I am running 10.7.2 and had my Address Book synced to the iCloud. I inadvertently deleted all of my contacts from my iPhone (synced with iCloud) and now my address book is empty.

I've attempted to restore all of the files in ~/Library/Application Support/Address Book but when I do I can see the cards briefly (for about 1 second) and then they disappear from Address Book.

I also backed up my Address Book (prior to deletion), but opening this file yields the same results.

Any suggestions?

8 Answers 8


I was attempting to work out a bug with iTunes. iTunes was refusing to put my contacts on my new iPod. And no groups were showing in iTunes.

One thing led to another, and I found myself looking at a blank address book. You can imagine my consternation when my iPhone contacts got smoked before I could shut down a sync.

I could import from my backups, but, like the original poster, the contacts would appear for about a second before disappearing again.

Shutting down the contacts iCloud sync and then logging out of iCloud worked. I was then able to import either one of my two backups without issue.


If you want to restore ONLY your contacts from your iCloud acccount (assuming you have a viable contacts list) to your iPhone, here's how I did it:

  1. Login to your iCloud account; go to your Contacts and click the asterisk in the lower left corner; choose select all; and then open the menu again and choose export vcard (vcf); it will export a file containing all selected vcards. Save this file to your desktop.

  2. For Win7 (other versions are probably similar): Open Windows Contacts for the appropriate user; click Import from toolbar at the top; browse to the .vcf file you saved to your desktop. A separate vcard will open for each one; click the OK button for each to be added to Windows Contacts. (Sorry if you have hundreds/thousands, maybe there's a faster way to add them all, I'm not sure.) PLEASE NOTE: If you already have people in your Windows Contacts list that you DO NOT want added to your iPhone Contacts, you need to move them around or delete them or whatever PRIOR to importing the .vcf file. You need to be left with only the contacts you want to be transferred to your iPhone. Understand that ALL contacts in Windows Contacts will be imported into your iPhone Contacts list.

  3. Once the contacts are imported into Windows Contacts, open iTunes and connect your iPhone. On the info tab select "Sync" with "windows contacts". Go further down the page to the Advanced menu and choose to replace information on this iphone and check the contacts box. Make sure any other options (apps, music, etc.) are unchecked since you are correcting your Contacts only. Click the Sync button. Your iPhone Contacts should now match your iCloud contacts. I could not figure out any other way to get the iCloud list to the iPhone...

Worked like a charm...

Once you get your iPhone just the way you want it, this is the time to use iCloud backup. If you don't know how to do this, Google Search "turn on iCloud backup."

Hope this helps some of you that may have the same problem I did with screwed up Contacts lists.



I also fell foul of the cloud, Due to a misunderstanding about skype contact import I did a backup and deleted all my contacts ( to remove them from skype) then logged out of skype and tried to restore, I got them displayed for a few moments and then they all dissapeared, unfortunately all my devices were online so they got removed from everywhere (with me.com you had the option to manually update which I had my home server set to) so I wouldn't have had this problem.

anyway to solve it I did the following.

  1. select to not sync contacts with icloud
  2. disconnect network cable (very important)
  3. restore contacts from backup
  4. select all contacts in the icloud section and copy to the On My Mac section, including any groups (very important)
  5. reconnect network cable
  6. select to sync contacts with icloud choosing the merge option
  7. wait for sync and and check it really has worked
  8. breathe a sigh of relief
  • I had this issue a few weeks ago, an absolute life saver.
    – Stu Wilson
    Oct 24, 2012 at 9:22

You'll have to restore them from your most recent backup.

There are a number of ways to backup Address Book (Time Machine, Export Address Book Archive..., or vCard), so restore them whichever way you backed them up.

Once your contacts are back in Address Book, chose Reset Device in iSync to ensure the contacts go from computer to phone.

Maybe all you can try to transfer your iphone contact and address book to computer first.

More reviews:
How to transfer iPhone contacts from iPhone to PC
How to transfer contacts from iPhone to Mac OS

Hope that work you out.


After you export the address book, just email them to your phone.

If you use the same email address on your computer, just email it to yourself, then use your phone to check for new emails. (So you receive the new email on your phone instead of your computer)

Download the attachment and it'll ask if you want to add all of the contacts to your list.

Hit Merge and it'll update ones that don't exist instead of replacing them all.

Hay presto! All the contacts are now back in your list.


Try turning off iCloud first (PreferencesiCloud → deselect Contacts), then restore from your backup.

  • Yes, tried that. the ABBU file has cards from an Exchange Server and I think that is messing things up as well. When I turn off iCloud, the Groups appear, but no individual cards.
    – David
    Oct 15, 2011 at 4:43

I just had the exact same problem. I went into iCloud on my iPhone, switched off contacts, selected "Keep contacts on iPhone". Then I went to iTunes, connected my iPhone to my mac and clicked on the Info tab. Just tick the box that says "Sync address book contacts" a=then hit apply at the bottom of the screen. Hope this works for you.


This appears to be a bug with contact metadata, but it does not happen when restoring from "fresh" vCards. Here's how I worked around this bug:

  1. Disable iCloud on your Mac (iCloudPref.prefpane -> Sign Out -> Delete local data)
  2. Restore your contacts (from Time Machine, .abbu backup file, 3rd party backup program like CrashPlan, etc.)
  3. Open Address Book, and you should see all of your contacts
  4. Select all contacts -> File -> Export -> vCard -> save this file
  5. Enable iCloud on your Mac (the contacts will disappear again)
  6. Import the vCard file you just created
  7. Verify that the contacts appear on the iCloud website and your iOS devices

Hat tip: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1256807

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