How To

Two ways on how to backup iPhone contacts

Backup contacts iPhone

When you own an iPhone, one of the most important things you will have to do is to back up your contacts. This is necessary so that you don’t lose any of your information on individuals you consider friends, family and acquaintances. Performing this task will ensure that you will always have your contacts on hand, even if you lose your iPhone or have no choice but to perform a hard reset, which in essence wipes out all of your data. Here’s how to backup iPhone contacts using iTunes, iCloud and iOS.

Updated: March 2nd, 2015

Backup contacts iPhone

How to create a local backup of your contacts to Mac or PC

One of the easiest ways to back up your iPhone contacts involves iTunes. One clear advantage here is that your data is on your home computer. If you have privacy concerns related to your information being on the “cloud”, this is the option for you.

Open iTunes on your computer. It works with both the PC and Mac. Connect your iPhone to the program on your computer via the USB connector that came with you phone. iTunes will typically recognize it when you connect it. In the latest version of iTunes (version 12.1), you can select your iPhone from the row of icons which appear just below the playback controls (as shown below).

Show iPhone in iTunes

With the Summary tab selected, you have a variety of information showing about your iPhone. We’re concerned with the second section, which is Backups. In this section, it will display how your iPhone is currently being backed up. It’s important to note that you can backup to both iCloud and create a local backup to your home computer. In the screen shot below, you’ll see that the iPhone is being automatically backed up to iCloud. Even so, I prefer to have a local back-up. To back-up your iPhone contacts, select ‘Back Up Now‘. You can also select File > Devices > Back Up Now from the menu. Either way, your contacts will be backed up to your Mac or PC.

Backup contacts to Mac or PC

If you look at the above screenshot, you’ll see the Latest Backups. This will provide a timestamp for the last time you’ve backed up to iCloud and/or iTunes.

How to backup contacts using iCloud

Another option for backing up your iPhone’s contacts can take place through iCloud, Apple’s cloud computing technology service that was introduced in the fall of 2011. Open Settings and tap on iCloud > Backup. You must enable the backup option in order for this to take effect. Toggle to on to enable. When your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi, it will periodically backup through iCloud, or you can do so by connecting your iPhone to a power source. There is also a manual option, where you can initialize an immediate backup. This is useful if you plan on replacing your iPhone with a new phone. Even if you rely on the iCloud method to back up your contacts, you will still benefit from occasionally plugging in your iPhone to iTunes via your computer in order to ensure it is effective. It is essentially a double check that will make an additional backup of your contacts. Having a local backup, in addition to your iCloud backup, will ensure your data is safe.

Backup now to iCloud

If you are in the market for a new iPhone, it is absolutely essential to back up your contacts from your old device on iTunes prior to switching over to the new phone. You will be thankful for the process because it will make getting your contacts on the new iPhone that much quicker and efficient. For more on that topic, please refer to this guide on how to restore a backup from iCloud.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Joeymon

    March 20, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Your contacts don’t sync to iTunes itself

    I tend to stray away from iTunes and iTunes sync per-se. iPhone contacts sync via iTunes is not an option for me. I use the iCloud instead; although, I’d prefer if there was a manual way of backing up iPhone contacts to the PC without the need for iTunes.

  2. billnye97

    March 20, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I have them set up in Gmail and then I can sync them through iTunes. It’s helpful if I ever decide to move to a different non iPhone in the future.

  3. chris

    March 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

    True. For those with Mac’s, iTunes is the conduit for syncing to Address Book.

  4. Cleric

    March 21, 2012 at 5:27 am

    There are a number of apps, a lot free

    Yep, I have set my eyes on a simple PC app like CopyTrans.

    I would like to see how it performs on the battlefield of iPhone contacts. ]:=D

    I’d prefer if there was a manual way of backing up iPhone contacts to the PC without the need for iTunes.

  5. Mathew Connelly

    April 18, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Yep, I have set my eyes on a simple PC app

    Looks like a simple way to back up iPhone contacts. Wasn’t aware something like this exists. Will give it a go.

  6. solareweapon

    April 27, 2012 at 3:52 am

    If you jailbreak your phone you can ssh the contacts from one phone to the other.

  7. samyelias

    May 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    i am a little confused regarding the iCloud backup.
    since iCloud automatically pushes changes onto all my devices, what happens if my phone or computer are stolen and the contacts are deleted? do i lose my contacts from all devices?

  8. Wayne

    July 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I seem to have successfully backed up my iPhone and contacts through iTunes. However, I’d like to verify that I’m successfully backed up. I can’t find the backup files on my computer. Does anyone know where the iPhone contact back up files are stored on my computer?

    • Fiona

      November 13, 2012 at 5:38 am

      The files can not be read in your computer. However, you can use Wondershare Dr.Fone to extract the file for storing in the computer, then you can open such file to read.

      • JC Brown

        November 13, 2012 at 8:06 am

        It really works. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Michelle

    July 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    My contact are all screwed up since I plugged into ITunes and chose ICloud option to back them up. Somehow now when I chose Contacts I get 1) “All Contacts” 2)”All from my PC” and #) “All ICloud”. I do not want this and I cannot find a way to get rid of these groups. Not only that, but the Contacts from over a year ago that I deleted have all come backmultiple times and most of my Contacts are duplicated three or four times each! It is a huge mess – can anybody help???

  10. paul sutton

    July 29, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    It is clear that a lot has been written about what happens to contacts on an iphone and the issues with backing them up via itunes. What is not clear is how to simply save your contacts in a reasonable way. This is way too complicated and Apple has lost my business. I’m switching to google calendar and contacts.

  11. Liz Kirkman

    September 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I updated my iPhone4 to iOS6, and have never used iCloud before. I connected to it and it deleted all my contacts, not only that, but I’ve spent a week with a system that wouldn’t sync with the new software. My old Macbook iTunes telling me it was already up to date with 10.5.8. Finally I’ve manually downloaded 10.6.3 (that will be it for this computer) and can sync again, but I tried to ‘restore from backup’ but my contacts have still disappeared. The messages are there, but I’ve lost who they’re from and everyone else…Help, any way to get them back?

    • Page McMillan Taylor

      October 4, 2012 at 1:25 am

      so glad for your post, because I was about to do the same thing with an iPhone4 to iOS6. hope you get them back

  12. Michelle Martonick

    November 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I am with Wayne, this article stops short of explaining WHERE those contacts now exist and how we can view them??

    • Shivani Veerendra Teki

      December 20, 2012 at 6:00 am

      if you’re using a windows, then you can find your contacts here:

      C:Usersyour_user_nameContacts

  13. MacEverything

    November 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    On a Mac computer, Contacts live in the Applications folder called “Address Book”. I remember a couple years ago I had to delete old contacts from there so it wouldnt add to my iPhone when syncing. I have to do a computer backup and not iCloud now, because Wi-fi doesn’t work in my phone anymore since I dropped it (until I can get iPhone5). (good thing I have unlimited data!)

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