "Add Contacts" button. You will be asked if you’d like to create new contacts or merge them with what you already have in your list. Once imported, you should now have all your contacts back on your iPhone.

iPhone import deleted contacts

Importing contacts from iOS to other platforms

iPhone Backup Extractor can export your contacts in a number of different formats, but it defaults to using the vCard / VCF format, as it's the most portable, and easiest to work with. If you'd like to get into details, you can choose to export your contacts into CSV format. We recommend vCard, however.

We have detailed instructions on how to import your contacts to Gmail on our blog, here. Also also have a knowlede-base article "How to import to Android" for a detailed guide on how to import data back to your Android device.

Once you've extracted your contacts file you should open it with whichever program you use to manage your contacts. This might be a web based program, like Gmail or Hotmail, or a desktop application like Outlook or Apple Mail.

Extract contacts iPhone open with

Each program opens contacts in a different way, but almost all will work with either the VCard or CSV files that the iPhone Backup Extractor produces. The options for Google Mail are described below.

Extract contacts iPhone gmail options

How to import contacts from CSV into Outlook

If you've used iPhone Backup Extractor to recover your iPhone contacts from your backup into a CSV file and now want to get them into Outlook, here's a guide to doing it.

1. In Outlook, Start Import

Start Outlook. Then, in Outlook, click "File", "Open", then "Import".

In Outlook, Select File > Open > Import
In Outlook, Select File > Open > Import

2. Choose "Import from another program or file

Select Import from another program or file
Select Import from another program or file

3. Select "Comma Separated Values (Windows)

Select Comma Separated Values (Windows)
Select Comma Separated Values (Windows)

4. Select your CSV file

Select the CSV file you created using iPhone Backup Extractor and decide whether you want to allow the software to create duplicates of your contacts if you have more than one set of information for a particular person.

Select iPhone Backup Extractor CSV file
Select iPhone Backup Extractor CSV file

5. Select where you'd like the contacts to go

Select the folder where you'd like the contacts to go. You'll probably want to put them in your Outlook Contacts folder.

Select destination folder
Select destination folder

6. Optional: Re-save CSV file in Excel

If you see the following error, load the CSV file in Excel, save it, then try importing it again. It should now work.

Translation error screenshot
Translation error screenshot

7. Confirm the Import

Click "Finish" to confirm the import.

Confirmation screenshot
Confirmation screenshot

That's it! Your contacts should now have been imported.

Import iPhone contacts to your Mac Address Book

To import a contacts CSV to the Mac Address Book, you'll need to set a new group first and then choose the correct settings to save the contacts.

  1. Open the Mac Address Book ("Contacts" in the Launchpad) and create a "New Group" using the "File" drop-down menu

    New group
    New group

  2. Give the new group a name, say "iPhone contacts"

    Give the group a name
    Give the group a name

  3. Highlight the new group. In the drop-down menu, select "Import"

    The import option
    The import option

  4. Find the extracted contacts CSV file with your iPhone contacts, double-click it and choose "Open"

    Open the CSV
    Open the CSV

  5. If the CSV file does not include header columns, uncheck the "Ignore first card" box.

    Ignore first card
    Ignore first card

  6. Click "OK" and voilà! Your contacts should now be imported to your Mac!

    Imported contacts
    Imported contacts

If the possibility of ever losing your contacts again gives you the chills, you can always back up your Mac Address Book for safety. The contents of the Mac can be easily synced with the phone if you ever need it.

Related resources

You might may the following documents helpful:

Ready to test it with your iPhone?

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Every iPhone, iPad and iPod

Compatibility

iPhone Backup Extractor runs on any Mac (10.8+) or Windows PC (Vista or newer).

Devices

Supports every iOS device

iPhone Xs, Xr, X, iPhone 8. Everything older, including iPad and iPod Touch.

iOS

Supports every iOS & beta

iOS 12 and 11, and every earlier version. We started with iOS 1!

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We were first to support encrypted backups, iCloud & 2FA. Corrupted backups, too!

Privacy, security and trust

We met HM Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ at Buckingham Palace, after Reincubate was awarded the UK’s highest business award for our work since 2008 on developing this technology. Reincubate invented iPhone Backup Extractor, the world's first iOS data recovery tool.

Read more about Reincubate

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Help us improve

Can we improve this guide or make it easier for you or others access and recover their data? We’ve been doing this over a decade but there’s always room to improve, and we love hearing from users. Why not drop us an email, leave a comment, or tweet us @reincubate? 😊


Comments (2)

I've lost ALL my contacts on iPhone... it was a very "usefull" upgrade...
@Andy, sorry to hear this, have you tried the iPhone Backup Extractor to check you backups? You can either restore from iTunes or if that fails extract the contacts using our application. If you have corrupted backup or need to ask questions try contacting support.

It took me a while but I got my contacts back thanks to this information. Thank you so much!!!

@Brantlie, you're welcome glad we could help 😀

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