Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

How do I recover my contact list in Outlook?


I’m running Windows 7 Ultimate, Firefox 14, Microsoft Office Pro 2010. I
mistakenly deleted my complete email contact list in Outlook. I’ve searched and
searched and also your FAQs. I just thought I’d ask. Is there a way for me to
get them back?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #49
, I look at the problems involved in retrieving lost data from
an Outlook PST file if that file was not backed up.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Deleted contact list

Unfortunately, my answer here is, “Probably not.”

I will point out that this is the exact kind of a case that backing up
regularly would take care of.

  • If you were backing up your Outlook PST file (which is where all of this
    information is kept);

  • On any kind of a regular basis;

  • You could recover all of your contacts from the backup PST file from your
    backup copies.

In lieu of a backup, I really don’t have a solution for you to recover the
data from the PST.

Outlook data is complex

The data in a PST is kind-of like it’s own little file system. It tends to
be fairly complex.

There are third-party utilities out there (that tend to be fairly expensive)
that might be able to help, but I don’t have one that I would recommend to you

Backup in the future

The best thing I can offer is:

  • As you rebuild your contact list;

  • In the future, make sure you are also (at the same time) setting up some
    kind of a regular backup;

  • That will prevent (or at least allow you to recover from) a problem like this, should it happen again in the future.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

4 comments on “How do I recover my contact list in Outlook?”

  1. It may be possible to use the Previous Versions feature in Windows 7 to recover a version of the PST file prior to the accidental deletion of the Contact list (if too much time hasn’t passed). Just find the Outlook.PST file, right click and choose Properties, then click the Previous Versions tab. You may need to wait some until the version list is “built” before seeing what is available. But Leo is right — the best way to have a backup, preferably more than one iteration.

  2. Make one (or several) copies of the pst-file and run pstrepair.exe on that file and let Windows try to repair the Outlook database file. You have nothing to loose.

    Going forward, part from regularly backing up the pst-file, you should also have several pst-files so you can back-up your contacts “inside” Outlook w/o having to exit the program.

    And for simple pst-file backups, Microsoft has a neat (and free) little utility that runs when you shut Outlook down, prompting if you want to backup, an then does it for you. Very simple, very effective. Program used to be called “Outlook Personal Folders Backup” (yet another not very correctly descriptive name on a good piece of SW).

  3. Should also add: if you have an iPhone, very easy to restore the contacts from that one into Outlook (apple/iOS actually have that better nailed down than Microsoft/Windows Phone).

  4. Another option, depending on how the contacts were deleted is to look in your Outlook deleted items folder. As a test, I created a dummy contact and then deleted it. Deleting the contact moved it to the deleted items folder. You can restore a deleted contact by simply dragging it from the deleted items folder and dropping it on your contacts.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.