How to Restore or Import a Mac OS X Mail Address Book

What to Know

  • Open Address Book, click File > Import, find archive copy, and select Open > Replace All.
  • To save new contacts before importing, highlight contacts, drag and drop to desktop, and place them back into Address Book after import.
  • Or, open Contacts > File/Import and select an archive file or vCard file.

It is easy to restore or import your Contacts or Mail Address Book with Mac OS X from a backup copy. If you use iCloud to store and sync your Contacts you may have fewer reasons to export and save a backup for your personal devices. But if you want to share your full Address Book or Contacts with a computer that won't be linked to your iCloud account, then you may prefer to import a backup.

Restore or Import Your Mac OS X Mail Address Book From a Backup Copy

If you have a backup copy in a safe place, restoring from that copy is easy. You have a couple of choices when you export your Contacts or Address Book. You can export a full archive file in .abbu format, or you can export one, multiple, or all contacts as a vCard file.

To import or restore your Mac OS X Mail contacts from an exported archive:

  • Open Address Book.
  • Highlight all contacts you have newly created and want to keep in your address book.
  • Drag and drop the highlighted contacts to your Desktop or Downloads stack, for example.
  • Select File > Import... from the menu.
  • Find and highlight the desired address book/contacts archive copy (an .abbu file or vCard file).
  • Click Open.
  • Now click Replace All.
  • If you have dragged contacts to your Desktop or Downloads stack (for instance) before:
    Drag and drop these contacts back into Address Book.
  • Click Add.

Replacing Contacts with Exported Contacts Data - Mac OS X

If you are using ​Mac OS X El Capitan, you don't have the same functionality for Address Book. Instead, you have Contacts and you can export your Contacts as an archive copy (.abbu file) or as vCard files.

If you are moving from computer to computer and you don't want to sync with iCloud, then open your Contacts and choose File/Export to export in either format. Then you can transfer that file to your new computer using a thumb drive, emailing it and saving it, or by other means.

You can import your archived .abbu file by locating it and opening it, or ​by using the File/Import command in Contacts. However, be sure this is what you want to do as it will completely replace your Contacts data and you can't undo this action. Luckily, it gives you a warning before you perform that action.

If you exported Contacts as vCards, you can use the File/Import command to import them. If they are duplicates, you will get an alert to that effect and you can choose to import them or not.

By importing them as vCards, you can review each one that is a duplicate and decide whether to keep the old one, keep the new one, keep both, or update. This feature is also handy because you can also decide to Apply to All after you have reviewed one or more.

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