My Address Book won't restore contacts from my address book archive (.abbu). I sync my address book with iCloud.

A couple weeks ago, Address Book told me there were some inconsistancies in my contacts. It said that 12 of my contacts were outdated. The "updated" versions that it presented were actually versions that were older by several weeks or months.

  • I told Address Book repeatly to ignore the changes so it kept on asking me.
  • I exported my correct contacts as a .abbu file.
  • I also back up with Time Machine so I should have a good copy there.
  • I deleted a "bad" contact from my Address Book, and then tried to import the .abbu file, the contact I deleted appeared for a second and then disappeared.
  • I then deleted my entire Address Book.
  • I tried again to import the .abbu file. All the contacts appeared for a second and then disappeared.

This happen when iCloud was added in perferences and syncing and when it wasn't. Deleting the file AddressBook folder in ~/ApplicationSupport/ also didn't help.

  • Wanted to add that disabling network access makes this a lot easier otherwise iCloud will keep removing newly imported contacts and groups.
    – user27907
    Aug 23, 2012 at 5:56

5 Answers 5


It was caused by iCloud. Went offline, opened .abbu file, exported as vCards, went online, cards removed themselves. Deleted iCloud account from Mac, added vCards, readded iCloud to Mac. Fixed.

  • Sometimes messing around pays off :)
    – Michiel
    Apr 20, 2012 at 7:44

This took a lot of trial and error to discover, but it preserved my groups:

  1. Go into iCloud on web; select and delete all contacts.

  2. Disable internet connection, but keep iCloud account enabled in Contacts application.

  3. Import contacts archive into Contacts application on Mac.

  4. Disable iCloud account in Contacts application (which will move all iCloud contacts on Mac to new category, On my Mac).

  5. Turn internet connection back on.

  6. Re-enable iCloud account in Contacts (which causes iCloud to merge full Mac address book with empty iCloud address book, but it doesn't tell you it's doing this — no dialog box asking you to merge or overwrite or cancel).

  7. Finally, to avoid confusion, delete duplicate set of contacts labeled "On My Mac" on the Mac. (I do this to avoid confusion of accidentally adding/editing Mac-only contacts. There is a preference setting to make iCloud the default for new contacts, but this can toggle on/off without one's knowledge.)


Check this posting in the apple forums from 9/16/2014. It's possible to preserve group information as well.



This works only if you don't have groups. The point of having the ABBU file is to preserve everything, including groups. To solve for that you have to copy all contacts and all groups to "On My Mac" and then delete the iCloud contacts before reconnecting to the internet. Then once connected you have to move everything back to iCloud. What a royal pain!


Export Address Book Archive..., or vCard), so restore them whichever way you backed them up. ....

  • We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 15, 2015 at 6:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .