When a client of mine purchased the new iPhone, she exported all of her contacts from her Blackberry to her iPhone. When she did that, the contacts were added directly to her iPhone but they did not automatically connect to her iCloud account. It took us a while to figure out what was going on. At the end, we had to do a little work around to move the contacts that were listed as “On My iPhone” to her iCloud account.

Here are the steps:

1. First, determine whether or not you have contacts on your iPhone that are not syncing with your iCloud account.

iCloud
To do this, first go to icloud.com and type in your username/password combo. Go to Contacts and then search for some contacts you know are on your phone. Are they in your iCloud account? If not, then proceed with the steps below.

2. Second, search contacts on your iPhone.

iPhone Contacts GroupsOpen up contacts on your iPhone and click on Groups in the upper left-hand corner. Do you see an item listed as “All on My iPhone?” If so, uncheck “All on My iPhone” and then search your contacts for the same people you looked for in step 1. Are they there? If not, those contacts are in your All on My iPhone category and they are not syncing with your iPhone.

All on My iPhone

3. Third, set iCloud as your default contacts account.

We need to set iCloud as the default account for contacts so that going forward, any new contact is added directly to your iCloud account. To do this, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars on your iPhone. Scroll down until you see contacts and then make sure the Default Account is set to iCloud.

Default iPhone Contacts Account

4. Fourth, export all of your contacts from your iPhone.

My Contacts BackupThe best way to export all of your contacts is to use a free app called My Contacts Backup (there is a paid version, but for our purposes, the free version is fine). Install this app on your iPhone and then follow the instructions to back up your contacts. You can have them sent to you by email. Back up all of your contacts. Don’t try to only backup the contacts in “All on My iPhone.” Once we back them up and connect them to your iCloud account, we can then merge the contacts to that any identical contacts are merged into one.

5. Fifth, import the file that My Contacts Backup created into your iCloud account.

Go back to iCloud.com and go to Contacts. In the bottom right corner, click on the settings wheel. Choose “Import vCard” and import the file created by My Contacts Backup. This will add all of your contacts from your iPhone. Once you do this, you can go back to Contacts on your iPhone, click on Groups, and then permanently uncheck “All on My iPhone.”

6. Sixth, merge Your Contacts

Once you have added all of your contacts, you’ll see an option to merge all of your contacts so that any duplicates will be combined. Do this and you’ll have a clean view of all of your contacts. Go back to iCloud.com to make sure you now see all of your contacts listed there.

Erik Rostad

Author Erik Rostad

Erik Rostad started EPR Creations in May 2008. He works with universities, international organizations, and executives on their online presence.

More posts by Erik Rostad

Join the discussion 118 Comments

  • nezimm says:

    Thank you so much for this! Been trying to fix some contact issues for two days. This was the final step.

  • John says:

    Worked great except for the merge contacts option – Now I have hundreds of duplicate contacts in icloud. Maybe this option used to be there but it appears to be gone now

    • Erik Rostad says:

      Hi John, were you using your Mac or a mobile device? Here are the instructions from Apple about merging contacts – https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203565

      • Albert Jolly says:

        Hopefully you are still on this blog, two years later.

        I am on an iPhone 5S. I did all of the above, and when I reached

        6. Sixth, merge Your Contacts
        Once you have added all of your contacts, you’ll see an option to merge all of your contacts so that any duplicates will be combined.

        but there was no “Option To Merge” anywhere. Not in the iCloud App nor on the 5S.

        Following your https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203565 lead, now 2 years later, takes me into a circle in Appledom discussing El Capitan, Yosemite, Mac, OS X and other platforms that seem to have an app within Contacts to merge. Not on my iPhone!!

        Is there any SIMPLE way to merge the duplicates from within the iCloud app, being run on a PC in Chrome, other than one-by-one??? This is where I started three days ago…trying to clean up the duplicates in my Contacts. I’ve purchased several programs, tried to download the iCloud contacts, manually cleaned up a portion of the iCloud Contacts, followed your advice above and now i have 1357 duplicates on my phone and in the iCloud.

        HELP!!!

        Al Jolly

        • Erik Rostad says:

          Hi Albert – hmm, the only way I see the merge duplicates is on an actual Mac computer within the Contacts app. I don’t see any way to do it at iCloud.com or on the iPhone itself. Do you have a Mac? Otherwise, it looks like you would need to use one of those apps on your phone. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

        • To get rid of the duplicates, you can first delete all your contacts from iCloud.com and then re-import the Vcard. It worked perfectly for me. Hope it helps!

