I’ve lost my contacts – how can I recover them?

In today’s digital world, losing your mobile contacts can appear to be a trivial issue, however it is a problem which is not going away. With all the focus on data consumption, camera quality and social media capabilities, it can be easy to forget that the contact list is one of the most valuable features in a phone. Having all your contact details for your family, friends and work go missing can be very distressing and so we’ve created a dedicated, comprehensive post to inform you how you can recover them, should you need to.

How did this happen?

The most common cause of losing your contacts is from upgrading your mobile’s operating system. Whether your phone runs on iOS, Android or Nokia’s Symbian, the manufacturer will send out intermittent software updates to refresh the phone with the latest features. Unfortunately, this can sometimes cause your contacts to be lost depending on where they are saved (read our post on where to save mobile contacts). Alternatively, contacts can be accidentally deleted or wiped when syncing with new apps.

Don’t fret! Your contacts might still be on your phone

If you’re using an Android device, the system can sometimes hide your contacts making it appear as though they have been deleted. Luckily, there’s a simple way to check to see if this is the case:

  1. Open the “Contacts” app.
  2. Press on the menu in the top-right corner (three vertical dots).
  3. Select “Contacts to display”.
  4. If it isn’t already, press “All contacts”.

If “All contacts” was not selected, then this should solve the problem.

Nope, they’re gone – how can I recover them?


If you’re an Android user, your first step should be to check the Google account which you have linked to the mobile. When you first created your account on your phone, it’s likely that you would have automatically accepted to transfer your contacts. If you did do this, the good news is that you can restore all your contacts directly to your phone. To do this, go to your inbox and select “Contacts” from the dropdown menu. If you can see your contacts, click “More” and then “Restore contacts”.

Another useful tip is to install and run the Android Recovery Tool. You can do this through your Windows or Mac browser and this will help you to find your lost contacts. These are the steps you should follow:

  1. Connect your Android phone to your computer and check if you have enabled USB debugging. If you haven’t, simply open up the settings menu on your device, choose “Developer Options” and select “Allow USB debugging”.
  2. Once your device has been detected by the computer, it will scan your Android device. Make sure you limit its search to your contacts only.
  3. After all contacts and messages have been scanned, you can preview all contacts one by one in the scan result, mark those you want and click “Recover” to selectively save them on your computer.
  4. Once saved, these contacts can then be manually restored to your mobile.

How can I prevent this from happening again?

There are also steps you can take on an Android to prevent this from happening again.

  1. Launch your contacts and select the menu/more button.
  2. Then navigate to “Settings>Contacts>Import/Export contacts>Export to device storage”
  3. Choose which contacts you wish to transfer from the list and tap “Done”
  4. Then remove your current SIM and insert a different one into your device
  5. Then navigate to “Settings>Contacts>Import/Export contacts>Export to SIM card”. Select the contacts and confirm to copy them to your different SIM card
  6. Your contacts are now backed up onto a different SIM


Changing iPhones, restoring the device or syncing music can sometimes delete your contact details. If this happens to you, the easiest way to recover them is through iCloud. If you have enabled iCloud contacts sync (normally checked as default) you should be able to restore your contacts with a few easy steps:

  1. Go to Settings on iCloud.com, then click Restore Contacts (in the Advanced section). Available versions are listed by the date and time they were archived.
  2. To the right of the version you want to restore, click Restore. There may be more versions than can be shown at once. Scroll to see more.

If you find that your contacts are not on your iCloud account, then you can also double check your iTunes account. By connecting your iPhone to your PC and conducting an iTunes restore you can download all your archived information saved on your iTunes. However, please note **that this will remove all data on your mobile**, replacing it with what is stored on your account.

Alternatively, you can always choose to try specialist recovery tools, but these have varying success rates and require a substantial fee.

If you are unable to locate your contacts through these means, it is likely that they are unfortunately lost forever. This is why is it always good practice to regularly back-up all important information.