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I accidentally deleted my iPhone contacts—how do I retrieve them quickly and easily?

Seeing “No contacts” on your iPhone can be scary when all your contacts disappear. You might find any names in Messages and conversations, only numbers and no longer any numbers in Contacts. They are all gone. Or maybe, after updating iOS, you find that your contacts are no longer in your address book.

Don’t lose hope! You can try a few things.

Why does my iPhone not have all of my contacts?

Many things can cause iPhone contacts to go missing, such as a software update, an iTunes restore or sync, a device jailbreak, an iPhone restart problem, or something else.

  • Update the software. After you update iOS, you might suddenly find that many of your contacts are gone. This is usually a bug on iOS, and the problem should be fixed in the latest version of  iOS. Or, the Wi-Fi network connection may not be stable or too slow for contacts to sync back to the device.
  • Mistaken operation (or accidental deletion). When you turn off iCloud for contacts, your iPhone will ask you if you want to keep your contacts or delete them. If you accidentally tap “Remove from iPhone”, you might lose your contacts.
  • iTunes sync or restore. People often say that something disappears during the process of iPhone sync or restore.
  • Problem with random restarts. This could be a problem with the software, and you may need to fix the system first.
  • Device jailbreak. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a brilliant idea to “jailbreak” your iPhone because you could lose more than just your contacts if you do.
  • Unknown causes. Occasionally, you can discover that most of your phone’s contacts have disappeared without warning and for what seems to be no reason.

No matter what happens to your iPhone contacts, there are a few ways to fix this problem. We’ll start with quick ways to get the contacts back since this usually works for people who have set their devices to sync with iCloud contacts. You could use iPhone Data Recovery as a last resort to find missing contacts on the device itself.

  • Re-sync your iCloud contacts
  • Sign out and back into iCloud.
  • Restore contacts archive from icloud.com
  • Set iCloud as your contacts’ default account.
  • Get some of your contacts back from the Messages app or the recent call list.
  • Find lost contacts on your iPhone
  • Restore from a backup in iCloud
  • Restore from a backup on iTunes

To begin with, the most obvious: recover lost iPhone contacts.

First, look at the obvious things. Are you sure you’re using iCloud for your communications before the list on your iPhone disappears? If so, use the following methods:

1. Switch iCloud Contacts on and off.

It’s possible that your contacts haven’t gone away, but they aren’t showing up right. To get them back from iCloud, turn off Contacts in iCloud and then turn them on in Settings. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Open the iPhone’s Settings app.
  • Tap the name you have already entered in iCloud.
  • Turn off Contacts. When asked, tap “Delete from My iPhone” to remove iCloud contacts you’ve already synced to your iPhone. Don’t worry. This won’t get rid of your iCloud contacts.
  • Restart the iPhone by force. On iPhone 8 and newer models, rapidly press and release the Volume Up button, then press and release the Volume Down button fast.
  • Go back to Settings > [your name] > iCloud and turn on Contacts to resync.

Remember to check that your device is linked to the Wi-Fi network. Wait a few minutes and then check the iPhone’s address book to see if the contacts are now there. If turning Contacts off and on in the iCloud settings doesn’t bring back the contacts, try the following troubleshooting tip.

Sign out and sign back into iCloud.

Sign in to iCloud.com on your computer using your Apple ID and passcode. Please ensure the missing contacts are in the Contacts app by clicking on them. If they are in iCloud but not on the device, you should sign out of iCloud on your iPhone, restart it, and then sign back in.

  • In Settings, tap [your name].
  • At the bottom, select Sign Out. Follow the on-screen instructions to sign out.
  • Restart the phone after turning it off.
  • Sign back into your iCloud account when it’s on.

It might take a while for iPhone to get contacts from iCloud.

Get your contacts back from iCloud.com.

When you use iCloud Contacts to sync your contacts list to iCloud, you also get an archive of them. If you lose some contacts, you can restore the archive to your device to get them back. This might work, but you’ll lose the files that have been added since the last time the library was made.

  • Use Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, or any other web browser to go to icloud.com.
  • Just below your name, click Account Settings.
  • Click Restore Contacts at the bottom of the section called “Advanced.”
  • Choose an archive from before you lost the contacts and click Restore to the right of it.
  • To start the process, click Restore again.

Once it’s done, go back to the iPhone’s Contacts app to see if they’re now there.

Change the settings for Groups in the Contacts app to use iCloud

How many email accounts do you have to keep in touch with people? What is your main account for contacts? Have you ever gotten rid of a contact-storing email account?

Unlike other devices, the iPhone lets you sync contacts to places other than iCloud, such as Google, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, Exchange, etc. So the contacts may have been linked to a different account, and that account may have been changed or deleted from the iPhone. The information about your contacts in each account is different. For example, some contacts don’t have profile pictures or company names.

