I upgraded from Mojave to Big Sur and forgot to export contacts. I have a backup of the files in ~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook, which I tried to recover with the three methods mentioned in How to restore the AddressBook database from backup

First, I quit all applications (except Terminal and Firefox), deleted the .abcddb file and copied it from the backup

$ rm ~/Library/Application\ Support/AddressBook/*.abcddb 
$ cp /path/to/backup/AddressBook/AddressBook-v22.abcddb ~/Library/Application\ Support/AddressBook 

Contacts showed no cards, so the first line worked (otherwise, it would show the Apple card and my own card):

no contacts screenshot

Then, I copied the Metadata directory, which supposedly contains all the information in case the .abbcddb file goes corrupt:

$ rm ~/Library/Application\ Support/AddressBook/*.abcddb                                                  
$ rm -r -f ~/Library/Application\ Support/AddressBook/Metadata/
$ cp -r /path/to/backup/AddressBook/Metadata ~/Library/Application\ Support/AddressBook 

Again, Contacts shows no contact information, just like above.

Third, I change the extension of the AddressBook directory in the backup to .abbu and double-click on it, which has an effect:

dialog after contacts

I click "Replace all". This does something because the ~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook/Metadata shows all 1,122 items and they are indexed by Spotlight. But, like before, the application itself shows no contacts.

I also have a Time Machine backup of Mojave, but because it was not set up with this computer, I cannot use it to recover contacts as in this blog post.

How can I recover contacts from my backup?

1 Answer 1


Although neither method seemed not to work, after a few days and several restarts, Contacts is now showing all the cards and the groups. Since the third method with the .abbu package was the only one that I didn't reset, I believe it will work.

For the future, I will avoid this issue by exporting the contacts as an archive before reinstallation.

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