Contacts are missing from the Address Book after importing or restoring a pst-file

I’ve recently switched to a new computer with Outlook 2016 on it. I’ve successfully configured my account and just imported my pst-file from Outlook 2007.

My emails and everything are there but the Address Book was not included.

How do I get my contacts back?

There are various things which could have gone wrong here. Below you'll find a little checklist with links to find out where your Contacts are.

Check the Contacts folder

Contacts FolderAre the contacts in your Contacts folder? Switch to the Contacts Navigation (Outlook 2010 and previous) or the People Module (Outlook 2013 or Outlook 2016) or simply press CTRL+3 to see an overview of all your Contacts folders.

If the folder is there and holds your contacts, then either the folder hasn’t been set as an Outlook Address Book or the Outlook Address Book Service is broken in your mail profile.

To recover from either situation see: Contacts are not available in the Outlook Address Book.

Contacts are not in the Contacts folder

Outlook PST FilesIf the Contacts are not in the Contacts folder, then you either forgot to select the folder when creating an export (this is why you shouldn’t use “Export” to create a backup), or didn’t select the folder when importing the pst-file.

If you still have access to your old computer, copy over the original pst-file from your old computer to your new one (don’t overwrite any existing pst-file in the process). Otherwise, take a fresh copy of your backup or the pst-file that you imported from.

Then connect to the pst-file in Outlook via:
File-> Open-> Open Outlook Data File

Check the Contacts folder again. If they are still not in there…

  • …and you’ve used the original pst-file from your old computer, you’ve copied over the wrong pst-file. Check your old computer for other pst-files.
  • …and you’ve used “Export” to create your backup, then you forgot to select the folder or the export got otherwise aborted and you did not back them up.

If you did find your Contacts in that pst-file, you can select them all (CTRL+A) and move them (CTRL+SHIFT+V) or copy them (CTRL+SHIFT+Y) to your main contacts folder.

For additional information, also see: Backing up the Address Book.

The Contacts are there but still don’t show when pressing To…

Outlook Address BookWhen you do see your Contacts in the main Contacts folder and the folder is selected as an Outlook Address Book but you still don’t see them when opening your Outlook Address Book or pressing on the To button when composing an email, then you need to change the default message list.

This often happens when you also have other accounts configured which have Contacts folders of their own but are empty or are using Exchange Online of Office 365 for Business for personal use and you are looking at the Offline Global Address List (which then probably only holds your name).

You can manually switch the list to your Contacts folder via the Address Book’s dropdown list or change the default via the Address Book Options.

For detailed instructions see: Change default address list.

Still nothing? Rebuild your Contacts folder

Add to Contacts add-insIf you’ve come to the realization that you have not backed up your Contacts and also no longer have access to your original pst-file, then there are still 2 options:

  • If you’ve previously synched your contacts with a phone, sync them again with Outlook but make sure that you use the phone as the source. How to sync your phone with Outlook depends on your mobile phone.
  • Use an add-in to rebuild your Contacts folder.

There are add-ins which can scan mail folders in Outlook for email addresses and add them to your Contacts folder. More advanced ones can even scan your entire computer or specific locations or files that you specify. However, in most cases it might suffice to only scan your Sent Items folder.

Two popular tools for this are:

  • Add Email Address by Sperry Software (discount code BH93RF24 )
    This can scan your existing folders for addresses but afterwards can still be of use by automatically adding people that you reply to as Contacts in a Contacts folder of your choice. It prevents duplicates from being created as well.
  • Email Address Collector by Outlook-Apps (discount code time-saver25 )
    This tool can search in Outlook, other mail applications and across your computer for email addresses. You can set various filters to exclude spam-like addresses or for instance to only include addresses from people you have been in contact with via email in the last 6 months.

For future reference: Don’t use export or import!

Don't use export and import to bacup and restore your pst-fileI’ve mentioned it before but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it;

  • Using the export/import method to backup your pst-file really is not the way to go!

Aside from it being a slow process and prone to errors, you’ll also lose various meta-data and settings which you might not want to lose either. For an overview see: What is lost by exporting/importing pst-files?

As you already have the original pst-file from your old computer or backup, there is no need to import anything at all. You can directly reuse your original pst-file. For instructions see: Restoring a pst-file of a POP3 account.

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