How to Restore Deleted iPhone Contacts: Three Easy Methods Explained

One of the scariest things that can happen – when you try to change iPhones, sync contacts or sync to the cloud/backup – is losing contact details. I’ve found myself – very often – losing a few contacts once in a while when I try to sync, update or just restore my device.

Things have become relatively easy with iCloud but if you’re old school, you’ll find iTunes to be a good solution even today. As long as you’ve got a backup of your contacts somewhere, you can restore it on your iPhone and reclaim deleted contacts easily.


Recover Deleted Contacts on iPhone

As such, there are three ways in which you can have your iPhone contacts backed up:

  • iCloud: which is the most preferred and popular method today
  • iTunes: an old method which still retains its flavor amongst some of us
  • Manual Export: probably the most secure and hassle-free method. Something that I’ve used for quite sometime now. Happily.

How to Recover Deleted iPhone Contacts via iTunes Bbackup:

Chances are, you backed up your device in iTunes the last time you plugged the device in. If this is the case, you’re in luck.


To restore a deleted contact on your iPhone, all you do is:

Step 1: Connect your iPhone to the PC/Mac

Step 2: Open iTunes

Step 3: Click on Devices tab

Step 4: Right-click on the iPhone that’s connected and click ‘Restore from Backup…’

Restore iPhone Contacts from iPhone

Step 5: Note that this will effectively remove all old information on your iPhone and get the backup data on your iPhone. If you had backed up contacts too in your previous iTunes backup, those will be restored to the iPhone and you should mostly recover that deleted contact now.

How to Restore iPhone Contacts from iCloud Without iTunes:

Of course, with iCloud in town, not everyone is interested in iTunes backups these days. iCloud makes stuff easier to manage although you just need to be a bit careful.

If you have enabled iCloud Contacts sync, in all probability, the lost contact should be up on your iCloud account. To check if this is true:

  • Login to with your Apple ID and password
  • Click on Contacts
  • Search your contacts to check if the deleted/lost contact (from your iPhone) is still visible here

If yes, you can now recover that lost contact easily.

Step 1: Go to Settings -> iCloud on your iPhone

Step 2: Turn off Contacts (if it’s not turned off already)

Contacts Settings on iPhone

Step 3: When the popup message comes up, press ‘Keep on My iPhone’

Keep on My iPhone

Step 4: Now, turn ON the contacts again and tap “Merge”; wait for a while

Merge Contacts on iPhone

Step 5: After sometime, you should see the deleted contact back on your iPhone

Step 6: In case this doesn’t work, all you do is delete your iCloud account (but keep all data) and then re-add the iCloud account by logging in with your Apple ID and password

Step 7: Merge all data and wait for a while. After sometime, iCloud will have merged all contacts to your iPhone and the deleted one should be back!

.vcf Export:

Perhaps, the safest way to play this game is to sync your contact data to iCloud and make a .vcf copy routinely. To do this:

Step 1: Make sure all contact details on your iCloud account is up-to-date.

Step 2: Open and login

Step 3: Click on Contacts

Step 4: Click on the clog (settings) icon on the bottom left and press ‘Export vCard…’

Export Contacts from iCloud as vCard

Step 5: Save this file on your hard-disk.

Do this thing once in a month or so and you’ll have a pretty solid backup of all your contacts. You can send this .vcf file as email and then open it on your iPhone to get them back on your Contacts (in case you lose them all).

Besides these, you can also use third-party software like Tenorshare & iStonSoft that will let you restore contacts anytime. Even the deleted or lost ones. You can check out our review of Tenorshare software here and the review of iStonSoft here.

  • Ajinkya Sengutuvan

    Hm, I think that Step 4 should read “Right-click on the iPhone icon and select “Restore from Backup” as described here:

    and not “Right-click on the iPhone that’s connected and click ‘Backup’”. Selecting “Backup” will simply backup the currently existing data on the iPhone (i.e. the empty contacts records) and will not delete or restore the iPhone as suggested.

    I’d personally prefer the iCloud method as I really do not trust iTunes and what it coul do to my iPhone.

    • iGeeksBlog

      Hey, thanks for the heads up. We’ve got it corrected now. And yeah, the iCloud method is the safest. But some people still depend on iTunes. :)

  • Deb Smith

    Thank you for the detailed help offered here! I feared hours and hours of hunting and telephoning to restore my lost contacts (all of them) following my first sync to the cloud. After about 10 minutes of hunting the web I found you and less than 10 minutes later, my contacts were all returned! Thanks!

    • iGeeksBlog


      That’s really great. It’s our pleasure.

      Cheers… :)

  • melodygong gong

    Recover deleted/lost iPhone Photos, Contacts,SMS Messages,video and more from iTunes backup files,with Tenorshare iPhone Data Recovery- you also can Recover Data for iPad and iPod,including video,music,photo and other files.

  • Scott McDaniel

    If one never signed up with iCloud and never synced with iTunes, and then lost all contacts for some random reason, is there a way to recover them? Have tried to reset it by pressing the power and home.

    • iGeeksBlog

      Nope. No way you can get back contacts.

  • Niti Sharma

    Try this guide and see how it works for you:

    STEP 1:Make sure iTunes doesn’t automatically sync with iPhone when connected.
    2:Connect your iPhone to iTunes and Back up by selecting Preferences
    > Backup from iTunes, or right-click on your iPhone and choose back
    STEP 3:Restore your iPhone by selecting Restore under
    Preferences. Note that restoring the iPhone will restore the previous
    iPhone firmware. Your iPhone will be completely erased after the new
    firmware is installed. So make sure your back up is good!
    STEP 4:The
    final step will be to restore your iPhone from the back up you created
    on step 2. This will allow you to restore any data you have backed up,
    including the “deleted” text messages.

  • Mohri795

    I don’t think you it recovery deleted messages from an ios device.