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Recovering Lost Contacts

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Don’t we all love the way we can sync up our contacts details across our ‘iDevices': iPhone, iPpad or iPod using the MobileMe option?
While this works spectacularly well on most days, things may look a little gawky when contacts go missing by your mistake or a technical glitch. When it works well, you just need to update one device of any contact information and the rest of devices get synced up almost instantaneously.
This advantage however turns into a nightmare when by accident you clear the contact information on one of the devices and the same gets synched across other devices. Right from the point of thousands of contacts to a point of zilch, you cross the line as quickly as you do when things are working fine.
So what to do when you launch your iPhone to discover that all your contact details have vanished and the database is as empty as a new one?
Well, reflexively you will think about synchronization and how it would affect all the devices and even worse, your thoughts will come true when you check the other devices. Chances are you will find the Address book on Mac empty, contact list on MobileMe site empty and all contacts on iPad and iPod gone.
While you might have tried using Entourage for synching and found yourself in this rut, with MobileMe the chances of restoring your contacts depends a lot of what you did before you lost the information.
So the pressing question that teases you is: how do you get the contacts back?
Here are the potential solutions:
Restoring from a Mac backup
You are in luck if you have a habit of regular backups on Mac’s hard disk. If this is the case, you just need to navigate down to the Application Support/Address Book folder. This folder lies in the Library of the Home directory on the backup drive. Simply identify the Address Book folder and copy it. Paste it on the matching location on your startup drive. For this you might get a prompt for Same Folder Name. Select Replace.
Now launch the Address Book and you will find all your contacts intact. If you have synch on, all the contacts will be synched across the devices.
However even this process of restoring contacts is not faultless. Newer backup files replace the old ones and therefore if you accidently backup an empty file, you will lose the chances of restoring contacts all together. The backup files themselves will be empty files.
To avoid this from happening, maintain a versioned backup such as through Time Machine. This kind of backup maintains multiple versions of files with time stamps therefore there is no fear of missing out contacts through overlapping of address books. You can also try online backup versions for the same.
Restoring from an Address Book archive
Go to the File Menu in the Address Book application. Now select Export and then Address Book Archive. This will create an archive file of all the contacts. If you even need to restore, you can simply use the ‘Import’ option and reinstall all the contact from this archived file.
The trick is to keep versioned backups or else you might not be able to restore contacts.
Restoring from iTunes backup file
The backup files, as maintained via iTunes, contain the Contacts data. In case you have not synced since the last backup, chances are you would not lose any data. All you need to do is to restore.
The way to do that is to do a basic restore. There is no need to erase IPhone’s drive and restore from the scratch. Simply Control click on iOS device’s name in iTunes and click on Restore (under Backup).
One can, alternatively, try utilities such as iPhone Backup Extractor which can extract specific data from the backup files and transfer them to iPhone directly. However the process is slightly more complex and needs a jailbroken device.
Restoring from SIM Contacts
If you save contacts on the SIM and one of your synced devices is the iPhone then go to Settings. Scroll down to the option that reads Import SIM Contacts. Tap it.
This will install all the contacts saved on your SIM to the Contacts app. This process however may not be of much help as iPhone does not synch contact information onto the SIM. Nonetheless if all your contacts saved on the SIM you are in for some real luck.

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