How to Back up or Copy Your Mac OS X Mail Address Book

Contact book icon

You can export your OS X Mail contacts to an .abbu file, which can serve as a backup and be easily imported back into OS X Contacts.

Why Back up or Copy Contacts?

About to synchronize your trusty Mac OS X Mail address book with Google, Yahoo! or just iCloud? Doing this, you would rather be safe than sorry? Are you copying your contacts to a different account perhaps or computer?

In any event, creating a backup copy of your Apple Mac OS X Contacts (Address Book) data is both sensible and straightforward. Of course, restoring or importing that same data back into Address Book (be it on the same account and computer or on another) is just as swift and simple.

Back up or Copy Your OS X Mail Contacts

To create a backup copy of the OS X Mail contacts (from the Contacts application):

  1. Open Contacts in OS X.
  2. Select File > Export > Contacts Archive… from the menu.
  3. Find the location to put the backup copy under Where.
  4. Optionally, change the name for the address book copy under Save As:.
  5. Click Save.

Back up or Copy Your Mac OS X Mail Address Book

To create a copy of your Mac OS X Mail contacts (from the Address Book application):

  1. Open the Address Book application.
  2. Select File > Export > Address Book Archive… from the menu.
  3. Choose a safe place to store your backup under Where:.
  4. Click Save.

If you want to send the newly created backup archive by email, for example, it is best to turn it into a .zip file first: right-click on the (.abbu) archive and select Compress from the menu.

What About iCloud? Does It Keep a Copy?

If you use iCloud, Contacts will synchronize its address book automatically with the cloud. This means you do have a separate copy of all your contacts there, which you can export too, but changes you make locally are synchronized.

If you lose contacts locally, the synchronized copy at iCloud may have dropped them as well.

Restore iCloud Contacts to a Previous State

Note that you can restore iCloud contacts to a previous state, however:

  1. Open iCloud Settings at
  2. Follow the Restore Contacts link under Advanced.
  3. Click Restore next to the most recent backup copy you suspect to contain the lost data.
  4. Click Restore again under Restore Contacts.

iCloud will create a new back-up copy of the current state of your address book (which you can restore using the same process), then replace all contacts on all your devices and with the archived copy.

(Tested with Mac OS X Mail 3 and OS X Mail 9 as well as iCloud)