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How to backup, restore, or export Gmail contacts

How to backup, restore, or export Gmail contacts

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Are you hoping to export all of your Gmail contacts to have them as a backup or integrate them with another email platform? 

Having a saved list of contacts from your Gmail account is valuable, but what matters more is knowing how to transfer that list to other platforms. That's what we're here to help you with today.

In this guide, we'll walk you through how to backup, restore, and export your Gmail contacts. With this knowledge, you'll be able to manage your Google contacts better and transfer them across email service providers, no problem.

<a href="#how-to-export-contacts-from-gmail" class="anchor-link">How to export contacts from Gmail</a>

<a href="#what-are-the-different-formats-for-exporting-contacts" class="anchor-link">What are the different formats for exporting contacts?</a>

<a href="#how-to-decide-on-a-format-for-exporting-your-gmail-contacts" class="anchor-link">How to decide on a format for exporting your Gmail contacts</a>

<a href="#how-to-turn-the-automatic-contact-backup-on-or-off" class="anchor-link">How to turn the automatic contact backup on or off</a>

<a href="#how-to-restore-google-contacts-from-backups-in-gmail-account" class="anchor-link">How to restore Google contacts from backups in Gmail account</a>

<a href="#organize-your-gmail-contacts-with-streak-right-before-you-export" class="anchor-link">Organize your Gmail contacts with Streak right before you export</a>

<a href="#frequently-asked-questions" class="anchor-link">Frequently asked questions</a>

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How to export contacts from Gmail

Exporting contacts from Gmail is a straightforward process that can give you a more organized inbox experience across multiple email platforms. Thankfully, you can export contacts from either your mobile or desktop device. Below, we highlight the steps you need to follow from either device.

For desktop users

If you're working on a laptop or personal computer, follow these steps to export contacts from Gmail into an external file on your device.

  1. Open your Gmail account.
  2. Go to Contacts from the Google Apps icon.
  3. Mark all the contacts you want to export.
  4. Click on the Export icon at the top of the screen.
  5. Choose the file format you want (Google CSV file, vCard, Outlook CSV).
  6. Click on Export.
A screenshot of Google Contacts page showing a pop-up window for exporting contacts in Google CSV and other formats
  1. Choose a file on your laptop where you want to save the exported contacts.
  2. Click on Save.

For mobile users

Did you know that you don't need a computer to export Google contacts? Here’s how to export your Google contacts quickly and smoothly from your phone:

  1. Download the Google Contacts app on your phone.
  2. Log in to your account.
  3. Go to the Menu through the three horizontal lines icon at the top of the screen.
  4. Open Settings.
  5. Scroll down and choose Export.
  6. Click on Export to vcf file.

Google will now proceed to export your contacts into a file on your phone, and you can send it to yourself or other people or import it into another email account.

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What are the different formats for exporting contacts?

Google supports four formats for exporting contacts, but they aren't all compatible with the same devices. Here's a quick roundup of the most common formats used for contacts.

1. CSV (Comma Separated Values)

CSV, or Comma Separated Values, is the most common format used for exporting contacts from Gmail, but why? In short, it's the most compatible format out of the four on our list. This format works with multiple spreadsheet and database programs, and you can access it from a phone or laptop.

The CSV format stores data in plain text, where each contact is separated with a comma. And the cherry on top? It takes up less storage space than most of the other formats.

2. VCF (Virtual Contact File)

VCF is a popular contacts format that is widely known as vCard. It stores multiple contacts with their personal data, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, and more. While it's a little less versatile than CSV, it's famous among phone users because it's easy to import on both Android and iOS devices.

VCF files are commonly used for sharing contacts between different devices and applications, including email clients, smartphones, and contact management software.

3. XLSX (Microsoft Excel)

XLSX is the default file format for Microsoft Excel, and while its main use is creating readable spreadsheets, it can be used for exporting and importing contacts. The format is highly versatile and allows you to add formulas and advanced formatting options to your files.

That said, its selling point is the ability to store different sheets in one file, which makes categorizing contacts and organizing them much easier.

4. TXT (Plain Text)

TXT format is the simplest of all the types, as it stores your contacts' information as plain text without any formatting. While it lacks the organization of CSV and XLSX files, it surpasses them in terms of compatibility and storage. TXT files are accessible from all devices and are compatible with nearly all text editors, giving them an edge over their counterparts.

