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Contacts disappeared on iPhone. How to easily get them back?

Ella Garcia Updated on Apr 15, 2022 4:55 PM

The moment you realize your iPhone contacts disappeared with "No contacts" displaying can be nerve-wracking. You may find there're no longer names but just numbers in Messages conversations, and no numbers in Contacts anymore—they are all gone. Or perhaps you realize your contacts are suddenly lost from address book after iOS update.

Don't despair! A couple things you can try.

Why are some of my contacts missing from iPhone

The disappearance of iPhone contacts can be caused by several issue such as software update, iTunes restore or sync, device jailbreak, iPhone restart issue, and other reasons.

  • Software update. A bunch of contacts may disappear suddenly after you did the iOS update. This is always an iOS bug, and the next iOS release should fix the issue. Or maybe Wi-Fi network connection is not stable or even slow that contacts are not syncing back to the device.
  • Mistaken operation (or accidental deletion). When you turn off iCloud for contacts, you're prompted to whether you want to keep contacts on your iPhone or remove from iPhone. It's likely that you lost contacts if you accidentally tap 'Remove from iPhone.'
  • iTunes restore or syncing. It's often reported that there's something disappearing during the process.
  • Random restarts issue. This might be software issues and you may fix the system first.
  • Device jailbreak. Jailbreaking your iPhone is not necessarily a good idea, as this will lead to some unforeseen consequences, not just the loss of contacts.
  • Unknown reasons. Sometimes, you may find most of contacts have disappeared from your phone with no warning and seemingly no reason.

Whatever the reason your contacts on iPhone disappeared, there're a few standard solutions to fix this problem manually. We will start with some quick fixes to get back the contacts, since this way commonly works for users who have enable iCloud contacts sync on the device. As a last resort, you may want to turn to iPhone Data Recovery to find missing contacts on the device itself.

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Start with the obvious: recover disappeared iPhone contacts

First, check the obvious points. Are you sure you're using iCloud for Contacts before the contacts list disappear from iPhone? If so, do the following:

1. Turn off iCloud Contacts and on

It's possible that your contacts have not disappeared; they are just not showing up properly. Try toggling Contacts in iCloud off and then on again in Settings to reload them from iCloud. Here's how to do that.

  • Open Settings app on iPhone.
  • Tap [your name] > iCloud.
  • Turn off Contacts. When asked, tap "Delete from My iPhone" option to remove previously synced iCloud contacts on your iPhone. Don't worry, this will not erase contacts in iCloud.
  • Force restart iPhone. On iPhone 8 and later models, quickly press and release Volume Up button, quickly press and release Volume Down button, press and hold down Side button until you see the Apple logo.
  • Go back to Setting > [your name] > iCloud, and turn on Contacts to resync.

Remember, make sure your device is connected to Wi-Fi network. Give it a couple of minutes, and then check the contacts in the iPhone's address book to see if they're now showing up. If the contacts do not come back after switching Contacts off and on in the iCloud setting but no avail, you need to try next troubleshooting tip.

2. Sign out of iCloud and sign back in

Go to icloud.com using computer web browser, and sign in with your Apple ID and passcode. Click on Contacts app and make sure the missing contacts are there. If they're in iCloud, but not on the device, it's advised that you simply sign out of iCloud on your iPhone, restart it, then log back in.

  • In Settings app, tap [your name] at the top.
  • Scroll down and tap on Sign Out. Follow the prompts to accomplish the sign-out process.
  • Power off the device and then back on.
  • When it's on, sign back in iCloud account.

It may take a while to download contacts from iCloud onto iPhone.

3. Restore contacts from icloud.com

Basically, when you're using iCloud Contacts to syncing contacts list over to iCloud, you will also get an archive for them in which case you can restore the archive to the device in order to recover the disappeared contacts. This may work, but you will lose the contents since the archive was last made.

  • Go to icloud.com on Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox or any web browser.
  • Click Account Settings right beneath your profile.
  • Click Restore Contacts in Advanced section at the bottom.
  • Select an archive before the time you lost the contacts, and click Restore to its right.
  • Click Restore again to begin the process.

Once it's completed, go back to Contacts app on iPhone and see if they're now showing up.

4. Change Groups settings to iCloud in Contacts app

How many email accounts for contacts do you have? What is your default contacts account? Did you ever delete an email account you're using to store contacts?

Unlike other data, iPhone gives you the options to sync contacts to elsewhere like Google, Outlook, yahoo, Aol, Exchange, etc., not just iCloud. So the disappeared contacts may be associated with another account and the account has been changed in some way, or even worse, deleted from iPhone. The contacts information in one account is different from the other, for instance, some contacts don't show profile pictures and company names.

To solve the problem with iPhone contacts disappeared from the device is check to make sure all groups of contacts are showing in the Contacts app. It's best to set iCloud as the default account.