    • To get rid of the duplicates, you can first delete all your contacts from iCloud.com and then re-import the Vcard. It worked perfectly for me. Hope it helps!

  • Amber Armstrong says:

    Thank you soooo much. I tried everything and nothing worked until I found this article.

  • Casey Ryder says:

    my goodness i don’t know why i had so much trouble with syncing my contacts but this did the trick. Thank youuuuuu!

  • zaizul hairi says:

    Thank you because share this info

  • Mindy White says:

    perfection! this saved a problem that was driving me crazy

  • VICKY CABAN says:

    GENIUS!!!!! THANKS A LOT! YPU SAVED ME!!!

  • Gaurav says:

    Thanks a lot. That made me finish my task of syncing contacts lot easier and faster than what I would have wasted time looking on other sites.

  • This post was SO helpful for me! Thank you! Problem solved 🙂

  • Mike says:

    My Contacts Backup does not seem to be sending the email. I have typed in a valid email address, and the app says “the backup process completed successfully. Please check your inbox.” However, no email was ever sent. I have checked the junk folder, and tried several different email addresses.

    • Erik Rostad says:

      Hi Mike – how many contacts do you have? If it is more than 500, you may need to get the Pro version of the My Contacts Backup app. Here is what they write in their description – “VCF backup is limited to max 500 contacts. You need to download PRO version for unlimited contacts backup.” Not sure if that might be causing the issue you are having. If not, let me know and I’ll try to find another solution.

      • Mike says:

        No sir, 389 contacts. Thanks for looking into this so quickly.

        • Erik Rostad says:

          Here’s a potential solution I found – MCbackup is using one of your email accounts setup in your iPhone. Well, instead of clicking Send, you can click Cancel, then select Save Draft. Now you can go to the draft folder of that particular email account to find the mail and get the attached file.

          Alternatively, the Pro version allows the backup file to send to your PC using wireless connection.

  • Alex H says:

    I tried this. All was working well until the last step, when I tried to import the backup file in iCloud. I received an error message: “Unable to import vCard, This vCard cannot be imported because it contains invalid contact data.” Any idea on a solution?

    • Erik Rostad says:

      Hmm – one thing you may want to give a try is to change the version of vCard you are using. Maybe you need to use an old version to import the file. If I am in Contacts on my Mac, under Preferences, there is an option to toggle between vCard versions. Not sure if that will work, but give it a try and let me know.

  • Omar Elnagar says:

    Thank you so much for this! have been a big issue for me and couldn’t find an accredited source! Thanks buddy.

  • Bostjan says:

    Great article. Did the trick for me in the 4th option, because all of my contacts were on my iphone and all the hustle around the icloud and merging and copying drove me crazy, and then I found this article and it fix my problem in five minutes. Thank you so much for it.

  • Eli says:

    Turning off iCloud contacts, iOS will ask you if you’d like to keep them on your phone, say yes, then turn iCloud contacts back on, and it will auto-import everything from your phone to iCloud. This had me stymied for a few days but it worked, and imported everything.

    • fred butler says:

      This is the easiest way to sync the contacts on your phone back to iCloud when they get out of sync. no apps needed, no Vcards, no duplicate nonsense. turn off the contacts, turn it back on and literally seconds later all 400 of my contacts were updated across all my devices.

  • Kanchan Chakraborty says:

    Cannot thank you enough. This was so helpful. Really appreciate

  • Guillermo says:

    This article was genius. Thank you so much.

  • Matt says:

    Thank you, glad to have found this advice (and wish I had oiund it sooner!!)

  • Joshua Margolin says:

    Thank you Erik.

    Joshua Margolin

    Israel

  • Larry Perkins says:

    A life saver! Thank you very much!

  • Sridhar Kandula says:

    Wanted transfer all contacts from one iPhone to another with a different Apple ID, but struggled for one day, I tried above steps and could successfully transfer. Thank you veryyyyyyy much

  • mike bloxham says:

    worked flawlessly with Sierra 10.12.5 and a 5S running 10.3.2.
    merging occurs, with duplicates shown user.
    as the contacts are on icloud, synchronisation is instant when the data changes on any device
    we may need to note that to avoid confusion the preferences for contacts (e.g. sort order) should be set the same on the several devices.

    thanks so much for taking the trouble to locate the app (script?) and pass on this tip

  • Puneet says:

    Thanks Erik! using My Contacts Backup did what numerous apple support blogs could not do. Keep up the good work!

