How To Sync Your Contacts Between Your Computer & Your iPad or iPhone
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sync contactsMany of you will already know all about Apple’s iCloud How to Set Up iCloud For Your iOS Devices How to Set Up iCloud For Your iOS Devices No doubt the most welcomed feature of the latest iOS 5 update for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad is Apple rolling out iCloud and wireless Wi-Fi connectivity for its smart mobile devices and Macs. Many... Read More , its wonderful sync features and the fact that it allows you to find your iDevice and access mail, your calendar and even documents from any standard web browser.

Then again I regularly encounter iPad and iPhone owners who have yet to update their devices to take advantage of the many new features. By far one of the most useful iCloud features is the ability to sync your contacts from your computer and have them appear on your phone or tablet without too much manual work. Today we’ll be running through this quick and painless process.

First Thing’s First

Whatever iDevice you own – iPad, iPhone or even iPod Touch – the first thing you’ll need is iOS 5, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. iCloud is built into the update, so you’ll have to connect your device to the PC you use for such tasks and update by selecting the connected device and clicking Update under Version.

You’ll also be needing an Apple ID, and there’s a good chance you’ve already got one if you’ve had your device for a while or if you’ve ever bought anything from the iTunes store. Your Apple ID is the email that you initially registered and the password you usually use to authorise app downloads or music purchases.

Once your device restarts after the iOS 5 update you should be guided through the iCloud setup procedure. Remember, you can always change your account details and sync settings from your device’s Settings then iCloud menu. Naturally for this tutorial you will at least want Contacts to be “on” under these settings.

sync contacts

With your newly updated device and Apple ID to hand, head over to iCloud where you’ll be invited to login using the credentials I’ve just mentioned. First-time users will be asked to select a language, timezone and a picture and once you’re set up you should see five main icons – Mail (for accessing your iCloud email which also comes bundled with iOS 5), Contacts, Calendar, Find my iPhone/iPad and iWork.

sync contacts iphone

For a good look at many of the new features in iOS 5 we’ve got a few articles that will help you get started Getting Started With iOS 5: What To Do After The Update Getting Started With iOS 5: What To Do After The Update The world’s most advanced mobile operating system just got better, or so they say - and I’m inclined to agree. Apple’s latest iOS release finally brings some much-requested features to the iDevice line-up, with even... Read More , familiarise yourself with notification centre and show off a few of the more obscure features 7 "Hidden" iOS 5 Features You Might Have Missed [iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch] 7 "Hidden" iOS 5 Features You Might Have Missed [iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch] iOS 5 added so many features, tweaks and improvements to Apple’s mobile operating system that many inclusions seem to have gone by unannounced. Everyone (including us) has been raving about the new Notification Center, the... Read More .

iCloud Contacts

With iCloud still open, click on Contacts. This will show your address book as it is currently, it might be blank, have a single entry (you) or it might be populated but not full of your favourite contacts just yet. Whatever changes you make here will appear on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

sync contacts iphone

You can add a new contact with the “+” button or make changes to your current contacts’ details from the comfort of your desk and the convenience of a real keyboard.

How To Sync Your Contacts Between Your Computer & Your iPad or iPhone add contact

If you’re currently using another solution for contacts – for example an email client, webmail provider or Google Contacts 5 Great Tips To Manage Your Google (& Android) Contacts 5 Great Tips To Manage Your Google (& Android) Contacts Read More – then you’re in luck as these can be imported with just a few clicks. Depending on the mail program, you will want to export all contacts in a single vCard file which you can then upload by clicking the cog “Settings” button on the lower left hand side of your contact list.

sync contacts iphone

From here choose Import vCard and locate the file. For Google Contacts specifically, visit the Google Contacts website and click Export in the top right. Choose Everyone (provided you want everyone) and then vCard Format before hitting Export and downloading the file. You can then upload this to iCloud as you would any vCard file.

sync iphone contacts

For those of you with Outlook 2007 or 2010 then it is also possible to sync your contacts, iCloud mail and so on using Apple’s iCloud software for Windows. You can download the software directly from Apple’s website. Unfortunately if you use webmail or another email client then it is not possible to directly sync with iCloud and the web interface is your best bet. Mac users have it built in to OS X Lion, and should have a look here.

sync contacts


That’s pretty much it! Appending and adding contacts using a web browser and keyboard is considerably faster than using an on-screen touch keyboard, and this was one of my favourite features added in iOS 5. The ability to easily export from almost any mail program and upload with just a single file is just as good, and if you’re an Outlook user then Apple’s iCloud software will do the trick.

