iOS 4 Update: Lost All Your Contacts on Your iPhone? Here’s How To Get Them Back

StatsNote: I haven’t bothered to try iCloud yet. Commenters below demonstrate this process works in iOS 5 and with iCloud.

I first posted on this process back in May of ’09. After the release of  iOS 4 on June 21st, I noticed a big jump in traffic to my blog post. So I thought it was time to update the post using screenshots from  iOS 4. 

I sync my iPhone, MacBook and iMac over MobileMe. I like that a change in an appointment or contact on one device shows up on the other two.  But on a few occasions I have opened my iPhone to find that all my Contacts were gone. This calamity mysteriously happened on its own. (I did not make any setting changes to lose my contacts.) But here’s how I got them back. 

Assumption: This process assumes that you are using MobileMe to store your contacts. Before you begin the steps below, I suggest you go to your MobileMe account and confirm that your contact are there. Assuming your contacts are on MobileMe, here’s the way to get them back to your iPhone.

1. On my iPhone I went to “Settings” and picked “Mail, Contacts, Calendar.” All the email accounts you have on your iPhone will be there as choices along with your MobileMe account. See below.
  1_iphone_contacts

2. Under accounts I selected my MobileMe account. You get a list of all the data that MobileMe is syncing. See below.

2_mobile_me

3. I turned Contacts “Off.” (It’s the only sync I turned off.) You get the dialogue box below asking you if you really want to do this. I chose “Delete from My iPhone” since I did not want to run the risk of duplicating contacts. (Remember, that I had already confirmed that all my contact are backed up on my MobileMe account.)

  3_cancel_contacts

4. As the process of deleting progressed, I got this confirmation.

4_cancel_contacts

4. Once the process was finished, I waited a few seconds then I went back to the screen in Step 2 above and turned Contacts back “On.”

Re-synching your contact to your iPhone takes a new minutes – don’t panic!

When I reopened my iPhone contacts,  initially they were all gone. But I could see the sync icon running and after about 5 minutes all my contacts were back. Your time will depend on how many contacts you have and whether your are running on a wifi network. Note on this last step you might have to open and close Contacts a few times to get your iPhone to force a MobileMe sync.

63 thoughts on “iOS 4 Update: Lost All Your Contacts on Your iPhone? Here’s How To Get Them Back

  1. Reply
    Jack Wickelson - October 9, 2010

    Uh, it’s not working for me. My mom’s angry at me for losing all her contracts and apps, and the iPhone was given to her by someone who couldn’t handle the taxes/bills, and I doubt the person knows both his MobileMe and iTunes account. Am I screwed?

  2. Reply
    Peter Pappas - October 9, 2010

    Hi Jack,

    You don’t want to get in trouble with mom!

    The iPhone would have needed to have been activated using iTunes. iTunes doesn’t use a password to sync with the iPhone. iTunes password is used to access iTunes store.

    To use the method above you need to be using MobileMe to sync. But you don’t give enough detail to troubleshoot your problem.

    I’ve found that the Apple discussion groups can be very helpful – search on your problem or post a question. Apple has done a clever job of outsourcing it’s tech support to it’s discussion forum readers who get status point for solving problems. Here the link to the iPhone sync forum.
    http://discussions.apple.com/forum.jspa?forumID=1142

    Hope that helps!

  3. Reply
    Mohammad Raihan Mazumder - January 12, 2011

    When i did sync my iPhone4 with outlook contacts. then i got message want to marge or replace. I choose replace. and then when finished SYNC. i saw in iPhone4 no contacts. So i lost my all contacts. How can i restore again in iPhone4. Do you have any helpul advice for me or suggestion????

  4. Reply
    Peter Pappas - January 13, 2011

    Hi Mohammad,

    I don’t use Outlook, so I don’t have any experience with the problem you have. I did find some useful info at the Mac discussion board. Here’s a link to some of the discussion and solutions on the iPhone / Outlook sync http://tinyurl.com/5wffa4f

    Good luck!

