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

 Alpesh Ambalal Patel / Getty Images

You've spent a long time building your Contacts list on your Mac, so why aren't you backing it up? Sure, 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 provides a way to export its contents to a single file that you can easily move to another Mac or use as a backup.

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

Address Book or Contacts

Macs have had an application 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 Contacts. Little changed other than the name and the addition of a new feature or two, such as the ability to sync with iCloud.

How to Back Up and Restore Contacts in macOS Catalina Through OS X Mountain Lion

Back Up Contacts in macOS Catalina (10.15) through Mountain Lion (10.8)

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

    The Contacts app icon in the Mac Dock
  2. Click File in the Contacts menu bar and select Export > Contacts Archive.

    Contacts File menu showing Export to Archive
  3. In the Save As dialog box that opens, enter a name for the archive file or use the default name provided. Use the disclosure triangle next to the Where field to expand the dialog box.

    Contact archive name screen
  4. Select a location on your Mac to store the Contacts archive file and click Save.

    Save location for Contacts archive file

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

  1. Launch Contacts by clicking on its Dock icon or by selecting the Contacts app in the Applications folder.

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

    Contacts app File drop-down menu
  3. Locate the Contacts archive you created. Select it and click Open.

    Location of a Contacts backup on a Mac
  4. 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. After you click choose Replace All, the process can't be undone.

    Confirmation screen to replace all Contact data with the archived backup

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

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

  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)

  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.

That's it. You've restored your Address Book archive.

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

Back Up 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 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.