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Recover iPhone contacts that were accidentally deleted or lost

Alex Griffith Updated on Apr 20, 2022 4:13 PM

I recently did the new software update with my iPhone 11 but suddenly lost all contacts. I don't know what happened and there's no way to restore them. Any suggestion would be helpful to figure out if I can get the contacts back or not.

Your contacts list on the iPhone is your most important social network for daily life and business. All these important names and phone numbers stay there quietly which you take for granted until when losing them all some day.

It's not a good feeling when your realize your contacts disappeared from iPhone. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can try to restore contacts on iPhone device. The issue could be something as simple as needing to toggle iCloud contacts off and on again, or restore from an iCloud & iTunes backup, or it could be something even more complicated like needing a 3rd-party file recovery tool to get the deleted contacts from iPhone memory.

Try the following methods until it works. First of all, restart the phone.

Option 1: Restoring contacts from iCloud.com

As is frequently the case, this is the first way you should go with. If you've recently backed up your iPhone to iCloud before the contacts missing, try restoring an earlier version of the contacts from there. To check if you have an archive of lost contacts on iCloud or not, you can go to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Backup and see the date and time of the last backup.

If you're lucky, follow these steps to retrieve lost contacts on iPhone:

  • Use a computer and log into iCloud.com with your Apple ID and passcode.
  • Select Account Settings.
  • Scroll down to the Advanced section and click Restore Contacts.
  • Select the archive before you deleted contacts, click Restore.
  • Click Restore again to confirm.

Wait until iCloud finishes the restore process, and your accidentally deleted contacts should get back to iPhone.

Restore iPhone contacts on iCloud.com

Please note that this process will erase existing contacts on the iPhone. But don't need to worry, your current contacts will be archived automatically firstly before it does the contacts restore from iCloud. If you change your mind, you can restore iPhone and go back to the previous state.

Can't find any archive of contacts in iCloud.com, or you've deleted all contacts from iCloud manually? Try the next solution.

Option 2: Recover contacts from iPhone memory

This is a solid way for restoring lost contacts on iPhone without backup. For those who haven't back up their iPhone for quite a while or failed to sync with iCloud, it still might be possible to recover contacts from iPhone storage through specialist software. That's where iOS Data Recovery comes in. It's one of the most popular file recovery software applications given its high recovery rate and user-friendly design, and it tackles this tricky problem quickly and safely.

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In addition to contacts, the program is also capable of recovering other types of files such as pictures, text messages, notes, call logs, calendar, reminder, bookmarks, voice memos, Whatsapp conversations, documents and more. It even integrates options to scan iCloud or iTunes/ Finder backups and choose what you want to restore.

A video tutorial for recovering deleted contacts:

Here's how to search for lost or deleted contacts from iPhone internal memory using iOS data recovery and get them back.

Step 1: Run the software and connect iPhone

Launch this iPhone contacts recovery software on computer, select the "Recover from iOS Device" mode on the interface and then connect your iPhone to the machine with a USB cable.

Step 2: Scan iPhone for lost contacts information

Once connected, you'll get into a windows asking you to select what types of data to recover. In this case, we'll recover deleted contacts from iPhone, so simply check the "Contacts" option and uncheck other options.

Click Scan button to continue.

Wait for minutes until the scanning process is done. All existing and lost contacts it found be well organized under "Contacts" category on the left pane of the interface.

Step 3: Preview and retrieve contacts from iPhone

In this stage, you're able to make an overview of all found iPhone contacts. It lets you view contacts information in detail by name, company, phone number and email.

restore contacts on iPhone without backup

Next, select the contacts you want to get back and click the Recover button. The program will start retrieving contacts from the device memory and save them in a HTML, CSV, or VCF file on your computer. Done!

Once done, you can view them on your desktop and put them back to your iPhone's address book.

Also see: How to recover deleted contacts on Android phone

Option 3: Toggle iCloud Contacts off and on again

Apple's iCloud offers an built-in Contacts sync option to access your contacts across your devices such as iPhone, iPad, Mac and PC's. By checking iCloud and turn Contacts off and on again, you might get back contacts to iPhone. Here's how to do.

  • Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud.
  • Turn Contacts off and select Keep on My iPhone when you prompted.
  • Turn Contacts back on again and select Merge.

All should go back to normal. iCloud will update contacts and merging all contacts into one complete Contact file. If it doesn't work, repeat the process, powered down your iPhone and powered it back on.

restore contacts from iCloud on iPhone

Option 4: Restore missing contacts from an iCloud backup

Of course, you have the option to restore the iPhone from iCloud backup to get contacts. This is a total restore process, meaning that your iPhone will be erased and set up as new, and restore everything from iCloud.

  • Go to Settings > General > Reset and tap Erase All Content and Settings.
  • On the Apps & Data screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup.
  • Log in with your Apple ID and passcode.
  • Choose from a list of available backups in iCloud.

restoring contacts from iCloud

If don't want to restore everything else from iCloud, you may go back and try Option 1 above.

Option 5: Restore contacts from iTunes & Finder backup

Apple knows how important getting your contacts back on iPhone is to you, and offers you a desktop-based utility — iTunes or Finder to keep your data safe locally. If you use automatic backup feature in iTunes & Finder whenever you connect it to your PC or Mac computer, this method to recover contacts on iPhone should take no time at all.

  • Launch iTunes or Finder (Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15 or above.) on your computer..
  • Connect the iPhone with a USB cable.
  • Click the device icon when it appears in the iTunes' window or Finder.
  • Select Restore Backup.
  • Choose the latest backup from the list available
  • Click Restore.

How do I retrieve contacts without iPhone

Related article: transferring iPhone contacts to Android phone.

A word of warning, contacts are only part of the iTunes or Finder backup, and restoring iPhone from will do a full restore. If you only want to retrieve contacts to iPhone, you can use "restore from iTunes" function integrated in the "iOS Data Recovery" software mentioned in Option 2.

Option 6: Retrieve contacts from Google Gmail, Outlook, exchange or Yahoo mail

This might not always work, but you can have a try. Did you ever delete a non-Apple account like Google Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo mail or Microsoft Exchange account and then lose your contacts from iPhone? If that's case, chances are you have the contacts synced to that account instead of iCloud.

To get back contacts to iPhone, all you need to do is reinstall that email account by going to Settings > Account & Settings > Add Account > sign in with your account ID, and then enable Contacts option. All your contacts information should be returned.

The following will provide you with some tips which you may find helpful.

Useful Tips for contacts restore on iPhone

Contacts icon missing from the iPhone home screen?

Try a Spotlight search. If it locates the icon, then it will show you the name of the folder it is in. You then can restore the Contacts app by going to that folder (i.e. Utilities folder) and dragging it back to home screen. If you like, you can also do Settings > General > Reset > Reset Home Screen Layout.

If you get nothing from Spotlight, the Contacts app should be deleted from iPhone by mistake. You can restore it with a few clicks:

  • Go to the App Store.
  • Search for Contacts app.
  • Tap to restore the app.

See more from Apple: Remove built-in Apple apps from the Home screen on your iOS device

Some of contacts lost on iPhone suddenly?

iPhone allows you to have multiple sources for your contacts. If some of your contacts are associated with 3rd-party email accounts (i.e. Outlook, Gmail), you can go with these configurations to see if they are all showing up now.

  • Open the Contacts app.
  • Tap Groups in the upper-left corner.
  • Check all the sources of contacts.

Use other contact accounts on iPhone - Apple Support

Lost contacts still show up on other iOS devices or Mac

If you found the disappeared iPhone contacts still showing up on your other iOS devices and Mac Address Book, you can go through the troubleshooting steps provided in the link below to fix the issue:

Get help using iCloud Contacts, Calendars, or Reminders - Apple Support.

The Bottom Line

So hopefully now you have a clue about the issue and finally get your iPhone contacts recovered. There might be several other methods of restore contacts, this guide only highlights a couple of those methods. For future reference, I really would suggest keeping good backups of your important files on the iPhone. You'll be thankful you have it if anything goes wrong.

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