Backing up the Address Book (and how to restore it when needed)

How do I make a backup of all my contacts in the Address Book in Outlook?

Button Address BookThe short and easy answer to this question is;

  • For POP3 accounts;
    If you keep all your contacts in the Contacts folder of Outlook, simply make a backup of your main pst-file. The pst-file is the database that Outlook uses to store your mail, contacts, calendar items, tasks, notes and journal items in.
  • For IMAP accounts;
    • Outlook 2010 and previous
      Just like a POP3 account, your contacts are stored in your main pst-file (so not the one of your IMAP account). Making a backup of that pst-file also includes your Contacts.
    • Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016
      When you only have an IMAP account configured in Outlook, then your Contacts are stored in a “This computer Only” folder. In that case you can export or copy the Contacts folder to a pst-file as described in the “Backup Contacts folder only”.
      You can also force Outlook to store your Contacts directly in a pst-file so you can backup this file. For details see; Don’t risk losing your Contacts and Calendar when using IMAP in Outlook 2013 or Outlook 2016.
  • For Exchange accounts;
    If you are using an Exchange account, then your contacts are stored on the Exchange server which should be backed up by your email administrator. Contact him/her if you want to know the frequency of the backups. You can also use the “Backup Contacts folder only” process explained below to make a backup of your own.
  • For Outlook.com and Hotmail accounts
    While Microsoft does make backups of its Outlook.com (Hotmail) servers, it is recommended to still make your own backups as well. Use the “Backup Contacts folder only” process explained below to make a backup of your own.

Note:
Outlook 2003 and 2007 also keep a cache of used addresses in an nk2-file. To backup or restore these addresses see; Import contacts from an nk2-file.
Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016 also have an AutoComplete list of addresses; Backing up and restoring the AutoComplete cache of Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016.

Backup Contacts folder only

Contacts Folder buttonIf you keep all your contacts in the Contacts folder and you only want to backup your contacts, then you can create a separate “Backup Contacts” pst-file for this;

  1. Add a new pst-file to Outlook and name it “Backup Contacts”
    • Outlook 2007 and previous
      File-> New-> Outlook Data File…
    • Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016
      tab Home-> button New Items-> More Items-> Outlook Data File
  2. Select the Contacts Navigation (keyboard shortcut CTRL+3).
  3. Right click the Contacts folder of which you want to make a backup and choose Copy Folder.
  4. In the dialog that pops-up, select the “Backup Contacts” folder set and press OK.
  5. Repeat step 3 and 4 for each of the contacts folder which you would like to backup (like for instance the Suggested Contacts folder).
  6. Close Outlook and make a copy of the newly created “Backup Contacts” pst-file to your backup location.

Copy to Folder dialog box
To backup only your contacts, you can copy them to a separate pst-file.

Restoring your Contacts

Restore Contacts buttonWhen you need to recover one or more Contacts from your backup file, you can restore it to your local hard drive (make sure not to overwrite any existing pst-files) and connect to it in Outlook via;

  • File-> Open-> Open Outlook Data File

You will now see your connected pst-file in the Navigation Pane. Expand it to find your restored Contacts folder and copy the contacts back to your Contacts folder.

When you are done, you can disconnect the pst-file via;

  • Outlook 2007 and previous
    File-> Data File Management…
  • Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016
    File-> Account Settings-> Account Settings…-> tab Data Files

The (more) technical answer…

More Info buttonThe Outlook Address Book itself cannot be backed up as such since no addresses are stored in it;

  • The Address Book in Outlook is nothing more but a container for address lists; is does not hold any addresses itself.
  • An address list is a container that holds the actual addresses. Common address lists for Outlook are;
    • Contacts folder
    • Global Address List (when using Exchange)
    • LDAP (when using another server-based directory list)

How to backup the the Contacts folder has been described at the beginning of this tip. If you have additional contact folders (such as the Suggested Contacts  folder), they can be backed up in the same way.

A Global Address List (GAL) and LDAP lists are located on the mail or directory server that you are connecting to. There is no need for you to make a backup of these address lists as they fall within the management of the server itself. If you were to reinstall your computer, these address lists are not affected and will be made available again when you reconnect to the server.

Note: Your mail administrator can help you getting the needed settings if you did not write down your account configuration settings before reinstalling.

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