Backing up your iPhone contacts using Contacts Tool, step-by-step

I backup the contacts on my iPhone using Contacts Tool by TTrix Software design. (I use Groups by Guided Ways to edit and view them.) This post is for those whose primary location for contacts is the iPhone. If you use GMail’s address book, for example, then this post may be less relevant to you.

Your contacts are not truly backed up (or saved) until the following steps are completely done. While they are indeed backed up as part of syncing your device in iTunes, this not necessarily a good thing. If you accidentally delete something important from Aunt Bertha’s entry, or poof your entire phonebook just disappears without explanation (which has happened to me three times in the past four years), then in order to restore it, every app on your device must be restored along with it.

Backing up critical apps individually is something I strongly recommend.

(There really should be a way to just press one or two or three buttons that executes all these steps–this blog post should be unnecessary. Write the app author at to tell them.)

Backing up all your contacts using Contacts Tool.

After making any (add/edit/delete) change to any contact, open Contacts Tool.

Click “Export Contacts”.

All contacts are already selected. Click “Export”.

Name your backup contacts_[year][month][day], such as contacts_20150118. If your goal is only to restore your contacts on an iPhone, then the only format you need to choose is BIN. BIN is a proprietary format used by Contacts Tool, used only to restore your contacts via this app. The other formats give you future flexibility, in case you ever choose to view them on a different device, such as Android, Windows, Mac, or Linux/Unix. I always use BIN, VCF (With “Create a single vCard file” set to on), and CSV. Select the format and click “Export”. Each takes only a few seconds, even if you have many hundreds of entries.

The backups are now created, but they’re not in a very useful location–there’s not much use in backup files that are trapped on your iPhone, and therefore disappear along with your actual contacts when your phone crashes.

Go back to the main screen by clicking the “Back” arrow two times. Now click “File Transfer” and then “Send via email”.

This shows three sets of dated backups. I like keeping only two sets, since the latest is pushed off the bottom of the screen if there are too many. Delete items by pressing “Edit” then the “circle-minus button”, and then “Delete”.

Now email each of the three latest files to yourself. Click on each, type your email address, and then “Send”.

In your email, create a new folder named “iPhone backups”. Delete the just received email(s) from your inbox. Instead, move the just sent email(s) from your “Sent” folder to the “iPhone backups” folder. (The reason for doing it this way, is that the attachment in the sent folder version is already on your device. The attachment in the inbox version is not yet on your device–it’s still on your email provider’s servers, and sometimes downloading attachments to your device is flaky.) Delete any old backups from the backup folder. I backup a few other apps here as well.

Your contacts are now backed up in two different physical locations: Contacts Tool and email on your iPhone, and on the servers of your email service provider.

To restore your contacts on the iPhone only, open the email containing the “ctbin” file (as created by the “BIN” backup), and open it in Contacts Tool.

Now the import file is back in Contacts Tool. To actually delete your current address book and replace it swith this one, select it and then confirm:

As stated at the beginning:

“There really should be a way to just press one or two or three buttons that executes all these steps–this blog post should be unnecessary. Write the app author at to tell them.”

You should not have to do this song and dance each time you backup. You should be able to configure

– The desired backup formats,
– The name-format for backup file (like contacts_[year][month][day]), and
– The number of dated backup sets to store (auto-delete the third oldest set, and all older than that)
– Your default email address,

And then the backing-up steps in this blog post could be done with vastly fewer button presses.

If you have any questions, post a comment and I’ll be glad to help.


I wrote a draft of this post, including screenshots, entirely on my iPod Touch, in Awesome Note.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s