Don’t forget any changes you make – from your device or from iCloud – will sync both ways, meaning you’re always up to date provided you have an Internet connection.

Have you set up iCloud sync? What do you think? Any features you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments, below.

Explore more about: Contact Management, iCloud.

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    September 20, 2017 at 5:11 pm


  2. Sarah O
    August 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I have successfully synced icloud between Outlook on PC and ipad3, no issues. Then this morning, all contacts and calendars have disappeared from outlook on PC. Still all there on ipad and in icloud when I check online. There are normally tick box options in the navigation section of outlook, one showing icloud, but this has disappeared too. Any ideas ?!

    • Tim Brookes
      August 28, 2012 at 2:58 am

      Hi Sarah, sorry to hear this. I'd recommend that you ask your question (verbatim if you like, it's a pretty good description) on MakeUseOf Answers.

      I personally can't think why this would be, but it does seem like more of a problem with Outlook than iCloud - particularly if the contacts are still on your iPad/ Did you recently update anything? I don't use Outlook so I can't really offer much help, but the MUO Answers community might be able to help you out.

      Good luck!

  3. Steve Stoddart
    August 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Everthing was going well with setting up my other half's IPad... until it came to using the iCloud.

    I have calmed down enough to pen this wee note in the vague hope that Apple have not been remiss (and that is putting it politely) and it is me that missed out how to sync emails (outlook 2007) with the iCloud so the iPad can eventually 'see' them.

    Syncing contacts was a doddle...emails on the other hand left me spitting teeth. I see the setup process for the iCloud Windows app sets up a account in Outlook... and that the sync works with that account... That is, unfortunately as much use as a chocolate fireguard...

    So far, I have looked in all sorts of places trying to get a simple answer to this question... Can I sync emails and retain any folder structure created on a Windows 7 machine running outlook 2007 with iCloud?



    • Tim Brookes
      August 20, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Sorry to hear you are having trouble. I'd definitely recommend you ask your question over at MakeUseOf Answers where someone, somewhere should be able to help. You could even copy and paste the comment you just made and submit it as a question, there's plenty of detail!

      I don't personally use Outlook else I would give it a go, I'm using a Mac and the process is largely pretty smooth for what I use it for. Then again, I'm a webmail kind of guy.

      Conversely if you do find out how to do it, do let us know. This is the Internet and there's undoubtedly someone else out there with the same problem!


  4. Jim K
    July 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    The closest I came to syncing my iPhone contacts with my PC and my iPad without the iCloud was with a 3rd party tool - Copytrans Contacts which I found out about from here:

    My iPhone is running iOS 4 and it does not support the iCloud. After buying my new iPad, I was looking for a way to sync my iPhone contacts with my new device and in addition to my PC. I was not aware that one can import vCard contacts to the iCloud manually.

    What I did is use the 3rd party program instead to export my old iPhone contacts to my computer and then use it again to import the entries from my computer to my new iPad.

  5. G.haag
    July 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I would still need a step by step instruction, but I really appreciate your tutorial in written form instead of You tube, although that was very detailed. Being new to iPad, the sync operation is a bit difficult for me right now, since my Pc is failing and the laptop is out of town, but I will try it anyway.

    thank you for the instructions.

  6. Tim Brookes
    March 13, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Hmmm... that might work. The other thing that might work is importing those Gmail contacts as a vCard, as per the tutorial above. The problem then is that you will probably have a Contacts list full of duplicates, so I'd recommend de-syncing Google first on your phone (to remove those contacts) and then export your Google contacts, import into iCloud using the method above and then marvel as they appear on your phone.

    There might also be another software solution, called TouchCopy. I need to use it soon to migrate my iPhone's contents to a fresh iTunes library as my phone is currently sync'd to my parents laptop, thousands of miles away.

    It does contacts too -

    Unfortunately it isn't free and costs £15.

    Hope this helps!