  5. Reply
    Alison - March 7, 2011

    Thank you – it worked like a charm

  6. Reply
    Peter Pappas - March 7, 2011

    Alison,
    Glad to hear it’s back. Losing all that data is frightening!
    Cheers ~ Peter

  7. Reply
    Will - May 8, 2011

    I don’t have mobile
    Me and for some reason I lost all my contact how do I get this back. Not even able to retribe it on my computer. Please help me

  8. Reply
    Peter Pappas - May 8, 2011

    Hi Will,
    I’m not sure that this will apply to your situation. But by best suggestions is to
    [Go to Settings, click on Mail, Contacts, Calendars>hit/click Import SIM Contacts.]
    I hope that does the trick. ~ Peter

    1. Reply
      Kate - November 24, 2013

      Hi Peter,
      I had the same problem as Will. Thank u for yr answer it worked !!! So relieved as not very up on computer /phone things

      1. Reply
        Peter Pappas - November 24, 2013

        Kate – glad to hear that. ~ Peter

  9. Reply
    Derek - July 13, 2011

    hey there peter,
    not sure how to retrieve my phone’s contacts after a restore. im pretty sure i did a back up correctly and everything. im kind of dumb in this part of apple. im pretty savvy with apple but this is stumping me. ive tried importing sim contacts, but nothing. i tried looking under app support and could not find anything on mobile me. please if you can help me! thanks

    -derek

  10. Reply
    Peter Pappas - July 13, 2011

    Hi Derek,
    I’m not sure what’s going on at your end.
    Have you tried a hard reset on the phone?
    1. On your iPhone 4 press and hold both the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button for about ten seconds. After ten seconds you should see the white Apple logo showing up. Then the screen goes fully black.
    2. Wait 30 seconds and press them both a second time to restart your phone.
    I use it whenever my phone gets buggy – seems to fix many ailments.

  11. Reply
    Reuben - August 2, 2011

    Peter! Thanks a lot, your article saved me! My contact photos somehow all became muddled up so I followed your advice and restored all contacts from mobileme perfectly. Problem solved! Cheers mate.

  12. Reply
    Peter Pappas - August 2, 2011

    Reuben,
    Glad it worked for you!

  13. Reply
    Zizo - August 24, 2011

    Hi Peter, I sync my iphone 3G and upgraded to version 4.2.1. My contacts sync to Windows contact. All look fine except that I couldn’t get my contacts back and I am afraid that I lost them. Can you or someone to please help me how to get them back?
    However, I am using Windows 7 and I tried the following Windows link in my C:\drive:
    Windows:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - August 24, 2011

      Hi Zizo,
      Sorry, I don’t have any fixes for your problem. I can point you to a good resource over at Apple Support Communities. I suggest you try posting your question there.
      https://discussions.apple.com/community/iphone/using_iphone?view=discussions

      Hopefully someone else has an answer.
      Best of luck ~ Peter

  14. Reply
    David Lebron - October 14, 2011

    I had the same problem when I upgraded to ios 5. This worked like a charm. Thanks.

  15. Reply
    Peter Pappas - October 14, 2011

    David,
    I’ve already seen a spike in traffic to this post, so I’m guessing others are having the same problem. (2200+ visits to this post since iOS 5 came out.) Thanks for letting me know that this process still works.

    I’m on the road in Turkey right now and haven’t updated to iOS 5. I plan to do a new version of this post when I get back home.
    ~Cheers, Peter

  16. Reply
    Bella Maree - October 16, 2011

    This just saved me from throwing myself off my balcony! Im going to post this link on my Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for anyone else who has the same problem.
    Thanks so much ūüėÄ

  17. Reply
    Peter Pappas - October 16, 2011

    Bella,
    Glad I could talk you down off the ledge. You have so much more to live for!
    Cheers,
    ~ Peter

  18. Reply
    charisse - October 27, 2011

    seriously! thank you SOO much. simple and all of my 84 contacts are in place. THANK YOU!

  19. Reply
    Peter Pappas - October 27, 2011

    Charisse – you’re very welcome!

  20. Reply
    Patti - November 7, 2011

    how can i delete an apple id

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - November 7, 2011

      The Apple ID is not pretty. I appear to have two of them and never can remember which goes to what device. Apple has published a guide which should help you sort this out.
      Click here.

  21. Reply
    Genevieve - November 12, 2011

    I am nine months pregnant and didn’t need the angry adrenaline rush I had when I thought I lost my contacts – thank you SOOOOO much for these directions, I am so relieved to have all my contacts back, which includes years worth of friends, important work numbers, etc.

