Previous 1 2 Next 15 Replies Latest reply: Sep 24, 2014 8:53 PM by cierrasharleen
Jacques4242 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

My Contacts data got botched up. Now I'm looking for a strategy to restore it. The old way, restoring from an archive, no longer works because iCloud immediately replaces the restored data. It used to be possible under MobileMe to restore from an archive and have the local data replace that on MobileMe. So, the only alternative left is to restore from Time Machine. However, TM restore works only on a group-by-group basis which makes this task hugely time consuming. Each time I recover a group, Contacts finds duplicates that are also in previously recovered groups, and since Contacts is so incredibly bad at understanding duplicates (it thinks two people at the same company constitutes a duplicate!), I have to manually review each and every card to be imported. With 1400 cards and 20 groups, this is going to take days.


Apple wants $20 just to listen to my question. Pathetic.


Any suggestions about how to restore cards AND groups from an archive, Time Machine, or .vcf files?



I can't believe how abysmally bad Contacts is. How can the company that makes such brilliant and complex apps as Aperture and Final Cut get something as basic as Contacts so horribly wrong?

Contacts, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2)
  • Csound1 Level 8 Level 8 (42,300 points)

    Sign out of iCloud Contacts, restore the contacts, sign back in.

  • KarenSelena Level 4 Level 4 (1,960 points)

    Mobile me had something called iDisk.  iCloud does not, and only holds specific formats of data in the iWork section.  It likely would not allow a contact archive to be saved there, as it does not support that format.


    Time machine does not restore on a "group-by-group" basis, so I an unclear what you mean by this.  To restore your contacts, you should be able to do the following:

    - first on your computer, open up a finder window, then go to "go" in the top menu.  With the "go" drop down showing, hold down your option key on your keyboard.  This will make a "library" appear under your home in the Go drop down.   Select the library.  Leave this window open

    - launch the time machine application

    - navigate to a date and time when your contacts were in good shape on your computer

    - in the finder window, navigate to your contact data (application support).  Here you will see an "addressbook" folder.  Select it, then click restore


    Note - you many need to stop the iCloud contact sync while you do this


    Apple does not require $20 to listen to your issue, however they will require $20 if you require assistance to fix your issue.  Keep in mind, your local apple store will give 15 minutes of support for free, if you were to take your computer in.

  • Csound1 Level 8 Level 8 (42,300 points)

    I think you meant to reply to the OP.

  • Jacques4242 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)



    Signing out of iCloud or disconnecting from the internet doesn't work. As soon as I sign back in or reconnect, iCloud deletes all of my restored data. MobileMe used to allow you to replace your cloud data with local data. iCloud, incredibly, doesn't. I just spent an hour on the phone with a senior level tech at Apple who was very nice and understanding but ultimately had to admit that there was no way to get iCloud to accept data recovered from a Contacts archive. The only way to get the data back into iCloud is to reimport it from TM or vcf files, which involves either giving up all of my groups or going through a hideously tedious process of reimporting group-by-group and manually reviewing each of hundreds and hundreds of reported "duplicates" because Contacts is so stupid it can't even tell that two people working at the same company are not, in fact, duplicates.


    This problem results from the convergence of brain-dead iCloud design and really bad implementation of groups and duplicates handling in Contacts. The iCloud and Contacts dev teams should be forced to give each other wedgies onstage at WWDC.

  • Csound1 Level 8 Level 8 (42,300 points)

    Then you are no longer in need of help.

  • Jacques4242 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)



    Nice try, but iCloud still deletes everything as soon as I reconnect. Your method is effectively the same as importing the Contacts archive.


    To be clear, there are NO contacts in my iCloud account, so anything I add to the Contacts app while disconnected gets immediately deleted as soon as I reconnect with iCloud.


    I CAN recover all of my contacts by recovering them from TM while connected to iCloud, but if I recover all contacts, that does not restore my groups, and when I then recover the groups one by one, Contacts sees all those cards as duplicates and doesn't know how to properly handle them, so I have to review them card by card, which is going to take me days with 1400 contacts and two dozen groups.

  • KarenSelena Level 4 Level 4 (1,960 points)

    I think you need to disable iCloud contact syncing before the restore. 


    I found this article, it may help

    - he-address-book.

  • Jacques4242 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have tried turning off Contacts syncing, signing out of my iCloud account entirely, and disconnecting from the Internet. The tech walked me through each of these steps. Nothing worked.

  • Jacques4242 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)



    Thanks, but this method relies on importing a vcf file for each group, and that has been part of the problem, because cards that belong to multiple groups are flagged as "duplicates", and I have good reason to believe that Contacts will handle duplicate resolution poorly if I do not manually verify each one.


    That said, I ultimately gave up restoring from the Contacts archive file. I imported a vcf file for each group and left duplicate resolution to Contacts. I ended up with almost the same total number of cards, and it remains to be seen whether any data has been lost to inappropriate merging. Fingers crossed. It did seem to work better when I chose NOT to review duplicates on import.


    As it stands now, if you rely on iCloud, a Contacts archive is utterly useless except for generating vcf files, which is no advantage if you have a Time Machine backup.

  • Csound1 Level 8 Level 8 (42,300 points)

    I use and have used the method regularly, it works just fine for me, but I am glad that you found a method.

  • bigbadjohn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Just needed to chip in here to express my great disappointment with this icloud contacts archive restore situation. I got my address book botched up by accidentally hitting "Add Sender to Contacts" in Mail, while I wanted to apply rules to all emails in the inbox. So I selected all messages, then wanted to apply rules, instead hit "Add Sender to Contacts". No warning. My brand new rMPB started the fan and a while later I had 1000 more contacts in my address book. Lots of duplicates. Etc. What a mess.


    I tried getting the address book folder from the user library/application support in a time machine backup. I tried swapping the current folder with my time machine folder. When I open contacts (while offline!) everything looks dandy.

    I then tried copying all contacts and groups to the "on my mac" section, hoping it would keep that there after getting back online. But no. Now my Address book had two sections called "icloud", despite only one mention of icloud in the internet accounts preferences. the "on my mac" dissappeared. and now I had 2 sets of all the contacts, old and new. -> instead of around 800 contacts I now had around 4000!




    I'll try jacques4242's suggestion now.


    what a mess I say again. Really hurts to see all the painstaking work of keeping a clean and functional address book with groups used for mailing lists, etc. and it getting all f***ed up so easily.


    that's enough. thanks for reading :-)

  • bigbadjohn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    One thing to add:

    When re-importing the individual group vcf files, I found it saved me a bit of time, if I first created the group in contacts, and then dragg-and-dropped the vfc file right on the group name in contacts. (instead of grabbing the last import and copying into a new group)


    So my preferred workflow was:


    1. in finder window containing the vcf files of the contact group backups: hit enter on the next group to import. Hit CMD-C to copy the name

    2. in the Contacts application: CMD-shift-N (for new group) followed by CMD-V to paste the name.

    3. bring back finder window and drag the respectice vcf file into the newly created group in the contacts app

    (3b to make it even faster: arrow down to next group vcf file in the finder window, hit enter and cmd-c to copy name of next group. -> jump from step 4. to step 2. from here on.)

    4. in the contacts app click on import (or click enter).


    and repeat until all groups are in.


    And don't forget to make an export of "all contacts" too, and import them all too. not all of my contacts are in a group...




    This seemed to do the job. Thanks to you all for your suggestion!!!! Took me 2h, but I think I'm back in business.

  • bigbadjohn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    btw. I'm on Mavericks 10.9.1 - so I guess I should be in a nother thread....

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