Back Up or Move Your Contacts or Address Book Data

Contacts or address book: Either way, be sure to back up the data

Apple's Time Machine backs up your Contacts list, but it's not easy to restore only your Contacts data from a Time Machine backup.

There's a simple solution, although the method and nomenclature changes a bit with the different versions of OS X and macOS. The Contacts app lets you export its contents to a single file that you can easily move to another Mac or use as a backup. Here's how.

Information in this article applies to Macs running macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Tiger (10.4).

  1. Launch Contacts.

  2. Click File in the Contacts menu bar.

    Contacts File > Export
  3. Select Contacts Archive.

    Export > Contacts Archive
  4. In the Save As dialog box that opens, enter a name for the archive file, select where you want to save the file, and click Save.

    Saving the Contacts archive

    Use the disclosure triangle next to the Where field to expand the dialog box.

Restore Contacts in macOS Catalina (10.15) Through Mountain Lion (10.8)

To put the contacts from your archive into your Contacts app:

  1. Click File on the Contacts menu bar and select Import in the drop-down menu.

    Contacts File > Import
  2. Locate the Contacts archive you created. Select it and click Open.

    Selecting archive file to restore
  3. A drop-down sheet opens, asking if you want to replace all your Contacts data with the contents of the archive file you selected. Click Replace All to proceed.

    Confirmation screen to replace all contacts

    After you click Replace All, the process can't be undone.

How to Back Up and Restore Address Book Data in OS X Lion Through OS X Leopard

In older versions of OS X, Contacts was called Address Book. Here's how to back up and restore its data file:

  1. Launch the Address Book application by clicking its icon in the Dock, or use the Finder to navigate to Applications and double-click the Address Book application.

  2. From the File menu, select Export > Address Book Archive.

  3. In the Save As dialog box that opens, enter a name for the archive file or use the default name provided.

  4. Use the disclosure triangle next to the Save As field to expand the dialog box. Navigate to a location on your Mac to store the Address Book archive file.

  5. Select a destination and click Save.

Restore Address Book in OS X Lion (10.7) Through OS X Leopard (10.5)

Restoring is similar to newer versions, too:

  1. Launch the Address Book application by clicking its icon in the Dock, or use the Finder to go to Applications. Then double-click the Address Book application.

  2. Click File in the Address Book menu bar and select Import from the drop-down menu.

  3. In the dialog box that opens, go to the Address Book archive you created, select it, and click Open.

  4. You are asked if you want to replace all the contacts with the ones from the selected archive. Click Replace All.

How to Back Up and Restore Address Book Data With OS X Tiger and Earlier

Here's what the process looks like in even earlier versions of OS X:

  1. Launch the Address Book application by clicking its icon in the Dock, or use the Finder to navigate to Applications and double-click the Address Book application.

  2. Click File in the Address Book menu bar and select Back Up Address Book.

  3. In the Save As dialog box that opens, enter a name for the archive file or use the default name provided.

  4. Use the disclosure triangle next to the Save As field to expand the dialog box and go to a location on your Mac to store the Address Book archive file.

  5. Select a destination and click Save.

Restore Address Book in OS X Tiger (10.4) and Earlier

  1. Launch the Address Book application by clicking its icon in the Dock or use the Finder to navigate to Applications. Double-click the Address Book application.

  2. Click File on the Address Book menu bar and select Revert to Address Book Backup.

  3. In the dialog box that opens, navigate to the Address Book backup you created earlier and click the Open button.

  4. You are asked if you want to replace all the contacts with the ones from the selected archive. Click Replace All.

Moving Address Book or Contacts to a New Mac

When moving your Address Book or Contacts data to a new Mac, use the Export option to create the archive, rather than create an Address Book backup. The Export function creates an archive file that's readable by all the versions of OS X and macOS.