Check to see if all groups of contacts are showing in the Contacts app to fix an iPhone where contacts have disappeared. Setting iCloud as the default account is the best thing to do.

First, tap on each account and turn on Contacts by going to Settings > Contacts > Accounts. Then,

  • Open the Contacts application. Alternatively, launch the phone app and select the ‘Contacts” tab.
  • Tap Groups in the top left corner of the screen.
  • Check every account you’ve ever made, and the contacts should appear again. If you have more than one account and sources that are not checked, you can choose “Show All Contacts” at the bottom.

Recover some of your contacts from the Messages app or the Recent call list

When contacts are removed from the Contacts app, they will still be in the Messages app and other messaging apps, but their phone numbers will be shown instead of their names. This will only work if you can remember the phone number of the person you called or texted.

If you can find the contact you lost and want to get back, you can add it back to the Contacts app.

Retrieve lost contacts from an iPhone (without backup)

  • If the simple tips above don’t help, your “lost” contacts are likely gone. Or maybe you don’t know how to get your lost contacts back if they were only on your iPhone.
  • Most of the time, there’s not much you can do alone. You usually need to hire a professional data recovery service. With iPhone Data Recovery, getting back a lost contacts list should be easy.
  • If you lose your iPhone contacts, don’t open iTunes or sync with it. This will keep any backup files from being updated or replacing the new contacts on the phone.
  • The program is innovative and finds the complete list of iPhone contacts. You must connect your phone to the computer, scan it, and choose which contacts you want to get back. The process will erase no data in the memory.
  • Utilize a USB cord to join your iPhone to a computer and start the software. Then click the Start Scan button.
  • The intelligent utility starts looking at all of the iPhone’s data, including contacts that have gone missing. You wait for the process to be done.

When you’re done, you should get a window like this one:

  • Click the “Contacts” option on the left side of the screen to see your iPhone’s current and lost contacts. If you click on one touch, you can see their names, companies, phone numbers, emails, and a contact card on the right panel.
  • Check the boxes next to the missing iPhone contacts, and click the Recover button.
  • If necessary, the pop-up box will request that you modify the output folder.
  • Click the Recover button to finish.
  • The software will then recover the address book and save the contacts as CSV, HTML, or VCF files, depending on which format they were saved.
  • Now you can search through the contacts on your iPhone, but they are no longer on the computer. You may email yourself and add it back to your phone.

Restore iPhone contacts using a backup stored in iTunes or iCloud.

  • The final option is to obtain the contacts back from an iTunes (Finder) or iCloud backup. Since your contacts went missing, have you backed up your iPhone? If you had done that, the contacts would be on your iPhone.
  • Restoring from a backup should bring back a lost address book, but you lose anything you’ve added to your iPhone since the last backup.
  • If you only want to restore contacts from a backup and not anything else, you can do this with the iPhone Data Recovery app.

iCloud backup restores the iPhone

If you have contacts synced with iCloud, they are not in the backup. So it doesn’t make sense to do this, even just for testing.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Tap Settings, then General, then Reset on your iPhone.
  • Tap on > Erase All Content and Settings.
  • When asked, choose Erase Now to return your iPhone to its factory settings immediately.
  • Then Set-up assistant should explain to you the steps of configuring the device. Choose Restore from iCloud backup from the Apps & Data screen.
  • Use your Apple ID and passcode to sign in to iCloud.
  • The process starts when you choose a backup that might have the lost iPhone contacts list.

When you’re done, go back to the Contacts app, and the contacts you want should be there.

Restore an iPhone from a backup on iTunes

If you usually back up your whole phone with iTunes or Finder on macOS Catalina or later, the contacts that are missing from your iPhone should be included in the backup. Just use iTunes or Finder to restore the backup to the device.

First, open iTunes or Finder and click Edit > Preferences. Under the Devices tab, deselect “Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from automatically syncing” if you don’t want your last backup to be overwritten.

  • Link your iPhone to your computer.
  • In iTunes, click the iPhone icon in the upper left corner. In the left sidebar of Finder, you can choose your device.
  • Click on Restore Backup.
  • Choose a backup with these lost contacts and click Restore in the dialogue box.

This will put the old backup on your iPhone and erase anything that isn’t in the backup. But at least the address book shows any contacts lost from the iPhone.

Your iPhone contacts that you lost are back.

At first, it may look like all your iPhone contacts have vanished (the contacts in the Favorites list are also lost). But now that you know who did it and how to fix it, you should be able to get back the missing contacts, especially the important ones that only happened once.

Most of the time, the problem can be fixed by turning off and on iCloud contacts sync, signing out and back into iCloud, changing group settings to show all contacts, finding the missing contacts in the messages app and saving them back to the contacts app, or using third-party software to scan the iPhone’s memory and find the lost contacts.

We would appreciate it if you could let us know if you tried something else and it was successful.

If you’ve tried all the steps suggested and still can’t fix the problem, you might need to contact Apple Support for more help.