    I never had “MobileMe”, but it added “iCloud” with this newest update and the screens looked identical to yours above… and it worked like a charm! Thanks so much!!

  22. Reply
    Peter Pappas - November 12, 2011

    Genevieve,
    Glad I could help with the contacts. No adrenaline rush needed. Now practice that breathing … and all the best in the days ahead!
    Peter

  23. Reply
    harris - November 25, 2011

    hi i did the ios 5.0.1 update on my iphone 4 and it deleted all my pictures how do i get them back

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - November 25, 2011

      Hi Harris,
      Sorry to hear that news. I haven’t had the problem. But you might finds some help here. How to Recover Lost Photos in iPhone Camera Roll after iOS 5 Update
      Best of luck!

  24. Reply
    Sarah - November 30, 2011

    I updated the iOS 5 on my Verizon iPhone 4 and now I have all of my contacts 5 times, plus my brother’s contacts. How do I get the ones unwanted deleted without doing it by hand?

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - November 30, 2011

      Hi Sarah,
      Sounds messy … even got your brother’s? It seems that duplicate contacts has been a problem with iOS 5 upgrade.
      Here’s some resource info that might help you.
      http://forums.tipb.com/icloud-forum/214475-removing-duplicate-contacts-icloud.html
      Best of luck

  25. Reply
    Kerry - December 17, 2011

    Every time I lose my iPhone contacts or they become semi-duplicated (or even triplicated!) this is where I come for the directions! I still panic but it always works!

  26. Reply
    Peter Pappas - December 17, 2011

    Kerry,
    Glad to serve as your Plan B. Who needs triplicated?
    ~ Peter

  27. Reply
    Lisa - December 29, 2011

    Hello! Like an idiot – i synced my boyfriends iphone 4 with my itunes accidently and lost all of his contacts. Needless to say he is not happy . Apple says that since I did not make a back up of his settings they are gone. This cant be true…Please heeeelp!

  28. Reply
    Peter Pappas - December 30, 2011

    Hi Lisa,
    Without a backup, I think you’re stuck.
    Sorry … Peter
    PS. Can I recommend a good couple’s counselor?

  29. Reply
    Anna Reed - January 21, 2012

    Hi my name is anna reed and all my contacts are erased can u help me please

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - January 27, 2012

      Hi Anna, Sorry to hear that. Did you try the process described below?

  30. Reply
    Dan - March 27, 2012

    I synched my iphone 4S using the windows address book…..i seemed to have lost all my contact information. I’ve tried using the above methods but to no avail. Need help if possible. Thanks

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - March 28, 2012

      Hi Dan,
      I’m not very familiar with the PC side. Sorry I can’t help you. Perhaps another reader has some ideas.
      Cheers,
      Peter

  31. Reply
    musica online - May 1, 2012

    I do not even understand how I finished up here,
    however I believed this publish was great. I don’t recognise who you might be but certainly you are going to a famous blogger for those who aren’t already. Cheers!

  32. Reply
    mohammed ali - May 28, 2012

    hi i have iphone 4 and i have lost my contacts and photos when i installed jailbreak in my iphone 4 now all my contacts are deleted please help me to take them back.
    thank you!

  33. Reply
    mohammed ali - May 28, 2012

    hi peter well as i mentioned my problem that i installed jailbreak on my iphone4 and i lose my contacts and pics and i dont have mobileme on my accounts so icant try it is there any other way?

  34. Reply
    Peter Pappas - May 28, 2012

    Hi Mohammed, I don’t know another way to get them back. Plus I don’t have experience with jailbreak phones. I’m sorry I can’t be of help ~ Peter

  35. Reply
    Jorge - June 9, 2012

    Hey peter, my father, gave me an iphone 4 last year, and i registed itm in my itunes, with my old card, but then i gave the iphone to my father and he started to use his card, but today he asked me , to put some music in his iphone, i sync to itunes, and my iphone id, just took over the iphone, and my dad lost all his stuff, i could just save the contacts, he doesnt have any mobile me or icloud, or an apple ID, he just used the iphone wihtout sync, do you know any method to regain his stuff back?

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - June 9, 2012

      Jorge – I think your stuck without mobile me or icloud, or an apple ID. Seems like it’s become your iPhone. Sorry ~

  36. Reply
    Megan - July 30, 2012

    Thank you so much! Worked like a charm!

