How to back up your contacts on Mac

How to back up your contacts on Mac
How to back up your contacts on Mac (Image credit: iMore)

Your contacts aren't just phone numbers and addresses — they're business connections, loved ones, and each contact's card likely contains sensitive information and important stuff that you don't want to lose. You likely have contacts on your iPhone or iPad, and maybe you even use Messages and FaceTime on your macOS Big Sur Mac. If that's the case, make sure to back up your contacts on your Mac to ensure that no one goes missing. Here's how to back up Mac contacts.

How to manually back up contacts on your Mac

Just like your iPhone or iPad, you have a Contacts app on your Mac, and you can manually back up all of your contacts right in the app.

Export them

  1. Launch the Contacts app on your Mac.
  2. Click on File in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  3. Click Export.
  4. Click on Contacts Archive.
  5. Name the save file, choose where you'd like to save, and click Save.

To manually back up contacts by exporting them, click File, Export, Contacts Archive, name the file, and click save. (Image credit: iMore)

From here, you can do whatever you want with the saved file. Upload it to Dropbox, Google Drive, or save it on a physical backup.

Drag them to your desktop

Sometimes, exporting might not work 100%. Just one of those weird things. Even if it does, you're safest backing up your contacts another way too. (Thanks to commenter Gary Dauphin for the suggestion.)

  1. Launch the Contacts app on your Mac.
  2. Click All Contacts on the left.
  3. Click a contact.
  4. Press command-A on your keyboard. This will select all of your contacts.
  5. Click and drag your contacts to your desktop.

To manually back up contacts by dragging them to your desktop, click All Contacts, click a contact, command-A, click and drag contacts to desktop. (Image credit: iMore)

A .vcf file will be created, and you can add that to your cloud storage or physical backup or however you'd like to store it. You can also drag and drop individual contact cards if you don't want to back up all of them.

How to export your contacts to your Mac from iCloud

Using iCloud on the web, you can export your iPhone or iPad contacts straight to your Mac and then do whatever you'd like with them.

  1. Go to in your favorite browser.
  2. Sign in.
  3. Click Contacts.
  4. Click a contact.
  5. Press command-A on your keyboard. This will select all contacts.
  6. Click the gear icon in the bottom left of the window.
  7. Click Export vCard.

To export your contacts to your Mac from iCloud, go to, click Contacts, click a contact, command-A, click the gear, click Export vCard. (Image credit: iMore)

The file will download to your downloads folder on your Mac.

vCard vs. Contacts Archive

Export Contacts (Image credit: iMore)

In 2016, MacStories did a great job explaining the differences between saving contacts as a vCard or archive and how the choice you select could affect a future import. The main points are worth repeating here since the execution remains the same even as OS X became macOS later that year.

The Export vCard choice only includes the selected contacts from the, while selecting Contacts Archive would include an export of all of your contacts. Moving forward, the former, when imported, will allow you to merge information with an existing contact. The latter, however, will replace your entire contacts .abbu database.

If you try to open an ".abbu" package in the OS X Contacts app, it will ask you if you want to replace your current contacts database with contents of ".abbu". Let me repeat that for clarity: when importing a dot-abbu package, there is no option to merge with your existing data.

Looking for a new Mac?

As Apple adds new Macs to its lineup, iMore adjusts our yearly recommendations. Be sure to check out our latest recommendations before making a decision.

Questions about the process to back up Mac contacts?

Let us know in the comments below.

Updated December 2020: Updated for macOS Big Sur.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.