Restoring lost contacts

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Reader Turner Rouse feels that Address Book has let him down. He writes:

I’m not sure how it happened, but nearly all my Address Book contacts are gone. Worse yet, all the addresses in Entourage’s Address Book are gone too. I’m a .Mac member and use Apple’s Backup to backup my hard drive so I think I can get my contacts back (at least my Address Book contacts, I don’t know about Entourage), but I’m not sure where to look for copies of my Address Book data. Is there any hope?

There is. First, good on you for having a backup. That makes all of this a whole lot easier. Here’s how to proceed.

Launch Backup, select your regular backup plan (this plan will need to include either your Home folder or Personal Data & Settings), and click the Restore button. In the Restore window that appears, select a backup date that’s likely to hold your old contacts—for example, if you recall seeing all your contacts the day before yesterday, find the backup that most closely precedes that date. Now follow this path in Backup:

youruserfolder /Library/Application Support/AddressBook

The file you’re looking for is Enable the Restore to an Alternate Location option and choose somewhere on your hard drive to put your restored data (I use the Desktop so the resulting Restore folder is easy to find). Tick the box next to this item so that it’s checked and click Restore Selection.

Open the Restored Files folder on your Desktop and dig down through the layers of folders until you get to the file. Navigate to this same /Library/Application Support/AddressBook folder in your user’s folder and replace its file with the one you restored. Launch Address Book and it should contain all your contacts.

Before we proceed to the next step, do this: In Address Book choose File -> Back Up Address Book. This will do exactly what it says—back up your contacts. I don’t know what funkiness caused Address Book to lose your contacts, but should it happen again, you can easily get the contacts back by opening Address Book, choosing File -> Revert to Address Book Backup, selecting this backup file, and clicking Open. It’s not a bad idea to back up your address book every week or so if you routinely add contacts.

As for Entourage, launch it, open its preferences, select Sync Services, and you should see that the Synchronize Contacts With Address Book and .Mac option is enabled. This is an option in recent versions of Entourage 2004 that lets you synchronize contacts between Apple’s Address Book and the Address Book in Entourage. It’s a great feature except in situations like this where Apple’s Address Book loses its contacts. When that happens, Entourage syncs with the “new” list of contacts—meaning an Address Book that is—or is nearly—empty. Once you restore your old contacts to Address Book, Entourage will update its Address Book as well when this option is on.

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