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How to decide on a format for exporting your Gmail contacts

Now that you know all about the different contact formats, how do you choose between them? Do you go with the lightweight and extremely compatible TXT files or the versatile and organized CSV files?

Here are some pointers to help you decide on the best format for exporting your Gmail contacts.

Assess destination platform capabilities

Before you export your contacts, think through where you may need to import them next. Do you plan on keeping them as backup on your laptop? Or do you want to access them from your smartphone? Or perhaps, you want to import them into Outlook or Yahoo Mail.

Knowing your destination platform will help you choose since not all formats work on all devices. For example, CSV files are challenging to import from smartphones and require reader applications. Meanwhile, you can easily import a vCard file using your phone. For the best outcome, you should make your decision based on the device and platform you plan to use.

Check software compatibility

If you plan on accessing or importing your contacts from different software than the one you're using right now, you need to verify its compatibility with your chosen format. Some software puts strict limitations regarding the format of the files you can open and edit, like iOS. For example, you can’t open an XLSX file very conveniently with iOS. 

Be sure to check the compatibility of the file type you wish to export with the software you intend to use to open up that data, just so you avoid going through the process of re-saving your contacts again.

Consider detail requirements

Suppose you're sending your contacts file to a client or business partner. Before choosing the format for exporting, you should consider their requirements.

Did they ask you to add more information to your saved contacts? In this case, you should use CSV since it can take more data without eating up too much storage.

Or, did they ask you to categorize your contacts into groups? If so, it's better if you use XLSX format, as it allows you to create separate sheets within a single file.

Evaluate contact list size

The larger your contact list size is, the more carefully you need to choose the format to use. Some formats aren't size-friendly and don't deal well with large datasets, like TXT. Meanwhile, CSV and XLSX are well-equipped to handle extensive sets of information.

Prioritize security

If the contacts you're exporting include sensitive data, you need to prioritize security when you’re choosing a format. Some formats may offer encryption or password protection options, while some might leave you prone to online hacking if you use them to transfer contacts. Ideally, you should evaluate the security features of each format and choose accordingly.

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How to turn the automatic contact backup on or off

Apple’s iOS allows users to sync their phone contacts with iCloud, but they can't automatically back up Gmail contacts. However, if you’re an Android user and want to turn your automatic contact backup option on or off, follow the steps below:

  1. Open the Settings app on your phone.
  2. Go to System.
  3. Choose Backup.
  4. Click on Backup to Google Drive to turn it off or on.

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How to restore Google contacts from backups in Gmail account

If you have an old backup that you’d like to restore to revive a removed Google account, you can do so through your Android device, and it'll only take you a few minutes. Here's what you should do.

  1. Open the Settings app on your device (phone or tablet).
  2. Scroll down and choose Google.
  3. Click on Set up & restore.
  4. Choose Restore contacts.
  5. If you have multiple Google accounts saved on your device, choose which account you want to restore contacts to.
  6. Choose the device with the contacts you want to restore.
  7. Click on Restore.
  8. Wait until a message pops up in front of you that says “Contacts restored."

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Organize your Gmail contacts with Streak right before you export

Do you want to organize your Gmail contacts before you export them without spending hours manually sorting people? Say no more; Streak can do it for you effortlessly with its Contacts and Organizations feature.

Streak organizes contacts into intuitive boxes that contain their information, as well as any email threads they’ve ever been a part of with your organization. Not only that, but Streak also pulls in public information from social media accounts and other sources to create comprehensive profiles for each contact.

So, what are you waiting for? Try Streak for free today — it'll only take you 30 seconds to get started.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Gmail automatically merge duplicate contacts before exporting?

No, unfortunately, it doesn't. However, you can do it yourself in a few seconds by going to Google Contacts, clicking on Merge & Fix under Fix & Manage, and choosing Find & merge duplicates. Gmail will automatically identify the duplicate contacts in your list and merge them into single entries.

Can I export specific groups of contacts only from Gmail?

Yes. Gmail allows you to apply filters before exporting a specific group of contacts. This way, if you need to export personal or work contacts only, for example, you can create custom labels and select only your preferred group for exporting.

Can I restore deleted contacts in Gmail?

Yes. Gmail allows you to recover deleted contacts within a specific timeframe, which is only 30 days. All you have to do is open your Gmail account, go to Google Contacts, click on Trash, select the contacts you want to recover, and click on Recover at the top right corner of the screen. However, if you wait more than 30 days, you won't be able to find the contacts you want to restore.

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