Everyone makes mistakes. At some point or another, most of us will delete a contact from our phone in error. Once those digits leave your device, the outlook may seem bleak — but you might be able to recover the contact if you know where to look.
Between iTunes and iCloud, Apple is overly cautious when it comes to making automated backups. Unless you’ve disabled this functionality, these two services should be your first port of call when you need to recover a deleted or missing contact.
Restore Your Contacts via iTunes
The easiest way to recover a lost contact is to use the most recent backup stored in iTunes. Whenever you connect your iPhone to iTunes, the software creates a restore point that you can use in an emergency.
However, this method will revert your phone back to its earlier state. If you’ve added new contacts, or made any other changes in the meantime, they will be lost. Be aware of this before you start the procedure.
To use iTunes to restore your missing contact, connect your phone to your computer via USB, and open iTunes.
Use the iPhone icon near the top of the user interface to access settings related to your device.
Use the Restore Backup button to return your phone to its earlier state. If you’ve just made a new backup, this option will be greyed out as above, so make sure that iTunes doesn’t start the process automatically when you plug in your phone.
You can cancel any automatic backups by clicking the “X” button in iTunes, and prevent it happening in future under Preferences > Devices by checking Prevent iPods, iPhones and iPads from syncing automatically.
Restore Your Contacts via iCloud
If you haven’t connected your iPhone to iTunes recently, iCloud might be your savior. Check whether your device is set up to backup contents to iCloud by opening Settings, finding the iCloud section, and seeing whether the Contacts slider is activated.
If it is, you may be in luck. Head to iCloud.com in your web browser and log in.
You’ll see a screen that looks like a selection of iOS apps. Click Contacts and you’ll see a list of your contacts, accurate to your last iCloud backup. Check to see whether your missing contact is there.
At this point, you can either add the contact manually, or restore your iCloud backup. For the latter, you’ll need to go back to the iCloud section of the Settings app on your iPhone. Turn the Contacts slider off, then select Keep on My iPhone when prompted.
Next, turn the slider back to the on position. Select Merge when prompted.
This back-and-forth process combines the contacts on your phone with any missing contacts that are being stored via iCloud.
Manual Backups Using iCloud
It’s possible to recover missing contacts via iCloud if you’re quick about it — but if your iPhone syncs to iCloud in the meantime, you might be out of luck. To avoid this scenario, it’s worth using iCloud to make an occasional manual backup.
First, open iCloud in your browser as instructed above. Then, head to the Contacts page. Click any contact, then use Cmd + A (or Ctrl + A on Windows) to select all of your contacts.
Next, click the small cog in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
Click Export vCard and your browser will download a backup of your contacts. Keep this on your computer somewhere safe, and make sure to update it every now and again, and you won’t need to rely on iTunes or iCloud next time you lose a contact.
Recovering Contacts With Third-Party Software
Even if you’re an avid iOS user, you might want to avoid working with iTunes, and even iCloud. If that’s the case, then you won’t be able to take advantage of either service’s ability to back up your contacts. Fortunately, there’s third-party software that can provide similar functionality.
TouchCopy by Wide Angle Software is one such option, and it’s available for both Mac and PC. However, it’s paid software that costs $29.95 for a year, or $39.95 for a lifetime subscription. Alternatively, there’s CopyTrans Shelbee, which is free but only works on Windows.
Again, these programs will only provide a backup, and won’t help you recover lost contacts if there isn’t already a backup available. As with any software that’s working with private content on your phone, be wary about the access you give any recovery to your device.
Do you have another tip for recovering lost iPhone contacts? Why not join the conversation in the comments section below?