  • Carlos Escobar says:

    After extensive research on how to consolidate all my contacts contained in my iPhone (iPhone, iCloud, Google, and Facebook) your instructions worked flawlessly. I did end up with duplicate entries, but your advice on using the Contacts app on the Mac worked great. Thanks for your help.

  • CS Kim says:

    Thanks. This is best way among the advices I got. I used my Macbook and it worked just a second. With one app, it was simple and quick. Thanks again.

  • Steven Garrison says:

    Tried using on iPhone 6. When I back up and email or use wifi to transfer to computer with my iCloud account open, i get the message “Unable to import vCard This vCard cannot be imported because it contains invalid contact data. Any ideas?

  • Liz says:

    Best help ever! Thank you so much.

  • Amitabh says:

    What a simple and elegant solution!!! Thank you!

  • Shannon Gibbons says:

    Thank you so much! This article did exactly what I needed! Thank you!

  • Nur Hayati Yunus says:

    I cannot set icloud as default account since its not there. There are only gmail and yahoo. Please help.

  • Gordi.B says:

    Thank you, Eric. Worked like a charm!

  • Bert says:

    Thanks Erik! Worked perfectly.

  • Thanks! This worked flawlessly!

  • Kayla Zerlina says:

    Thanks! It helped me a lot

  • Shaw Miller says:

    Thank you! I was having tons of trouble getting my newer contacts on my iPhone to sync with a new MacBook. This article let me do it in less than 5 minutes!

  • Ben Carlson says:

    Thanks, it worked great to copy my contacts to both iphone 6s Plus and icloud. Like others, it created dozens of duplicates on both the phone and icloud. My problem is that i do not have a Mac computer. What now?

  • Jaime Sanchez says:

    In regards to step #6, where will I see the merge option? Within the app or in iCloud? I apologize if it seems obvious to everyone here, but not to myself.

    Best regards.

  • Heather Dugdale says:

    Yes, thank you!!!! I’ve tried for 2 days to figure out why icloud wasn’t syncing my contacts and had no idea that the contacts were somehow tied to my e-mail account (something I never did, by the way). That app was magical!! It’s extraordinary how Apple doesn’t tell you these tiny details that make a huge difference as to whether you can get your data back. Maddening!! This was the most helpful thing I’ve found. Again, thank you.

  • n says:

    this article was also the nth one I read and the only one which worked. thanks

  • Aziz Byari says:

    thank’s

  • Mason says:

    Life saver. I was worried that the suggested app was going to be janky, but it does exactly what it says it does and nothing else. Truly awesome and helpful article.

  • Maaike says:

    Hi Erik, thank you for this helpful page!

    However, I ended up doing it in a different, much quicker and easier way, without using the app that you recommended, My contacts in iCloud were already turned on, however the issue was that the default account for my contacts wasn’t iCloud, but my iPhone, so first I changed that in the settings like you did. Then:
    -Go to the settings on your phone
    -Click on “your name”
    -Click on iCloud
    -If your problem is the same as mine, then contacts is already turned on.
    -Turn this off, but select that you want to keep the contacts on your phone (just in case).
    -Then turn it back on again and press merge.
    DONE!
    I hope this works for more people, because it worked very quickly.
    Thanks again for this informative page though!

  • Mathias Thuesen says:

    While I appreciate the guide, it left me with 1240 duplicates through the iCloud vCard import. I luckily have a Mac, so I can clean it up. Now I am just hoping that the similarity-algorhythm of Apple works without merging different but similarly named contacts…

  • Mohammad Shahed says:

    Erik,

    Thanks a ton!! This was great help.

  • nikki says:

    legend! now trying to sort out merging to get rid of duplicates. any ideas? I have a mac… thanks, I am getting blearry eyed!

  • nikki says:

    The operation couldn’t be completed. (CoreDAVErrorDomain error 1.)

  • Khurram shahzad says:

    hi,
    i create new i cloud id and i want to move all contact on other but how please help me copy past or upload and down load or i select all contact and mail sent to other i cloud id.

  • argent says:

    Good way of explaining, and pleasant article to get information about my presentation topic,
    which i am going to convey in institution of higher education.

  • August says:

    Thank you so much for this! Darn you Apple for not making this a one button operation!

  • Rizwan says:

    The Easiest Way is Here!
    Simply Open your contacts on MAC, Command+A (Select All) and Right Click on the Contacts. Share VCARD to a new folder or Simply Email it to ur account and copy as u Like.

