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.

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


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.)


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


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

  1. 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. 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.

    Hope that helps!

  3. 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. 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

  5. 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. 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

  6. 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


  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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 😀

  12. 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!!

  13. 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?

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. 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?

  20. 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?

  21. 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.


    alan lau

  22. 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. 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.

  23. 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 ´s 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. 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?

  24. 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

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

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

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