Back Up or Move Your Contacts or Address Book Data

Contacts or Address Book: Either Way, Be Sure to Back Up the Data

Address Book/Rolodex in red
Caspar Benson / Getty Images

You've spent a long time building up your Contacts list, so why aren't you backing it up? Sure, Apple's Time Machine will back up your Contacts list, but it's not easy to restore just your Contacts data from a Time Machine backup.

Thankfully, there's a simple solution, although the method and nomenclature changed a bit with the different versions of OS X. The method I'm going to describe will allow you to copy the Contacts list into a single file that you can easily move to another Mac or use as a backup.

There are other methods for keeping current Contacts data on multiple Macs or in multiple locations that involve syncing the contacts list with various services, such as Apple's iCloud. Syncing will work fine, but this method can work for everyone, even those who have no services or devices with which to sync data.

Address Book or Contacts

OS X has had an app for storing contact information for quite a while. Originally, the app was named Address Book and was used to store contact information, including names, addresses, and phone numbers. The Address Book name was last used with OS X Lion (10.7). When OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) was released, Address Book was renamed to Contacts. Very little actually changed, other than the name and the addition of a new feature or two, such as the ability to sync with iCloud.

Back Up Contacts Data: OS X Mountain Lion and Later

  1. Launch Contacts by selecting it in the /Applications folder, or by clicking on its Dock icon.
  1. From the File menu, select Export, Contacts Archive.
  2. In the Save dialog box that opens, enter a name for the Contacts archive, and browse to the location where you wish to have the archive of your Contacts list saved.
  3. Click the Save button.

Backing Up Address Book Data With OS X 10.5 Through OS X 10.7

  1. Launch the Address Book application by clicking its icon in the Dock, or use the Finder to navigate to /Applications, then double-click the Address Book application.
  1. From the File menu, select 'Export, Address Book Archive.'
  2. In the Save As dialog box that opens, enter a name for the archive file or use the default name provided.
  3. Use the disclosure triangle next to the Save As field to expand the dialog box. This will allow you to navigate to any location on your Mac to store the Address Book archive file.
  4. Select a destination, then click the 'Save' button.

Backing Up Address Book Data With OS X 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, then double-click the Address Book application.
  2. From the File menu, 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. This will allow you to navigate to any location on your Mac to store the Address Book archive file.
  5. Select a destination, then click the 'Save' button.

Restore Contacts Data: OS X Mountain Lion and Later

  1. Launch Contacts by clicking on its Dock icon, or by selecting the Contacts app in the /Applications folder.
  2. From the File menu, select Import.
  3. Use the Open dialog box to navigate to where the Contacts archive you created is located, and then click the Open button.
  1. A drop-down sheet will open, asking if you wish to replace all of your Contacts data with the contents of the file you just selected. You can cancel or choose Replace All. Be aware that if you choose Replace All, the process can't be undone.
  2. To replace all of the Contacts app data with the archived data, click the Replace All button.

Restoring Address Book Data with OS X 10.5 Through OS X 10.7

  1. Launch the Address Book application by clicking its icon in the Dock, or use the Finder to navigate to /Applications, then double-click the Address Book application.
  2. From the File menu, select 'Import.'
  3. In the dialog box that opens, navigate to the Address Book archive you created earlier, then click the 'Open' button.
  1. You will be asked if you wish to replace all of the contacts with the ones from the selected archive. Click 'Replace All.'

That's it; you've restored your Address Book contact list.

Restoring Address Book Data with OS X 10.4 or Earlier

  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 'Revert to Address Book Backup.'
  3. In the dialog box that opens, navigate to the Address Book backup you created earlier, then click the 'Open' button.
  4. You will be asked if you wish to replace all of the contacts with the ones from the selected archive. Click 'Replace All.'

That's it; you've restored your Address Book contact list.

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 will create an archive file that's readable by the current as well as a new version of OS X and Address Book or Contact app.

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