    For More details: malikbiochemist@live.cm

  • Ashley says:

    HUGE thank you! Super easy directions that actually work. I have been resisting getting a new phone for years because I knew my contacts were not saved to my icloud.

  • Roan says:

    Thank you so much Erik!! This has saved me so much time. Super grateful.

  • Marisela says:

    Thank youuuu!!! It was crazy how I had only a few contacts in icloud and the rest on my phone. Nothing worked until I followed this article! Very very helpful!

  • David Littlejohn says:

    So the free app emails you the backup of all your contacts? Doesn’t that mean that whatever company owns that app, they just got all your contact information for free? No Thanks

  • sabri says:

    thank you so much, it is really helpful

  • Karen says:

    Thanks so much – been trying to do this for ages, happy days!

  • Fred says:

    Oh my Goodness! Thank you so much for creating this super easy to follow article!
    You have definitely made my day! 🙂

  • Jim says:

    Thanks that was great, been searching for ages trying to fix this issue!

  • CYNTHIA L BRENNAN says:

    This is the best post about how to fix a problem that I have ever read. Thanks very much–you helped me tremendously.

  • Mario Salas Cruz says:

    Thank you Erik, your systematic instructions are awesome!

  • Karen Wilhoyte says:

    Thank you for your help. I have also been trying to figure out how to sync the contacts on my phone to my contacts on iCloud.com and on my mac. This worked. Thanks!

  • On the above you described few steps to move my iPhone contacts to iCloud. I have followed your all steps and truly say this is really worked fine. Thanks for providing such kind of useful blog.

  • Doug M says:

    Thanks for this blog post, it helped me successfully get my contacts updated on iCloud.

  • Robin Millard says:

    Thank you very much for the very clear and simple instructions – brilliant! Wasted hours on other google searches and attempts to extract money from me before coming across your steps. Thanks again.

  • Bradly says:

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for website

  • Duncan Brunings says:

    Thank you for posting: your procedure helped me quite a bit along the way. For me it worked a bit differently.

    1. I got the ‘MC Backup’ app from the Apple store. It was not for free – I paid USD 1.00 for it.

    2. I ran the app, and the contacts backup file was sent to my email address I had supplied.

    3. I did not see an option within iCloud Contacts to import the file directly. I should have realized that I should have copied the email attachment to my iMac (or you should have suggested it in your instructions  ? ). So I opened the file out of the email.

    4. Opening that backup file attached to the email on my iMac resulted in the backupped addresses automatically being copied into my iMac Contacts (which I wanted). However, the addresses were not uploaded into my iCloud Contacts.

    5. I then deleted whatever few addresses were present in iCloud Contacts (by selecting them all and then deleting them). I subsequently downloaded the file created by ‘MC Backup’ to my iMac (as I probably should have all along). Then I imported the file using the ‘Import vCard’ option within the settings of iCloud Contact. That successfully imported my contacts into iCloud Contacts.

    6. So I now have my contacts on my iPhone, my iMac, and iCloud.

    But: I still have the synchronization among them.

    A complication here is that I am about to sever the connection between my iPhone and the Exchange server that up to now has been my primary source for contacts and emails and calendar entries. I get the message that doing do will delete the contact from my iPhone … Unlike what Maaike described on October 19, 2017 at 4:13 pm for turning off the link to iCloud, here I am not getting to “keep the contacts on your phone” … So am am hesitating.

    Do you, or anyone else, have any ideas as to the synchronization among the three devices and on safely severing link between my iPhone and the Exchange server?

    Thanks!

    Duncan Brunings

    • Erik Rostad says:

      Hi Duncan, thanks for the details. Not sure how to best sever in this case, but the best thing I can think of is to sign into iCloud.com and see what contacts are listed there. That’s your “source” of contacts going forward, so if they aren’t in there, that’s not good. If they are in there, you should be ok to delete them from a particular device. I’d back everything up before deleting from your phone to be on the safe side and just to have a backup. Let me know how it goes and if you find a good solution.

  • ABDUL QAYYUM says:

    I salute you for the hectic solution. Contacts in safe hands for future as well. Thanks

  • Marcel says:

    Excellent post.Never knew this, thanks for letting me know.

  • Colin Beckford says:

    Thank you Erik, You have been a real trooper. The instructions and dedication you have shown on this topic for over two and a half years have been phenomenal. You have help countless numbers of people including myself in the resolution of this problem.
    Hopefully apple may address some aspects of this problem in an update to icloud in the near future.
    After wrestling with this for 2 days, I can now rest assured that all my contacts are indeed backed up. Thank you.

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