  37. Reply
    alan lau - November 26, 2012

    hello all,

    i really need your help as i felt like killing myself.

    today i lost ALL m phone book contacts and that includes all my
    business contacts.

    my livelihood and future income are gone.

    i own a iphone 3gs.

    can you pls advice me on how to recover back my phonebook.

    pls help, i beg you.

    thanks

    alan lau

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - November 27, 2012

      Sorry to hear about your plight Alan. But what I know is in this post. You might also explore the message boards at Apple Forum

  38. Reply
    JacksonHuston - November 30, 2012

    There are some iPhone data recovery software available on the internet!
    http://www.iphone-data-recovery.net/lost-contacts-on-iphone.html

  39. Reply
    Emma - March 20, 2013

    Hi
    Ok twice my iPhone 4S has switched itself off and each time erased all my contacts.
    1. Does any one know why this is happening and how to stop it?
    2. How do I get them back?

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - March 20, 2013

      Hi Emma,

      Sorry about your mess. If you have been backing up to iCloud, you can use the same process in this post to get your contact back. As to your phone shutting off… it seems that the latest iOS 6.0 update has been a bit of a mess. Problems like yours and others who are loosing their speaker sound on iPhone (my wife is suffering this one). Best I can guess, is that’s a software problem that Apple will have to sort out.

  40. Reply
    Martha - March 27, 2013

    Hi!
    I have a iPhone 4S. For some reason (unknown to me), I lost all of my contacts . I did not have an icloud, and my computer does not recognize my iphone, it ¬īs like a new iPhone to it.
    After that, when I started to put some names back to the contact list, suddenly, some pictures (that used to be on the old list) appeared associated with wrong names.
    What do you think about it? Do you think that my contacts are still there?
    Thank you so much

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - March 27, 2013

      Wrong photos with new contacts?? I wish I had an easy fix for you – but this one baffles me. Have you tried a reset of iPhone (holding on/off and home button simultaneously). Sometimes that will fix your ills.

      If you were backing up to a computer, then hopefully all the contacts are still there. Have you tried connecting the phone to the computer, selecting the phone in iTunes and forcing the contacts to be replaced on the phone in the Advanced settings (bottom) portion of the Info tab in iTunes?

  41. Reply
    rohit - November 28, 2013

    Hi Peter,

    worked like sunshine,

    Thanks

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - November 29, 2013

      Rohit, Glad to hear that – Peter

  42. Reply
    Jenny - December 23, 2013

    I used your advise and went with it being that I have iCloud and an iPhone 5s. I lost all of my contacts out of nowhere. I went to settings and mail, contacts, etc… Then my iCloud then turned off my contacts and backed up my phone. Then turned phone off turned contact on backed phone up again and my contacts were there! I would never have none were to start without u! Thank u!!! Jenny

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - December 23, 2013

      Hi Jenny,
      Glad it worked.
      Peter

  43. Reply
    Lina - March 10, 2014

    Thank you!. This is the first time something like this has actually worked! I have an iPhone 4 s. Instantaneous acquisition of lost contacts.

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - March 10, 2014

      Lina – glad it worked!

  44. Reply
    Kaffy - March 14, 2014

    Tanks it worked!!!

  45. Reply
    Kash - April 4, 2014

    Thank you . You save my life just start a new business and I need My contacts with your help finally I got it back

    1. Reply
      Peter Pappas - April 5, 2014

      Glad to be of assistance

  46. Reply
    PhilomenaAdams - October 23, 2014

    Login to https://icloud.com with your Apple ID and password
    Click on Contacts
    Search your contacts to check if the lost contact (from your iPhone) is here
    If yes, you can now restore that lost contact easily.

    To learn more,Please read Three methods to get back the lost/deleted contacts on iPhone
    http://www.recovery-tool.com/ios-recovery/recover-contacts-from-iphone.html

  47. Reply
    Hippter Tera - June 28, 2015

    When you want to restore contacts on iPhone, you can use FonePaw iPhone Data Recovery which allows you to recover lost contacts with ease from iTunes backup files. Altogether there are three ways. Choose the one you like!
    http://www.iphonedata-recovery.com/tutorials/restore-iphone-contacts.html

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