First, go to Settings > Contacts > Accounts, tap on each account and enable Contacts. Then,

  • Open Contacts app. Or open Phone app and tap Contacts tab.
  • Tap Groups on the upper left corner.
  • Check all accounts you've ever set up and the disappeared contacts should reappear. The option of "Show All Contacts" on the bottom is available if you have more than one accounts and have sources that are not checked.

5. Recover some of contacts from Messages app or Recents call list

When contacts disappear from Contacts app, they will be still in the Messages app and other messaging apps, but only presented with phone numbers instead of the contacts names. This works only if you remember the phone number with the person you texted to and from, or called to and from.

If you can locate the lost contact you want to recover, add it as a contact back to the Contacts app.

Restore disappeared contacts from iPhone (without backup)

If the above simple tips do not help, then your 'disappeared' contacts are likely gone.

Or perhaps you don't know how else to recover lost contacts if there were only on the iPhone.

There's often little that you can do yourself—professional data recovery services are usually required. With iPhone Data Recovery, recovering a disappeared contacts list should be a simple trip.

Don't open iTunes or sync with it after you lose iPhone contacts, to prevent any backup files from being updated or replaced the newly added contacts on the phone.

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The program works intelligently and finds full list of contacts on the iPhone. What you need to do is connect you phone to the computer, scan the device, select some or all of contacts to retrieve, and you're done. The process will not overwrite any data in the memory. Let's start.

Run the software, and plug your iPhone into the computer via USB. Then click Start Scan button.

The smart utility begins scanning all data on the iPhone, including disappeared iPhone contacts. You sit back and wait until the process finishes.

Once done, you should get an overview window like this:

From the left panel, click "Contacts" option to display existing and lost contacts of your iPhone. You can see the contacts names, company names, phone numbers, and emails, as well as a contact card on the right panel if you click on one contact.

Select all disappeared iPhone contacts by ticking the checkboxes, and click Recover button.

The pop-up window will ask you to change the output folder if needed.

Finally, click Recover button.

The software will then recover the address book and save the contacts into CSV, HTML, VCF file respectively.

Now you can browse through the contacts disappeared from iPhone on the computer. You can add it back to your phone by emailing yourself.

Restore iPhone contacts from iTunes or iCloud backup

The last resort is, recovering contacts from an iTunes (Finder) backup, or an iCloud backup. Have you backed up your iPhone since your contacts disappeared? If you've done so, the contacts would have been part of your iPhone.

Restoring from a backup should restore lost address book, but you lose what you have on the iPhone that's added since after the backup happened.

If you would like to restore just contacts from a backup, instead of anything, you can use iPhone Data Recovery application to accomplish this.

1. Restore iPhone from iCloud backup

If you have enabled iCloud sync for contacts, they're not in the backup. So this makes no sense to perform a restoration even for testing.

You can do this as follow:

  • On iPhone, tap Settings > General > Reset.
  • Tap on Erase All Content and Settings.
  • When prompts, select Erase Now to instantly restore your iPhone to factory settings.
  • Then Set-up Assistant should then guide you through the process of setting up the device. When you see the Apps & Data screen, choose Restore from iCloud Backup.
  • Sign into iCloud with Apple ID and passcode.
  • Select a backup that may contain the disappeared iPhone contacts list, and the process starts.

When everything is done, go back to Contacts app, and it should display the contacts you're looking for.

2. Restore iPhone from iTunes backup

If you're used to do backups of your whole phone via iTunes or Finder in macOS Catalina or later, the contacts missing from iPhone should be included in the backup. Simply restore the iTunes/ Finder backup to the device.

First open iTunes or Finder, click Edit > Preferences, and under Devices tab, deselect the option for 'Prevent iPods, iPhone, and iPads from syncing automatically' in case your last backup is overwritten.

  • Attach iPhone with the computer.
  • Click iPhone icon on the top-left corner of iTunes window. In Finder's left sidebar, select your device.
  • Click Restore Backup.
  • In the dialog box, choose any backup with these disappeared contacts, and click Restore.

This will restore your iPhone with the old backup, overwriting anything that's not in the backup. But at least, any contacts disappeared from iPhone are presented in the address book.

Your disappeared iPhone contacts are back

At first, it might seem like your iPhone contacts are disappeared (the contacts in Favorites list are lost as well). However, with the culprits figured out and the solutions mentioned above, you should successfully get back the missing contacts, especially those critical one time, in-person contacts.

In most cases, the issue is fixed by turning iCloud contacts sync off and back on, signing out of iCloud and back in, changing group settings to display all contacts, finding disappeared contacts in messages app and then saving it back to Contacts app, as well as utilizing the third-party software to scan iPhone's memory and find the disappeared contacts.

If any other method worked, feel free to let us know.

If you've gone through all the recommended steps and can't seem to fix the problem, you may need to contact Apple Support for additional assistance.

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