iPhone and iPad Mac

Back Up, Restore, and Clean Your Mac Contacts With These Easy Steps

Michael McConnell 09-05-2017

The Contacts app feeds information to the Mail, Messages, and Calendar apps on your Mac, so keeping it accurate can make your life easier. Careful organisation and a failsafe backup can help you remain productive, while the cloud keeps everything in sync.


That’s why it’s best to organise your contacts using your Mac, and let iCloud push the changes to your iOS devices. Today we’re going to look at a few ways to clean and backup your Mac’s contacts, including restoring them from iCloud.

Exporting Your Contact Archive

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you have a local copy of your contacts backed up. While iCloud does keep copies of your revisions from the last 30 days, getting a snapshotted copy before you make any changes is the most dependable backup you can have.

archive export

All of your contacts export to a file called a Contacts Archive. The file is formatted as .ABBU File-Extensions.org: An Encyclopedia For File Extensions Read More and contains all of your contacts data. This step ensures that any changes we make are completely backed up locally to the Mac.

If you want to make sure that your contacts are in iCloud, go through the All On My Mac group, and drag any you want to migrate to the All iCloud group. After that, each change you make to Contacts creates a restore point in iCloud that is held for 30 days.


Cleaning Up Duplicates

The number of apps and services that you can grant the right to write to your contacts via Mac OS and iOS can leave you with a lot of unneeded contacts entries. You may also have brought over contact info via your SIM card when you first bought your iPhone, and now iCloud has been merging all of these together.

contacts duplicates

The first step is to figure out how many times your friend Bob is in your phone and remove the duplicate entries. Apple has made this a simple task. Simply go to the Card menu and select the item: Look For Duplicates. In the menu that pops up, select Merge in the pop up to combine the duplicate entries.

Review the changes, and make sure the process only combined actual duplicate entries. Once you have confirmed, let’s move on.


Quick Cleanup

Go through and find the cards for people you do not need in your contacts anymore. Considering that Facebook and Gmail can both do mass imports The Search for the Perfect Mac Desktop Gmail Client Need a desktop client for Gmail on your Mac? Here are the best we could find. Read More , there’s a good possibility that you may now have a bunch of people in your Contacts that you never email, call or text.

card delete

At the very least you probably have all those Evernote-style sharing email addresses from the pre-extension days of iOS. Deleting these is easy, just right-click the name and select Delete.

These deletes should at least make your list a little neater to look at, but now we need to take a survey the data stored in the contact cards themselves.


Edit Cards

With cell numbers being portable, it is not likely that you or your friends have to change phone numbers. However, with business contacts, work numbers, and emails, you may still end up with a lot of extraneous data.

edit card

Click through each of your contacts and review the information there. When you find someone with extra data that you need to delete, click the edit tab. If you want to remove a field, click the red button. Be warned: there is no confirmation. It disappears right away, so double check your work before you click Done.

If you just need to add information, click the + on the left side of the card and you can choose what field you need to add. You might want to take this time to add phonetic pronunciations for anyone you want to call using Siri How to Change the Way Siri Pronounces Names Siri is great, but doesn't always get the pronunciation of names right. Here's how to fix that with one simple voice command. Read More since you are already in here checking each entry.


Recovery From the Cloud

If you accidentally made some changes that you did not want, you can still get back your data. Hopefully, you followed the steps above to create the contacts archive, but iCloud still has you covered for changes made in the last 30 days, How to Change the Way Siri Pronounces Names Siri is great, but doesn't always get the pronunciation of names right. Here's how to fix that with one simple voice command. Read More though it only seems to do one backup per day, so whatever changes you made in one day are saved in a single backup.

icloud restore

You can access this backup by logging into iCloud.com on the web. On the launch page click Settings. On the next page, scroll down to the bottom. Under Advanced you should see the option Restore Contacts.

Click the link, and in the next pop up you should see the restore points labeled by date. Choose the date you want to return to, and click Restore. There is a pop-up with the warning you are about to overwrite all of your contacts, but your current contacts will be archived for restoration. Click Restore to continue.

When your Mac syncs with iCloud next, you should see your Contacts restored to the previous state.

Restore From Archive

If you do not use iCloud, the Contacts archive we created at the beginning can still save your contacts. In the File menu select Import. Find the archive you created earlier, and open it.

A pop-up asks you to confirm that you want to replace all of your existing contacts with those in the archive. Click Replace All, and it imports all of your contacts back into the App.

If you are using iCloud, you may run into an issue where it overwrites the import with the last sync from iCloud. If you are using iCloud to sync your contacts, it might be best to use the method in the last step to restore 3 Ways to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups Here are several methods for how to restore your Mac using Time Machine, including what to do about "searching for time machine backups." Read More your contacts.

Regular Maintenance and Cleanup

Depending on the amount of time that you spend working with your contacts, you may need to do a more regular audit of Contacts. Under Preferences you can edit the basic template for new Contacts, which can save time when adding new cards.

card template

Contacts may seem a bit old-fashioned, but it is still central to managing Facetime, Mail, and Messages on your Mac. OS X Messages: Use Facebook, Stop Automatic Emoji & More Tips The Messages app is often overlooked in favor of more robust IM clients, but it can be a fantastic way of keeping in touch with people if you know how to set it up properly. Read More

Which other Mac programs and utilities do you feel are underappreciated for how vital they are to your workflow? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: apdesign/Shutterstock

Related topics: Data Backup, iCloud, macOS Sierra.

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